Review: Komatsu 375A dozer

By: Ron Horner

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

On a trip to a quarry on the north coast of NSW, Ron Horner managed to fulfil a long-held dream to get in the seat of a Komatsu 375A dozer – a bit battered perhaps, but still going strong

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Opportunities in life can come from anywhere, at any time and be quite random.

So it therefore made my day when I got a call from the Editor stating that they were having trouble in securing a professional photographer to secure a cover shot for the magazine.

This shot required someone to travel some distance from the big smoke, well off the black top and far from the "latte set" of which many of those in this profession are overly familiar with.

Now professional anything our small group is not, but we give everything a good shot irrespective of where, how far, weather conditions and subject – the challenge of delivering where others fear to go is just the thing we thrive on.

Challenge taken, I grabbed my videographer (Michael Grassick) and clapper and co-ordinator (Susan Hadgkiss) and, with weather conditions absolutely abysmal we headed off.

Now this job was purely for a cover shot but I reckoned that there had to be some good gear and good blokes that would certainly interest our readers if I could just convince the boys on the job.

Three hours of driving through mountainous winding roads, pissing down rain, 4am start, take away blacks and constant BOM researching had us thinking we may have made the wrong decision, but hey, I live in "God’s country" and although not on a first name basis we often nod to each other over the fence and always try to help each other out.

250k later, my old mate delivered.

Within 10k of our destination, the rain stopped, the sun came out, humidity rose and the new Cat boots got their first taste of water and mud but what lay before us is what "Ronnie’s Road Trip" dreams are made of.

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Komatsu 375A Dozer in quarry

BACKGROUND

Russ Hardy and Bill Dawe are partners of East Coast Decorative Stone at a re-incarnated sandstone quarry located north of Yamba and south of Ballina on the North Coast of NSW. The quarry was leased by others for many years but fell into a poor state over the last years of its lease. The landowners decided that they would not extend the lease to the existing mining lease holders and contacted Dawe (whom had known the landowners for many years) for some advice and direction. He spoke to Hardy, who had many items of earthmoving equipment, and a decision was made to invest into the mining lease and, combining the best part of 80 years of earthmoving experience, some cash and equipment into the project. The rest is history.

Although there are several items of interesting gear on this job, the one that took my fancy was the old 375A Komatsu dozer.

Purchased from Porter Equipment Brisbane, this machine replaced a hired D10 dozer, which was originally bought in to tidy up the now deserted and overgrown mine, and they commenced sourcing suitable materials for on-sale and on-site roadworks use.

Not totally sure of the quality of the products in the immediate open cut zone it was not wise to expend valuable cash on purchasing a large dozer, so hiring was the best avenue to follow by far. This decision to hire the D10 ensured a good quality of material was immediately available, quantity was plentiful and with ongoing QA and QC the boys were able to attract some long-term prospective clients for the sale of their products.

Komatsu-375A-dozer
4 barrel ripper configuration

WALKAROUND

The old 375A was certainly a sight for sore eyes; I’ve been searching for one to test and review for years.

A quick look over and you could see it has done a lot of work, but in this game one knows that it’s not only Cat that are "built to be rebuilt" but that Komatsu is proof that there are generations of machinery that fit that category and this old Komatsu 375A is a perfect example.

This particular dozer has over 16,000hrs on the clock, had previously been working in a rock quarry and was extensively refurbished by the previous owner.

With barely two days’ work a week for the 375A planned it certainly became a cost effective alternative than hiring.

"Hiring the D10 came at a cost but one we had to accept," says Hardy and Dawe.

"Once the source was proofed up the dry hire rates, minimum hours per month and the fuel costs ended up being just too cost prohibitive for us to continue down that way – we needed to look for alternatives."

Discussing their dozer issues with Porter, from whom the boys had previously purchased several Hyundai loaders, excavators (both new and used), a new Sandvik double screen, and a Sandvik scalper, resulting in a long, trusting and fruitful relationship, a deal was done on the Komatsu.

This old girl is a beauty. Ongoing upgrades and running repairs will never stop if you have a dozer in your fleet but this one has got many years of productive life left in it and a proven repair bill history that gives the new owners encouragement that they are onto a winner.

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Komatsu 375A cabin view

IN THE CAB

If you have never sat in the cabin of a big Komatsu it is a big change to the Caterpillar range, if that’s where you’ve been.

The tapered and hexagonally-shaped cabin allows great vision for the operator, reasonable corner tip viewing, wide cabin and good seating, although I found it a bit of a tight squeeze getting my fat bum through the door. Then again I was camera loaded.

Seating is big and comfortable – a captain’s chair style, with no steering clutches. A decellerator on the right acts as a foot pedal, the centre brake control is on floor, transmission is to the left side of the chair (3F and 3R), steering controls sit in front of the transmission gear control and blade and ripper controls to are to the right, making this a relatively easy-to-conquer first time in a Komatsu dozer challenge for me.

Also to the right side of the cabin is the monitor screen, radio and associated controls, ignition/starter keys, emergency stop and two-way radio.

Overall, a pretty tidy set up for its age.

Komatsu-375A-dozer
Big donk @ 530hp

UNDER THE HOOD

The big Komatsu runs the six-cylinder 530hp (395kW) @ 1,800 rpm turbo diesel engine, which has been tried and tested for many years in the Komatsu heavy machinery group.

As with anything this large, it is always a battle to get into some of the areas due to the height off the ground but, once onto the tracks and the fitted after-market walkways (and side covers removed) you can just about get to anything, anywhere inside the engine bay.

The Komatsu runs a bit over a 1,000 litre fuel tank compared to the 1,200 litre tank on the D10. Critics agree that the Komatsu is far more fuel efficient than that of its main competitor, which at current fuel prices could add up to a $300 per day fuel cost saving.

Worthy of thought when and if contemplating a purchase of a big dozer in the future, but do your own checks and balances.

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Komatsu 375A pushing sand to screener

ON THE JOB

On this particular project the Komatsu will rarely be put through its paces. Two days a week is more like the expected work scenario for this old girl as it comes into semi-retirement. Ripping the "softish sandstone" is a far cry from its previous life but it’s a perfectly suited machine for this application.

Winning and stockpiling the raw product to the Sandvik double screen prior to loading either with the Hitachi 35t excavator or the Hyundai 770-9 loader is a piece of cake for this old workhorse, which in its day was equal to whatever Cat could put out there.

To the loyalist Komatsu dozer operators this is one of the best.

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Walkways all round

THE BOTTOM LINE

From the beginning of the Komatsu brand in 1917 when Takeuchi Mining Industries incorporated Komatsu to manufacture tools and mining equipment, through both World Wars, into 1947 when Komatsu built its first major world-competitive dozer and onto the current high technology era of exceptional, reliable, powerful, comfortable and environmentally advanced earthmoving equipment, Komatsu has built a reputation equal to the world’s best.

Currently running as the world’s second largest heavy machinery manufacturer behind Cat, Komatsu has indeed came a long way and in doing so delivered us some brilliant and cherished heavy machinery, none better than the Komatsu dozer range. This old Komatsu D375A-2 is a perfect example.

KEEP READING

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