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Caterpillar Truck Engine Models and Prefixes Explained

Caterpillar manufactured commercial truck diesel engines for many years but exited the business back in 2010. Their manufacturing still exists today, except they are done for various off-highway equipment and machines.

The goal of Diesel Laptops has been to provide clients an easy and efficient way to lookup engine related repair information. This typically means allowing a user to either enter a VIN or select a year, make, and model of the information they are looking for. The issue with Caterpillar is that they do not categorize their repair information this way. They categorize it by engine application (Truck, marine, military, etc...), engine model, and then engine prefix.

The engine prefix is the first 3 characters in the engine serial number. For example, SDP22671 has a prefix of SDP. Quick research can tell us that this is a C15 engine, but what years of trucks did it go into? Caterpillar has never made this information available to the public, along with more details on what features those prefix’s have. In this blog post, we hope to break all of that down for you.

We also need to have a quick conversation about production years, model years, and emission years. Often vehicles made in a current year, are classified as next years models. Most vehicle manufacturers flip their model years over at some point in the first couple months of the new year. For example, a truck built in March of 2020, could very well be a model year 2021. Truck order backlogs often fill up for months, or even years, at a time. This means you could be sitting here in December 2020 and receiving quotes on 2022 model years (Which would be available in early summer 2021).

To further muddy the waters, emission years often lag production years. The EPA set standards that engine manufacturers have had to meet since 2004. You now must line up engine manufacturing dates with vehicle manufacturing dates with model year changes. This all becomes even more problematic when we are trying to decode a VIN which gives us model years, not production nor emission years.

CAT C15 Engines

The CAT C15 was the replacement for the 3406E and was a very popular “big bore” 15-liter engine during its day. They have 3 “versions” of C15 engines they made:

  • C-15 (Pre-ACERT engines, with a dash between the C and the 15)
  • C-15 Bridge (Engines in transition from pre-ACERT to ACERT)
  • C15 ACERT (ACERT is the CAT technology to meet EPA 2004 & 2007 emission standards)

Based on our research, our team was able to categorize this as follows:

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
6NZ
C-15
Jul 1998
Jun 2005
99,900
1998 - 2002
6NZ, 9NZ, MBN, & EGH have same fault code tables.
9NZ
C-15
Jun 2005
Feb 2009
18,500
1998 - 2002
6NZ, 9NZ, MBN, & EGH have same fault code tables.S
MBN
C-15 Bridge
Dec 2001
Feb 2003
30,100
1998 - 2002
6NZ, 9NZ, MBN, & EGH have same fault code tables.
EGH
C15 ACERT
Dec 2002
Oct 2004
Less than 300
1998 - 2002
6NZ, 9NZ, MBN, & EGH have same fault code tables.
BXS
C15 ACERT
Mar 2003
Dec 2004
39,000
2003
First “True” ACERTS.
MXS
C15 ACERT
Mar 2003
Jul 2006
100,000
2004 - 2006
Most popular C15 ACERT. Once piece housings for engine brake & VVA’s
NXS
C15 ACERT
Jul 2006
Apr 2009
33,000
2004 - 2006
NXS exact same as MXS. CAT ran out of serial numbers.
RKS
C15 ACERT
Sept 2008
Jan 2009
Less than 100
2004 - 2006
RKS same fault code tables as MXS & NXS
SDP
C15 ACERT
Jan 2005
Mar 2009
22,700
2007 - 2010
Last C15 engine prefix built

CAT C12 Engines

The CAT C12 was the little brother to the CAT C15 engine, as it was a 12-liter engine with a maximum of 430HP from the factory.

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
1YN
C-12
Nov 1994
Dec 1997
12,800
1994 - 1996
First C12’s made
9NS
C-12
Jan 1997
Feb 2004
20,200
1997 - 1998
2KS
C-12
Mar 1996
Apr 2006
99,500
1999 - 2003
2KS, CPD, & 8YF use the same fault codes.
CPD
C-12
May 2001
Jun 2005
2,500
1999 - 2003
2KS, CPD, & 8YF use the same fault codes
8YF
C-12
Feb 2007
Sept 2009
3,100
1999 - 2003
2KS, CPD, & 8YF use the same fault codes

CAT C13 Engines

The CAT C13 replaced the CAT C12 engine and was a popular 13L engine that was built from 2004 until 2010 when CAT exited the on-highway diesel engine business.

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
JAM
C13 ACERT
Jul 2005
May 2011
Less than 90
2004 - 2006
EPA 2004 Emissions, No DPF
KCB
C13 ACERT
Nov 2002
Jan 2010
94,000
2004 - 2006
EPA 2004 Emissions, No DPF
LEE
C13 ACERT
Jan 2005
Mar 2009
23,500
2007 - 2010
EPA 2007 Emissions, DPF, new air management system

CAT C9 Engines

The first several engine prefixes were built in exceptionally low quantities, so they were more then likely test engines. The 2004 emission engine was a 8.8L configuration and the 2007 model was a 9.3L. The 2007 model included Clean Gas Induction (CGI) and a particulate filter with Cat Regeneration System (CRS).

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
ETK
C9
Jan 2005
Jul 2008
Less than 500
MTB
C9
Jan 2004
Dec 2006
1,000
CKP
C9
Apr 2003
Jun 2003
Less than 500
CKP
C9
Apr 2003
Jun 2003
Less than 500
9DG
C9
Aug 2000
Dec 2006
10,500
2004 - 2006
EPA 2004 Emissions
CKP
C9
Apr 2007
Dec 2008
1,200
2007 - 2010
EPA 2004 Emissions

CAT C10 Engines

This engine was smaller then the C12, and was only used in production for a short period of time. This was a 10.3L engine, and didn’t put up huge sales numbers.

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
2PN
C10
Nov 1994
Aug 1998
7,300
1995 - 1997
8YS
C10
Mar 1997
Apr 2003
7,300
1998
3CS
C10
Jul 1996
Dec 1999
9,700
1999 - 2002
3CS & MBJ use exact same fault code tables.
MBJ
C10
Oct 2002
Dec 2003
4,000
1999 - 2002
3CS & MBJ use exact same fault code tables.

CAT C7 Engines

The CAT C7 was released in 2003 to meet engine emission standards and was a 7.2L medium duty diesel engine. The CAT C7 was plagued with the same ACERT problems that CAT had in the other ACERT engines.

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
YPG
C7
Nov 2004
Mar 2005
Less than 100
LBM
C7
Apr 2006
Oct 2008
700
KAL
C7
Oct 2002
Jul 2003
1,800
2003 - 2006
3WAX, SAP, & KAL prefix are identical.
SAP
C7
Feb 2005
Jun 2005
21,500
2003 - 2006
WAX, SAP, & KAL prefix are identical.
WAX
C7
Aug 2005
Dec 2006
75,700
2003 - 2006
WAX, SAP, & KAL prefix are identical.
CS7
C7
Feb 2005
Aug 2007
3,700
2007 - 2010

CAT 3406E Engines

The CAT 3406E was eventually split into the CAT C15 & C16 in 2000. The CAT C16 only made it a couple years before being discontinued mainly due to emission standards that took place starting in 2004. The CAT C15 turned into the CAT C-15 ACERT engine eventually.

ENGINE PRREFIX
MODEL
FIRST BUILT
LAST BUILT
QTY BUILT
MODEL YEARS
NOTES
5EK
3406E
Nov 1991
Jan 1997
99,300
1993 - 1997
6TS & 5EK almost identical. 6TS has steel top pistons, 5EK aluminum.
6TS
3406E
Jan 1997
Aug 1998
27,800
1993 - 1997
6TS & 5EK almost identical. 6TS has steel top pistons, 5EK aluminum.
5DS
3406E
Sept 1996
Jan 1999
1,000
1998
15.8L Engine
1LW
3406E
Dec 1997
May 2003
33,000
1998
14.6L Engine
1MM
3406E
Jun 1998
Dec 1999
1,300
1999 - 2000
15.8L Engine
2WS
3406E
Mar 1996
Dec 1999
42,700
1999 - 2000
14.6L Engine

Summary

Hopefully, our research has helped answer a question or two for you. If you are looking for diagnostic tools or repair information on CAT engines, you have come to the right place!

Our Diesel Repair platform contains repair information on fault codes, along with remove and replace instructions, torque specifications, wiring diagrams, component locators, and much more.

Our online store has all kinds of diagnostic tools for CAT engines, as we cover everything from handheld code readers to full blown dealer level diagnostic tools. Call, chat, or email us today and let us help find the right tool for you!

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Tyler Robertson

Tyler Robertson is the Founder, Owner, and President of www.DieselLaptops.com. Started in 2010, DieselLaptops.com has become the premiere source of diesel diagnostic equipment for commercial trucks, off-highway equipment, marine, motorcycle, automobile, agriculture, and more.

Comments

Gary Morgan - February 11, 2021

Impressive set of information.

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