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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!