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The new loader carries on the 973C's "all-purpose performer" reputation and retains much of its solid design, including the Cat C9 engine, hydrostatic drive, single-fabrication mainframe, Z-bar loader linkage and oscillating undercarriage. The 973D is a "one-machine workforce" with the features to take on the toughest jobs—at construction sites or in the harsh environments of steel mills, landfills, quarries and demolition sites.

The 973D's new closed-center, load-sensing implement hydraulic system uses a variable-displacement pump that produces only the precise volume of oil actually required for the job at hand. By contrast, the 973C's hydraulic pump produced a constant oil volume, whether required or not. The net result is that the 973D pumps less oil, thus conserving fuel, generating less heat and freeing horsepower to drive the tracks more efficiently. The new system also allows seamless, simultaneous use of lift, tilt and travel functions.

Complementing the new hydraulic system are lift and tilt cylinders using position-sensing electronics, which allow operators to set lift and tilt kick-outs from the cab. Kick-outs are quickly reset for each job—or even each truck—to assure fast cycle times. In addition, end-of-travel snubbing assures that cylinders stop smoothly with less shock.

Operator-station amenities

In the new operator's station, buyers now can choose either joystick steering or pedal steering. The steering joystick also provides transmission control, allowing the operator to effortlessly select travel direction and ground speed, while the pedal-steer system works in conjunction with the Cat "V-pattern" transmission controller. Both systems assure fast, precise steering—but now buyers can select the system preferred by their operators.

Buyers also have a choice of loader controls—either joystick or two-lever. The 973C offered this choice, but loader controls for the new 973D are seat-mounted and electro-hydraulically actuated, compared with console-mounted and pilot-actuated (hydraulically assisted). The new seat-mounted, low-effort controls move with the operator as the seat is adjusted, transmit less vibration and provide extremely fast, precise hydraulic response.

The new cab is sound-suppressed (rated at 74 dB-A), sealed, pressurized, air-conditioned, resiliently mounted and tilts (30 degrees in the field, 90 degrees in the shop) for access to major components. Increased glass area improves visibility all around, and the new fender design yields sharper sightlines out the rear window. A compact new dash includes both a gauge cluster that monitors vital systems and the Messenger display screen, which provides real-time performance and diagnostic information.

Reliable power train, robust structures, easy service

The 8.8-liter, 263-net horsepower (196 kW) Cat C9 diesel engine, which meets U.S. EPA Tier-3 and European Union Stage IIIA standards, uses proprietary Caterpillar ACERT™ Technology for exceptional emissions-control and fuel-economy. A new on-demand, viscous-clutch cooling fan helps further lower fuel consumption and sound.

The electronically controlled Cat Hystat hydrostatic drive system powers and controls each track independently via a variable-displacement pump and motor. The Hystat system allows both tracks to be powered through gradual turns, simplifies straight-line travel when working across slopes and provides exceptional maneuverability with its counter-rotation capability.

The 973D's main-frame/loader-tower is fabricated of single-slab primary rails, cross-member reinforcing and castings or forgings in high-stress areas to provide long-term durability for supporting multiple rebuilds. Oscillating track frames help smooth the operator's ride, lessen shock loads to the machine and contribute to the 973D's stability. Z-bar-type loader linkage uses massive single-slab boom arms and dual bell-cranks (each with its own tilt cylinder) to deliver exceptional breakout power.

Service access to drive-train and hydraulic-system components is simplified on the 973D with its tilting cab. The cab can be tilted a full 90 degrees with an external lifting device and 30 degrees in the field using an hydraulic jack available as standard. All routine-maintenance points are easily accessible from ground level, and oil-sampling ports, quick-connect pressure taps and ground-level emergency-shut-down switch are standard equipment.

Job-specific configurations

Two Waste-Handling Packages (Standard and Extreme) add substantial guarding, debris barriers, cooling-system enhancements and an air-intake pre-cleaner. The Standard Package is designed for landfills, transfer stations and material-recovery facilities, while the Severe Package affords maximum protection in the most demanding work, such as demolition.

The Steel-Mill Package, allowing the 973D to work safely and reliably when handling hot slag around blast furnaces, features a sealed undercarriage; fire-retardant fluids; heat shields for the fuel tank, power train and hydraulic components; silicone seals; heat-resistant windshield; and remote parking-brake release.

For consistent work in soft underfoot conditions, the Wide-Gauge Package provides a stretched track gauge and low-ground-pressure track shoes. These features are complemented with a wider bucket that boosts productivity in grading and backfilling applications.

In addition to these application-specific packages, other optional packages are available, including a three-shank parallelogram ripper, multi-purpose bucket, added counterweight and a deluxe maintenance package for fast oil changes and fuel-sediment flushing. Caterpillar also is ready to design custom solutions to meet any customer's exact needs.

For more information about the Cat 973D Track Loader, customers should contact a local Cat dealer or visit

973D Basic Specifications

Engine power, net
263 hp (196 kW)
Operating weight
61,857 lb (28 058 kg)
Bucket capacity (GP)
4.20 yd³ (3.21 m³)
Bucket capacity (MP)
3.92 yd³ (3.05 m³)
Implement hydraulic pressure
3,988psi (27,500 kPa)
Implement hydraulic flow
91.4 gpm (346 L/min)
Fuel tank capacity
164 gal (621 L)