Last week at its Athens, Georgia, factory Caterpillar unveiled four new small-frame skid steers and compact track loaders. The new machines are the smallest yet to offer the D-series technology and electro-hydraulics that Cat first revealed with 16 larger skid steers and compact track loaders in 2013.
These “smart” hydraulic controls offer up a bucket-load of improvements, joystick controls and fingertip finesse. Just a few years ago this technology was available only in quarter-million dollar machines. With the D-series, and especially the four recent additions to the line, these features are now available to landscapers and contractors doing light-duty residential and commercial site work.
The four new machines include the 226D and 232D skid steer loaders and the 239D and 249D compact track loaders. The small-frame machines weigh under 8,000 pounds, so you can trailer them with some of the beefier new half-ton pickups or just about any three-quarter ton pickup when properly equipped with a load distributing hitch.
But the big news is what the D-series electro-hydraulic systems do for you in the field, including:
- Return to dig. Set the digging angle of the bucket by tapping the setting on the in-cab monitor, then press a button on the joystick to bring the bucket back to that position every time. No need to patiently lower and level the bucket after each dump cycle. Instead you can be moving to your next pick or dig.
- Dual self-leveling. Automatically levels the loader linkage when raising and lowering the lift arms. This keeps loads stable and reduces spillage.
- Electronic snubbing. As your bucket returns to its low position, electronic snubbing automatically cushions the hydraulics so you don’t bounce or rock the machine when the bucket stops at the bottom of its travel.
- Work-tool positioning. Whether it’s your bucket, forks or any other tool at the end of your loader arms, when there is a height and angle that works perfectly for a repetitive task, you can program that into the cab monitor and recall the setting with the press of a button. Also nice for back dragging materials at final grade.
Additionally, the four new machines inherit from the D series a uni-body cab–a completely sealed and self-contained unit. Tilt up the cab and you won’t see any gaskets or seals to compress where it attaches to the frame, just a seamless steel tub. This lowers noise levels and seals out dust. Along with a redesigned HVAC system the new cab has 20 percent better air flow and a 50 percent increase in heating and cooling rates compared to previous models.
Under the cab is an easy access belly pan, which can be removed with hand tools when it’s time to clean out debris or get at components from the underside of the machine.
Cat also makes a rear-view camera available as an option. The camera screen is positioned directly above your line of sight in the cab and gives you visibility that’s impossible to get any other way. It not only improves safety but performance as you can maneuver more precisely in reverse.
An automatic work tool coupler replaces the hydraulic coupler with an electrically actuated system. Cat says this is simpler in design, eliminates hoses and connectors and is easier to install in the field.
Landscapers who do a lot of finish grade work may want to check out the new bar-style rubber track tread option Cat introduced with the two compact track loaders. Previous generations of Cat compact track loaders used a 12.6-inch wide block tread pattern. The new bar style tread option features a 15-inch wide tread with narrowly spaced bars. This lowers ground pressure and leaves behind a series of narrow, parallel ridges that are easily knocked down with a rake prior to installing sod or any other finished product. It also offer extra traction in the snow.
Additional features include an electric priming pump with automatic air bleed, optional battery disconnect, suspended undercarriage, and tubular lift arms for strength and visibility.
All four models use a 67-horsepower Cat C2.2 engine with high pressure common rail fuel system and direct injection. A maintenance-free diesel oxidation catalyst is the only emissions aftertreatment, which means no bulky diesel particulate filter (DPF). The new engines deliver 10 percent more power and torque and a 14 percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to previous models. An on-demand fan reduces parasitic horsepower losses.