Used machinery review: Caterpillar D10 dozer

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

The Caterpillar D10N bulldozer is a beast of a machine, and one that Ron Horner has a lot of affection for. With drought hitting Australia hard, he catches up with a D10 being put to use building a new dam for when the rains finally come.


Some days I really struggle to find a good job with plenty of quality working earthmoving equipment to review.

The tyranny of distance from my home base always creates an issue for me, but when you add to this the lack of time, difficulty in co-ordinating the site, personnel and the equipment, one can soon see that the job can be quite frustrating.  

However, what started from a mere telephone enquiry in regards to the health of an old mate, ended up becoming one of the best sites we have had, where we could gain access to some great Cat gear.

Tucked away on the NSW-QLD border and governed by the increasing severity of the drought conditions engulfing the two states at the time, we found a honey-pot of Caterpillar gear working tirelessly to create a large watershed storage dam before the onset of some hoped-for summer storms.

The drought has hit everyone in the bush particularly hard this time round and irrespective of being in Longreach or Lithgow, Cloncurry or Cooma, Tambo or Tamworth, everyone has endured some sort of hardship and that includes townies as well as us bushies.

An old mate of mine, Danny Hope (Hope Civil), had some of his gear working about 300km away and as I was in the mood for a drive I took up the offer to come and have a look at his progress on a big cockies dam down on the border.

Cat-D10-dozer
Cat D10's massive single tyne ripper

Caterpillar… it’s as good as a man can get

I couldn’t smell the diesel as I topped the ridge but I sure as hell could hear that belly-roar of those big Cats and the whining of the transmission as the fleet of fully-loaded scrapers pulled up and over the batters.

There before me lay the king of this construction site: a neat mine-spec D10N controlling the cut and ably serviced by a couple of real tidy Cat 623F scrapers, a 815 Cat compactor, a Volvo articulated converted dumper (now water truck) and a very efficient and powerful Case 4WD tractor pulling a laser bucket.

The D10N was my first weapon of choice so I headed over to the foreman, introduced myself and was given the green light to get into it, compliments of Danny, who is a Cat man through and through.

Cat-D10-dozer
Atop the D10

A bit of history

When Caterpillar offered its new D10 for sale in 1978, it was the largest production dozer in the world. But its sheer size wasn’t the biggest story. The preview showing in 1977 of the D10’s revolutionary high-sprocket drive system had generated excitement (and a little controversy) among heavy equipment customers, but it was its performance that won them over.

I remember way back in 1977 at the Local Government Field Days near Parramatta, Cat had on display the first D10 ever to be introduced into Australia.

Unlike today, where dealers struggle to get the large gear into the exhibitions, it was then commonplace to have the biggest equipment possible on display from all of the dealers.

On this particular occasion the D10 had a set of scaffold, walkways, ramps and handrails constructed so the public could actually walk up and sit in the cab, have photos taken and feel the experience of sitting in the cabin and operators seat of what was then the world’s largest bulldozer.

The crowds were enormous and strung out hundreds of metres long just patiently waiting to play "king for a day".

The reason I remember this so well is because I had the first new excavator in Australia on display with the first hydraulic rockbreaker fitted to it – a KATO 550G, on the Banbury Engineering stand.

Cat-D10-dozer
Cat Hi Track configuration is a winner

Walkaround

One thing for sure is you will be taken in by the size of the D10 and its massive single tyne ripper firmly attached to the rear of the machine.

The massive blade and ripper certainly are designed for the jobs that only a dozer of this  calibre, power and size could handle, and Cat has certainly got a handle on this model.

However all that aside, it is the high-track configuration that was introduced by Cat into the D10 range that has everyone still talking.

In the early 1970s Caterpillar took note of the trend towards bigger and bigger equipment. It set its engineers to work on designing huge diesel engines and machines to put them in.

In 1977, Caterpillar brought out its D10 and at the time of introduction the D10 was the largest and most technologically advanced machine on the market.

It was with the D10 that Caterpillar brought out its elevated drive sprocket, which was designed to give greater traction and less wear and tear on the drive train, as well as cushioning the final drive units from rough ground, thus giving the machine longer life before overhauls. 

This system eliminated the older final drives that tended to break, in favour of a planetary final drive that was more capable of handling the huge torque of the engine; spreading the stress over multiple gear teeth rather than single teeth as was on the old final drive systems of Cat's other dozers.

Cat-D10-dozer
In control ... maybe not

In the cabin

A typical Cat cabin awaits the operator and is to the highest standard.

Good vision to the left and right side of the forward glass but with mine-spec installed, vision is slightly impaired in some areas.

It has very comfortable seating, slightly offset to the right side of the cabin to enable good vision to the rippers, and the well-appointed operators control panel is laid out in front of you (pedal on the right is the throttle control, pedal to the left of it is the brake). The D10 is
steered by buttons on the operator's left hand side and the blade is controlled by a joy stick on the right hand side.

Overall, for a machine of this size, it is very tidy and operator friendly.

Cat-D10-dozer
Engine Bay of Cat D10

Under the hood

The Caterpillar D10T gets its power from a Cat C27 engine developing 580hp (432.5kW) and weighs around 70 tonnes fully dressed, compared to the Caterpillar D11T that has a Cat C32 engine pushing out 850hp (634kW) and weighs well in excess of 100 tonnes.

Unlike some other Cat-branded gear the Caterpillar D10 is purely American born and bred, being manufactured at East Peoria, Illinois and remains an American icon.

On the job

Nothing is as impressive as a high track Cat Dozer working at full capacity on these big jobs. Ripping, pushing, trimming, shaping and controlling the speed and quality of the operation, with the operator usually the most experienced man on the job calling all the shots.

This job entailed the construction of a new irrigation facility for a cropping farmer whom had felt the wrath of the drought. His other dams were quickly falling away in capacity so it was imperative to have a very large holding facility ready for when the rains come … and they definitely will come.

The supporting scrapers were all elevators so no pushing from the D10 on this job but plenty of controlled ripping of the clay soils to ensure a speedy load time for the 623s, locating and removal of boulders found in the cut and the time consuming role of trimming batters to grade is all part of the job for this big girl.

With over 580hp (running at 1,800rpm), coupled to the Planetary three-speed forward and reverse power shift enabled us to rip at good depth in second gear.

Now, you don’t want to be a tight arse with the money if you intend to run one of these units.

Costing over a $1m to buy and with running and maintenance costs way up there most people would faint at the cost of fuel just to keep this lady in top working order.

With a fuel capacity of over 1,200 litres you won’t use a tank in your 10hr shift in this sort of material BUT believe me, in some circumstances you will have to have the fuel truck on standby for a top up on some really hard days … and at about that $1.50 per litre (June 2018) that’s a good whack out of your pay packet for a day’s work.

With that aside you have to take your hat off to the design and longevity one can gain from a good machine like this.

You get what you pay for and at 20,000 frame hours, full mine spec and still going like it would have been in the second year, this is a great tractor.

The bottom line

40 years after its introduction, Caterpillar’s high-drive system has become an industry icon. Although the D10 was eventually replaced by the D11N – which has subsequently grown into the 850hp D11T – high drive continues to set the standard for large dozer track systems.

Cat has not always set the standard in dozers and for many years had to play catch up with the opposition like Le Torneau and Allis, however, since the inception of the high track dozer in 1977, Cat has set the highest of standards both in design, reliability and service.

As Danny Hope would say: "Cat … built to be rebuilt."

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