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Wheel Monitor turns a corner in preventative maintenance

As buses and coaches hurtle down the highway at high speeds, they are now protected by one small instrument – SKF’s TraX Wheel End Monitor.

Far from airbags or lane departure technology which activate as danger arises, the TraX is designed to prevent the worst-case scenario from ever occurring.

This sensor rides shotgun on the wheels of heavy-duty vehicles, intelligently monitoring vibration and temperature to predict and prevent potential issues.

While its competition may have covered the usual suspects of tyre pressure and speed, the TraX goes to the heart of the issue – bearings.

Without these precious parts, every car, bus, and truck would grind to a halt. That’s what makes the TraX so important, according to SKF automotive product manager, Chris Hayes.

“People forget the importance of bearings because they’re hidden away doing the hard work. But the TraX always keeps an eye on these vital mechanisms,” he says.

“Without the TraX, regular maintenance schedules may not be enough to capture potentially catastrophic faults.”

SKF’s original Wheel End Monitor was designed in 2008 to monitor simple vibrations and indicated a bearing’s status with a red or green LED. The modern TraX is leagues above this original design, offering three different mounting configurations and the latest technology for monitoring bearing vibration and temperature.

The new TraX has been tested in some of Australia’s roughest terrains and has undergone extensive testing on various standard taper roller and unitised bearing arrangements.

This ensures most buses and coaches can enjoy an extensive list of benefits, including reduced cost of ownership and maintenance, and improved safety.

While Chris recalls a scenario where the TraX benefitted a petrol tanker, it can be equally useful for coaches carrying dozens of passengers.

“There have been high-risk scenarios in the past with petrol tankers. These could have resulted in dangerous circumstances, had it not been for SKF’s effective wheel end monitoring solutions,” he says.

So, while the TraX potentially saves lives, it also saves money on the costly exercise of checking, replacing, refurbishing, and reinstalling bearings. Many mechanics will tell you that a given set of bearings could last much longer on the vehicle than a maintenance schedule allows, if only it had a monitor to confirm when they truly needed replacing.

Chris explains how the Monitor is mounted to the wheel for ease-of-use.

“While we incorporated temperature monitoring into this new version, we wanted to keep it user-friendly,” he says.

“The product is bolted between two-wheel studs and set with a magnet, and it starts to monitor the bearings for possible faults that could arise straight away once the vehicle is in motion.”

This all sets it apart from competing products as SKF uses its bearing expertise to monitor the heart of potential problems.

SKF business manager vehicle service, Andy Hicks, says the preventative nature of the TraX means it basically pays for itself.

“This makes it the most economical retrofittable solution for wheel end monitoring,” Andy says.

“The TraX Wheel End Monitor is also unique compared with other products on the market because as far as we’re aware, we’re the only ones offering the bearing monitoring.

“Others have sensors that will do tyre pressure and temperature, whereas our solution offers monitoring of the wheel end for vibration and temperature and can be reset once potential issues have been addressed.”

SKF continues to strive for market-leading technology in its monitoring solutions. It has been suggested that future variations from the standard model may include features such as Bluetooth connectivity and integrated telematics.

Whichever direction SKF pursues, Chris is adamant that it would align with the needs of customers and their unique applications across industries.

“Customer feedback is core to our research and development. We’re continually striving to improve,” he says.

Visit SKF’s website to discover the benefits of the TraX Wheel End Monitor in road safety and vehicle maintenance.

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