5 Myths About Caterpillar Diesel Engines

When most people hear the name Caterpillar, they think about the iconic bright-yellow construction equipment. However, the idea that Caterpillar only focuses on construction is a bit of a myth itself. Caterpillar brings its level of quality of engines from all fields like trucking, agriculture, boating, and more.

It can be fun and exciting to look back at the history of Caterpillar and separate fact from fiction. Even the story about where Caterpillar engines got their name sounds like a bit of a farfetched tale. The company founders, Benjamin Holt and C. L. Best worked on agricultural equipment. In 1904, Benjamin Holt had the idea to replace the wheels on one of their tractors with the treads that are now commonplace.

When they were showing off the new machine during a field test, a company photographer exclaimed that the tread moved along like a big caterpillar. The funny thing is that Holt originally hated that word being associated with the machines. Still, by 1909, we saw the first machine with the Caterpillar name on it, and by 1910, the name was a registered trademark.

Today, ATL Diesel is here to help separate some of the facts from fiction that’s come up over the past century or so. We’re looking at five myths about Caterpillar diesel engines that you may have heard and how much truth is behind them.

Myth: Caterpillar Engines Only Work With Caterpillar Parts

Certain products have a habit of not working very well unless you have original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. Because Caterpillar machines have such a high reputation for reliability, many people still believe that their machines will only run if they have original parts directly from their manufacturing facilities. However, this may be a problem if you’re using an engine that Caterpillar no longer makes or focusing on a machine they no longer support.

While it’s true that having Caterpillar OEM parts is beneficial and will improve the longevity of your engine, they’re not a firm requirement when rebuilding or maintaining your engine. If you ever buy a Caterpillar engine that claims to be remanufactured, you want to check the parts carefully. You don’t want to pay remanufactured prices for an engine that’s using aftermarket parts.

Myth: Caterpillar Engines Are Bad for the Environment

One of the many myths about Caterpillar diesel engines and diesel engines in general is that they can be bad for the environment. There’s some heavy debate over whether diesel engines are larger causes of pollution than gasoline engines. The answer, like many things, isn’t just a black-and-white, better-or-worse situation. While diesel engines contribute ground-level ozone that can be damaging to trees and other plants near the ground, they also emit less CO2 and greenhouse gases than traditional gasoline vehicles.

Despite the regular myths that diesel engines are bad for the planet or create far more pollutants than other engines, Caterpillar has done its part to help. Since the original Clean Air Act of 1963, Caterpillar has worked hard to create new engines and innovate its products to comply with environmental emission regulations. Caterpillar is a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and has ongoing projects dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint. Caterpillar is currently performing a continuing campaign to reduce its overall emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Myth: Caterpillar Stopped Producing Truck Engines Because of Lawsuits

In 2010, Caterpillar decided to stop producing engines for large trucks and shift its focus to off-highway engines and machines. Many people believed this decision was partially due to lawsuits or violations of the Clean Air Act in the early to mid-2000s.

The simpler truth is that Caterpillar attempted to build on-highway engines complying with modern ACERT regulations and ultimately decided this wasn’t the best use of the technology or money. Caterpillar already had several other lucrative off-highway machines with construction and agricultural machinery, so shifting away from traditional trucks was a smarter move for the company.

Myth: Caterpillar Engines Don’t Work at High Altitudes

One of the most common myths about diesel engines is that they frequently struggle to perform at higher altitudes, like up in the mountains. The idea behind this myth is that higher elevations have thinner air, so diesel engines struggle to maintain a proper air-fuel ratio to keep the engine running.

Both diesel engines and traditional gasoline engines utilize an air-fuel ratio, but it’s actually gasoline engines that struggle more when the oxygen is thinner. Diesel engines can pull air into the combustion chambers and use compression to create reliable, powerful energy that keeps machines in working order. A Caterpillar engine with a turbocharger or supercharger would see little to no negative impacts from operating in a highly elevated area.

Myth: Caterpillar Engines Are More Expensive To Maintain Than Other Diesel Engines

Many people believe that Caterpillar engines are more expensive to maintain than other diesel engines, and there may be a degree of truth to this one. Like with any product, when you’re paying for those high-quality name-brand pieces, the initial investment will be much higher. After the initial investment, you should only experience higher maintenance costs if you’re insistent on finding and using OEM parts.

If you’re okay with maintaining your Caterpillar diesel engine with aftermarket in-frame overhaul kits or replacement parts, that will significantly lower the cost of keeping your diesel engine running. The price also depends on what type of engine you’re using. Since Caterpillar no longer makes on-highway truck engines, finding authentic parts to work with your engine may be more of a hassle and a much larger expense. In some ways, running and maintaining a Caterpillar engine can be a more costly option. But like many things in life, it depends on where you’re willing to make compromises to maintain your machine.

If you’re interested in Caterpillar engine overhaul kits, ATL Diesel has a wide range of parts available online. If you use your engine’s serial number, a helpful member of our staff can find the perfect kit or parts to fit your engine needs. For more information, contact us anytime to get more in-depth details on any questions or concerns you may have.


5 Myths About Caterpillar Diesel Engines