New engine purrs like a . . . Cat

Article December 28, 2000
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Caterpillar, a recognized producer of powerful engines needed in the work of many readers of this magazine, is moving into the new year with its spotlight on a diesel engine with outstanding horsepower output as well as remarkable torque delivery.

It’s the newest version of the producer’s 3406E powerplant. When unveiled in 1997, the new version’s displacement of 15.8 liters was hailed as the largest of its kind in the industry.

The displacement of the previous 3406 was increased by an 0.1-in. expansion of the bore and an 0.25-in. boost in the stroke.

Those changes delivered an engine with a peak output of 600 hp between 1,650 and 1,850 revolutions per minute (rpm). Peak torque is 2,050 lb-ft between 1,200 and 1,500 rpm.

“Not so fast,” truck veterans would object, “larger displacement and higher output usually result in increased fuel consumption, a major concern in these days of high fuel prices.”

Turns out, Cat personell were armed with test results to answer the obvious questions. It seems the newest engine delivers a fuel economy gain of 1%to 33over its smaller predecessor.

High fuel-injection pressure and reduced need for gear shift due to top engine power were among factors credited.

There were test runs such as those turned in by Terry Arnett, a driver for Triand Inc., Pratt, Kan. On a trip on I-70 through Colorado to Salt Lake City, loaded with 125,000 lb, his fuel consumption averaged 5.63 miles per gallon.

“I never cut it short when it comes to horsepower,” Arnett said.
“Driveability is tremendous with the 600-hp engine, even when carrying a heavy load.”

Start-up and take notice

The new 3406E is loaded with a long list of special features that allow it to stand out on the job.

Cat is offering the new engine as a powerplant with a million-mile life to overhaul. It carries warranty protection good for five years or 500,000 miles, including full parts and labor costs of repairs for covered failures.

“Previously, we offered our two-year, unlimited mileage warranty to our heavy duty truck engine customers,” said David Semlow, marketing manager of the Caterpillar Truck Engine Division. “With the new Cat 600-hp 3406E engine, we want to provide even greater value and added protection.”

The manufacturer said the new engine meets the 1998 revision of federal exhaust emission rules.

Advanced features of the engine also include electronic controls which provide high-pressure fuel injection from mechanically actuated unit injectors.

The high-torque output of the engine calls for compatible driveline components including transmission, driveshaft, axle and clutch.

Other engine features include cruise control, a turbocharger, provision for more than 700 hp in internal braking power from a Cat brake saver and a Jacobs engine brake.

Noise suppression and provision for overnight idling were other areas in which Cat engineers were said to have made improvements in developing the new powerplant.

The year ahead

As 1999 approached, sales of Cat diesel engines for truck use were said to be going “very, very well” according to Bob Keene, customer value manager for the 3400 product group.

Keene was pleased to report that his company’s share of the total truck engine market was increasing.

He noted that the sales increase could be seen in company diesels, which have been available for some time along with some added business coming in from the 600-hp 3406E, which “is really just getting started” in the market.

Keene also had some good news for truck users. Through the recent past, many periods of strong truck sales, such as those recently enjoyed, have been stalled by shortages of key components, often diesel engines.

Keene said Cat has reviewed its production setup and has no fears about keeping up to likely future demand. He made that observation while saying that Cat expects strong sales in 1999.

“The key consideration about a big diesel is the rate at which it consumes fuel while getting the work done,” said Keene. “We are sure we have a jobsite winner when the work done by our 600-horse diesel is compared with the rate at which it consumes fuel.”

It is a changed Cat engine business that faces the 1999 market. Cat has acquired the Perkins Engines subsidiary of LucasVarity. The announcement of the purchase said that $1.325 billion was paid for the volume producer of diesel engines in England.

“The combination ensures our ability to leverage critical engine technologies for leadership in the future and allows us to compete with other full-line producers,” said Donald V. Fites, Caterpillar chairman and CEO.

In the diesel field, Cat is best known as a manufacturer of medium to large engines while Perkins is recognized as a maker of powerplants rated at 200 hp or less.

No details were released on planned Cat-Perkins joint ventures.

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