Earthmoving Industry Insight, Reviews

Caterpillar 434E backhoe loader

The Caterpillar 434E backhoe loader is easy to operate and manoeuvre, and has plenty of speed, power and stability.

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Wakefield-based forest roading contractor Brian Stanaway needed a machine to maintain the haul roads that his fleet constructs throughout New Zealand. He needed a machine that could dig, load, grade and manoeuvre around the forests quickly. After a recommendation from another contractor, Brian decided to order a Cat 434E backhoe loader.

A very versatile machine, the 434E features powerful four wheel steering, great pace and the telescopic dipper arm has been fitted with a Doherty Tilt Hitch with four buckets.

The test

Climbing up the steps to access the engine was made easy by a clever button controlled gas ram which propped open the lid. This means important daily checks like oil and water can be quickly and accurately completed.

Nice big steps and well positioned grab rails make the cab very accessible. The comfortable operating seat is located in front of a multi position steering wheel which can be altered at the press of a pedal. On the left side of the wheel is a forward/reverse lever with a twist grip for the gear shift and an auto mode option, offering five forward and three reverse gears. On the right side of the steering wheel there is a switch to choose between three different steering modes; front wheel, crab steer and four wheel steering.

To my far right hand side is the loader control lever with a thumb roller for the four-in-one bucket. The dash is well laid out with an assortment of gauges showing revs, fuel, water temperature, torque converter, oil temperature, and hours on the floor.

I moved the machine backwards and forwards to check out how the three different steering modes worked in operation. Just by pressing a switch on the dash you can go any direction you like, much better than the single front wheel steering im used to.

After finding a suitable place to dig a trench, I lowered the loader bucket to the ground, pulled up the hand brake and swivelled my seat to face the back. The controls for the backhoe can be pulled back towards me via a small lever located on the right hand pod. There is also a choice of control patterns available (ISO and SAE), just by pressing a switch.

On my left, the controls include a hand throttle, two small levers for the stabiliser legs and a thumb roller on the right hand lever to operate the telescopic dipper arm. One had also been fitted to the left lever to control a Doherty tilt hitch. I set the revs to about 1500rpm’s lowered the legs, pulled the levers back towards me and started to dig a trench. There’s plenty of speed and power in this little beauty, coupled with a clear view out of the cab.

The boom was attached on the left hand side of the slide frame, but I wanted to see how easy it would be to reposition it. A button on the right hand side of the machine enables you to slide it across to where ever you need it to be.

After backfilling the trench I placed the boom back in the centre and tucked it up ready to move the machine somewhere else. I could feel that the 434E was a fairly good loader and would easily match an ordinary wheel loader of the same size without any problem.

Brian says this is a very versatile machine and perfect for forest roading maintenance. “We didn’t have to do much to as it comes with a standard factory ROPS and FOPS cab. I would recommend fitting some protection plates on the underside of the machine though as it will make it last just that bit longer.”


Photography: Johnny Clark

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