Used Machinery Review: Caterpillar D250 articulated dump truck

By: Ron Horner, Video by: Micheal Grassick

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

As part of his dam building works, Ron Horner got a Cat D250 articulated dump truck onto the job. Despite being over 20 years old, it was still up to the task


The never ending drought conditions in Queensland have certainly forced many landowners into making decisions that a mere year ago one would have never contemplated.

Living in a usually secure 35 inch (88.9cm) rainfall area, one rarely thinks that we could run out of water. You know when your dam reaches the same level as your bank account that you had better do something drastic.

Having made the final decision to de-stock the place and create a more practical and permanent water storage or water source, the time had come for me to secure the services of one of the best contractors in the area to impart his knowledge on dam building in steep terrain.

I have been contemplating building a couple of dams on the property for some time but familiarity breeds contempt and for one reason or another I didn’t need the stress or financial drain to make the move. I had commenced building a dam in a steep and rugged gully some years back but after a week or two I realised I had bit off more than I could chew and the time had now arrived where I needed serious help and serious cash to get the place back on track.

Showing a bit of wear but the old girl keeps going

To accomplish the end goals I needed a few bits of gear, namely a 35 ton digger, a couple of dozers, a grader, a roller and a 25 ton articulated dump truck. As I had already secured a healthy clay deposit on site, cleared the steep gully of vegetation and excavated a key way down to solid rock it was time to bring in the big guns and put the plan into practice.

The key to the success of this project was the dump truck. Without it we had no chance of hauling the 17,000 cubic metres of clay and rock needed to build the two dams I planned to construct.

Enter the old D250E Cat dump truck once deemed for the scrap heap but resurrected into a daily driver and a good money earner to boot.

Steep hills gullies or flats never worried this old girl


Now Trevor is not the conforming prima donna operator we are so blessed with in so many areas today. He is old school, loves to buy cheap, loves to repair and get dirty, loves the challenges associated with machinery and just loves working them as a multi-machine owner/operator.

Now the history of this machine is interesting to say the least but as I was to find out from Trevor, it’s how he does business.

Money is always tight in the bush and with Trevor it’s no different. However, loving a challenge, he buys a lot of his gear deemed as being "left in the long yard", or for you city types, "retired for scrap".

This was the case with the Cat D250E dump truck.

A touch of rust


Bought from a wrecking yard for a very reasonable price the truck looks every bit its age of over 20 years old.

From a distance it looks okay, but it’s the close-up bits that show she has been worked in a salt environment. An early- to mid-90’s model with 18,000 hours on it, partially rusted out guards and with a few oil leaks, Trevor has gone over the truck and done the necessary repairs to make it operable and safe.

For sure many would go the extra mile and tidy it up but with his motto of "they get what they need – not what they want to keep ‘em going" he keeps his costs down until some positive cash flow starts.

15,000 metres plus


The Cat 25t dump truck was put to work immediately; after all we only had a good two weeks of work planned for it and over Christmas time is the only way we could ever get this job done.

Being loaded with a Hitachi 35t excavator the clay deposit proved to be just what we needed to seal the dam – 17,000 cubic metres of it.

Rock abounds at every turn so the clay deposit was a real sweet change from the norm up here. We didn’t get away from the rocks but the old girl didn’t miss a beat for the whole time it was here, barring a leaking hydraulic hose, which was quickly repaired.

The beauty of being in the bush and having multi-use materials available is that your costs can be cut dramatically. If we had to import the road base found at the base of one of the dams the material cost would be in the vicinity of $40,000 and the cost of importing clay in this rocky terrain would prove to be just out of reach financially.

Running a 260hp (194kW) turbo diesel engine and weighing in at a neat 20t unladen this old girl runs like a dream. You can load her up to the manufacturer’s suggested limit of 22.7t but if you are greedy like us you can go a fair bit further than that.

These trucks really are a gem to drive even at the ripe old age of 30. The transmission worked like a clock with no leaks, no vibrations, no adverse groans or moans and shifted on cue with the tacho.

In the cab


The cab, once inside, was surprisingly good, with all the gauges working that, as with all Cat gear (even this old), sit smack bang and clearly visible in front of you with no second guessing on what this or that gauge means. Full glass still intact and clean and a perfectly set air-conditioning unit just made life that much easier.

The steering arms had some wear but definitely not enough to warrant work on them at this point in time, however Trevor did not say if he had rebushed them at any time whilst in his possession. Overall the steering is direct, with a little play, but that’s in all of them, but the big winner was the brakes. You don’t want to be operating these units on side slopes or hills with dicky brakes and the brakes on this unit were perfect.

Near brand new tyres were fitted to the front of the unit and with the use of the left foot controlled, floor mounted diff locks switch I found the D250E had no problem in traversing the hilly terrain fully loaded and with loose material underfoot.

When tipping our overfilled to capacity loads, the hoist rams worked well with only a minor leak but powerful and fast both on the hoist up and down.

Cat on Cat, you gotta love it


Hydraulic hoses are always going to be an issue and can be a problem from brand new or 18,000 hours old. This was the case when we blew a main hydraulic hose from the pump to the hoist rams, which caused us a bit of light grief but only in downtime.

Trevor was onto it immediately and showed me just how efficient he is when it comes to breakdowns.

Lifting the bonnet is not for the weak but everything is reasonably accessible once in there, which is typical in a Cat designed machine, they are usually well designed.

A tidy load


Overall, the Cat D250E, albeit 30 years old and having suffered many beatings in its life, is now in the hands of someone who understands its capabilities, who has a passion for fixing and repairing more than operating, and has the soft hands to gently guide it through its next stage of life.


Vintage machines

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