What Do the Model Numbers on an Excavator Mean?


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When working with excavators, it’s easy to group them into similar categories based on size. However, excavators that look similar may have completely different functions. A better way to “read” the excavator is by looking at the model numbers. 

The model numbers on an excavator may indicate the product series, tonnage, excavator type, and excavator grade. The model number also contains information that indicates the excavator brand. Excavator brands don’t follow a standard numbering system. Every brand’s model number reads differently. 

The rest of this article will show you how to read the model numbers of different excavator brands. I’ll also give you tips on identifying which category special excavators belong to by looking at the model numbers. 

What Information Does an Excavator’s Model Number Indicate? 

An excavator’s model number will usually indicate the excavator’s brand, series, tonnage, and other basic operating information. The model number is usually placed next to the brand logo and is a combination of letters and numbers. 

Since there is no universal format or requirements for what an excavator’s model number should indicate, the model numbers on different excavator brands are read differently. Let’s look at the most common excavator brands and what their model numbers indicate: 

CAT 

CAT excavators are the most common excavator type and also the easiest to read. A typical CAT excavator’s model number indicates the type of excavator, the tonnage, series, and machine size or bucket capacity. For example, in the CAT345LC model number, the “3” indicates that it’s an excavator, the “45” indicates the tonnage, and “LC” means long carriage. 

The letters at the end may also indicate the excavator series. For example, the CAT320D shows a 20-ton (18,144 kg) excavator, and the “D” indicates the excavator series. The D, E, and L series are the most popular small to medium-sized CAT excavators. 

Hitachi 

Hitachi is the second largest manufacturer of excavators, and their model numbers aren’t difficult to read either. The model number on a Hitachi excavator will start with either EX or ZX. This is usually followed by a 3-digit number that shows the tonnage. If it’s a special type of excavator, the number may be followed by a letter. 

For example, in the ZX120-3, ZX indicates that it’s an excavator, 120 shows the tonnage, and “3” is the series number. The EX220LC-5 shows an excavator of 22 tons (19,958 kg) with a long carriage and fifth series. 

There are slight variations, but most Hitachi excavators will follow this format. 

Terex Atlas 

Terex Atlas is another popular supplier of quality excavators, but they don’t follow the same standard as other excavator brands when assigning model numbers. For example, the TW1304M shows a Terex Atlas excavator weighing 13 tons (11,793 kg). The “4” means the excavator is part of the 4th series and the “M” means that it’s a wheeled or mobile version. 

Deere 

Like with other excavator brands, Deere excavators aren’t assigned model numbers according to any standard. Take the Deere 200CLC, for instance. Most people will guess that the excavator weighs 20 tons (18,144 kg), but some people won’t recognize that CLC means “C” series and long carriage. 

The same applies to most excavator brands, which is why there isn’t any standard for recognizing model numbers. However, some letters are common to all excavators and can help you dissect the model numbers. 

How Are Excavators Classified? 

Excavators are classified according to operational capacity, excavator type, and brand series. General excavator classifications may group them by small or light-duty, medium, and heavy-duty excavators. 

Let’s take a closer look at these excavator classifications: 

Classification by Capacity or Weight 

Most excavators are classified according to their weight class. For example, mini excavators weigh less than 7 tons (6,350 kg), small excavators weigh between 7 – 10 tons (6,350 – 9,072 kg), and so on. Most excavators will have a reference to the weight on the model number since it’s the first thing that determines whether an excavator is suitable for a certain job. 

Classification by Excavator Type 

Excavators are also classified based on their type and usage. The most common types of excavators are standard, wheeled, dragline, and hydraulic shovels. Standard excavators are the most common and perform many basic tasks. Wheeled excavators are more mobile and are used where loads need to be moved quickly. 

Dragline excavators use ropes to drag large buckets across a surface to dig up material. They are heavy duty and are usually used in mining operations. Hydraulic shovels are similar to standard excavators but are used for heavy digging tasks. The hydraulic system also helps the bucket hold more weight than standard excavators. 

Other Excavator Classifications 

Excavators may also be classified according to variations in their design. These variations are represented by universally recognized symbols. For example, the letter “L” is used to refer to extended crawlers, “LC” refers to long carriage excavators, and “H” may refer to heavy-duty excavators. 

Some of these symbols may differ across brands, but most excavators will use standard abbreviations to indicate special types of excavators. 

What Does CR Stand for on a CAT Excavator? 

CR on CAT excavators stands for “compact radius” and is used for a series of excavators in the 35-ton (31,752-kg) class. The compact radius technology allows the excavator to operate at 45% more efficiency and reduce fuel consumption by 10%. These excavators also have a tighter tail swing radius.

The compact radius design also allows for better visibility and stability, reducing the excavator capsizing risk. These excavators are designed for maximum operational efficiency and can be used with auxiliary hydraulic attachments for better versatility. 

Conclusion 

While most professionals can recognize the type, make, and excavator capacity just by looking at it, reading the model number is a better way to “read” an excavator. The model number may tell you a lot about an excavator’s type, tonnage, capacity, and other design features. 

Unfortunately, not all model numbers follow the same pattern, even though all excavators may have standard symbols on their model numbers. While the best way to understand the excavator’s specifications is to read the manual, knowing how to read the model number can be helpful if you don’t have the manual.

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