Review: Caterpillar D5K2 XL Bulldozer

By: Ron Horner

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  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Whether it was carefully crafting a supercross track or working on the fire lines in the Blue Mountains, this Caterpillar D5K2 XL Bulldozer didn’t miss a beat. Ron Horner saw it in action in these two very different situations

This dozer is great for trimming

Sometimes in my travels I have come across some items of equipment which, in comparison to some of the other gear located on the same site, one would not normally decide to review.

Not even on the near horizon of a review was a little DK5 2 Cat Dozer I had engaged on the build of the WIN Stadium round of the Australian Supercross Track in Wollongong NSW (compliments and generosity of WesTrac). No reasoning behind not pushing the review to the front of the queue, not laziness, definitely not because it wasn’t worth a good review … just one of those things I suppose.

Well … all that changed during my Christmas/New Year tour of the fire-ravaged Blue Mountain areas around Katoomba and Lithgow.

The Gospers Mountain fire, which burned everything in its path for almost two months, was sparked by a lightning strike from a late spring storm. The fire spread rapidly engulfing properties, houses, possessions, livestock, native wildlife and the vegetation as the unrelenting westerly winds poured in to capitalise on the record summer temperatures and long drought conditions affecting the area.

It was here, witnessing first-hand the effects of the fire, the devastation, the fire fighters and the equipment used to fight these raging infernos, that I saw a little D5K 2 Cat dozer – the same one I used on the WIN Stadium track build.

The calm before the storm


I had already done my walk around during the WIN Stadium project. And it was a perfect example of a tidy little dozer.

The tracks have seven bottom rollers per side and will take up almost 3 metres when on the float and you won’t have to worry about being over width either as this little fella runs in at about that 9.2 ton mark – perfect for the tag-a-long.

Nothing had changed here with her new owners, Peters Earthmoving of Hartley. The cabin was tidy, the glass still intact despite having to undertake a totally different role than that of Wollongong, the walking gear near to perfect and the six-way blade just sitting there waiting to show us the real reason why this machine had been deemed the perfect fix for its new role.

Easy access to engine bay through well protected screen doors


Tucked between the track frame and the engine bay was the Cat 2236 four-cylinder 269 cubic inch (4,408 cubic cm) engine pushing out 100hp (75kW) @ 1,900rpm. The engine is safely secured with the fitment of a set of solid hinged, steel meshed doors for each side access.

Once opened, the operator has a relatively easy task in checking the daily fluids, belt tension and leaks. There were none on this girl as the presentation was perfect.

This dozer has a lovely six-way blade, perfect for all applications


The tapered, all-glass cabin provides perfect vision for the operator. Sitting well back in the comfortable air ride seat it is quite clear that a lot of thought has gone into the design of this machine.

Both corner tips on the blade are easily viewed in total comfort, adjustable air conditioning vents sit perfectly for those hot days when you need the A/C on your face (not pushing up behind the seat), a neat little storage box, direct key start and with the most simplistic and uncluttered dashboard you would ever find. Perfect. 

On the floor under the dashboard pedestal lies the braking and deceleration pedal and dropping from the roof lining is the moulded radio housing all sitting perfectly for easy reach and on the run visuals.

On each side of the operator chair are the hand operated lever controls, which enables forward and reverse movement, diff steering, multiple blade controls, ripper or winch control and rotary throttle.

The cab gives great all-round vision


Well I’ve witnessed this machine on two jobs at opposite ends of the scale.

Wollongong was in a pristine environment, exacting gradients governed by design engineers to create a uniform and conforming race track, albeit with extremely tight timelines on working hours and completion dates.

This little Cat D5 knocked its job over with consummate ease and with the professional operators/track builders on board, made it look so easy.

However, up in the Blue Mountains and the Gospers Mountain fires, life was a lot different for the little Cat.

Either working alone and up close towards the fire line or following the big D9R along the newly formed fire breaks, the little Cat D5 shone.

Gone were the days of a light push here and light shove there with material devoid of any rock. Up here on the fire front this machine was "El Numero Uno" and if it failed lives would be put at risk.

In the light scrub and heavy grassed areas the fire fighters needed to have a good, wide access road so to gain access closer to the raging fires for their vehicles. Fire fighting trucks up to 10 ton, back-up water trucks up to 20 ton and numerous light vehicles will cut these dirt bush tracks to pieces in a few short hours.

The Cat D5K-2 XL was the perfect fit for this application.

The small dimensional ground footprint, the speed across ground (9km/h forward and 10km/h in reverse) and the multi positional blade (designed perfectly for windrowing materials) enabling the construction of a  safe, smooth and wide exit point should things go awry.

Rippers came in handy once the machine was relocated to the Blue Mountains fire trails

Edging your way into the fire front is one thing but when things go wrong you don’t want to edging your way back out to safety. If I had a raging fire at my back it would be "home James and don’t spare the horses" if it were me.

This particular machine has the option of a three-shank parallelogram ripper or a hydrostatic winch.

Now either would be suited to the latter application of fire fighting with the winch used to pull logs and stumps free from the post fire clean up but this machine was fitted with the ripper attachment.

Again this was used to rip some sandstone and shale in securing access to some of those inhospitable mountain ridges to allow fire fighters to get into position.

As with most machines placed into a seriously overheated, rough and tumble environment, the operator is always dependent upon several things going his way.

In this type of environment, reliability is one of the main factors, another being the air conditioning. Breaking down in front of a raging bushfire would not be on anyone’s priority list – these machines do and will burn quite quickly once surrounded by flames and in the heat of the moment it is possible for members of the crew to save those close to them but not necessarily get to someone some distance away.

Incidents like that are often discussed and sends shivers down my spine just thinking of the consequences.

Without a really good A/C the operator has no chance to perform to anywhere near his best and will soon succumb to smoke, dust penetration and heat stroke in these types of conditions.

A tip: if you are in the unfortunate position of being surrounded by fires and your egress has been severely hampered, cut yourself the biggest pad (car park size) you can possibly muster. Push from the centre outwards and leave a good size earth bund to minimise the bushfire’s advance on you and the machine. Cover yourself with wet clothing or rags, stay in the machine and cover your mouth with wet cloth.

This Caterpillar D5K2 XL bulldozer was put to use on the fire line


It is always a good feeling when I can come away with a good storyline, a good bit of gear, meet a couple of good blokes and be part of a good project … this one has had all the qualities I could ever wish for.

The Cat D5K-2 XL has proven itself in my eyes as the perfect fit for both these jobs I’ve been involved with.

I have witnessed it working on the light detailed work as well as fighting bushfires – different conditions, different locations and different owners, though same supplier.

When discussing the little Cat with all of those concerned with its performance on both jobs, the decision was unanimous.

WIN Stadium track builder, Josh Proctor of ProTrax, just loves his Cat gear and is as one-eyed as you can get so we can all guess what Proctor reckons, however, Jed Peters is a senior member of his family’s very successful earthmoving business Peters Earthmoving and has gear from all the major suppliers.

When quizzed on the performance of the Cat D5K-2 XL Bulldozer in those horrific bushfire conditions he said: "Bloody awesome … we couldn’t kill it with a stick. The service we receive from WesTrac up here is second to none. The Cat was the right price, we needed it right now and that’s what we were looking for."


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