Internal changes

Features - Design/Build

2013 brings big changes to the engines in new equipment. Here’s what Tier 4 means for you and your company.

October 11, 2012
Lee Chilcote and Chuck Bowen

In January, the diesel engines used in compact equipment must be compliant with strict new Tier 4 emissions regulations from the EPA.

The good news about the new engines that will hit the market next year is that they’ll be more fuel efficient and less harmful to the environment without sacrificing performance.

The bad news is these engines will also be more expensive – although exactly how much more expensive won’t be known until the new machines finally hit the market.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated the Tier 4 regulations for small diesel engine manufacturers (25-74 hp) as part of a “comprehensive national program to reduce emissions from nonroad diesel engines by integrating engine and fuel controls as a system to gain the greatest emission reductions,” according to the EPA website.

The new requirements, which go into effect Jan. 1, have required engine manufacturers to go back to the drawing board and design entirely new products.

All existing compact equipment is grandfathered in under previous regulations. If you’re buying new equipment, however, you can expect big changes in design and price.

“We’ve come up with two new engines from the ground up,” says Jeff Wilke, a product manager for Kohler Engines who oversees its diesel product in North America.

“This specification was difficult to meet, but in the end, it’s driving towards a better engine.”

“Our new Tier 4 engines will be electronically controlled with common rail fuel technology, and end users should expect better fuel savings and more power,” adds Harold Kabel, small engine sales manager for Mitsubishi Engine of North America.

Sticker shock.
But new technologies also mean new costs. For its part, JCB has invested about $125 million to comply with these regulations, which he says will ultimately increase the cost of a machine at the dealership.

“With Tier 4, we’re definitely seeing increases,” says Chris Giorgianni, JCB’s vice president of product for North America. Giorgianni says that larger pieces of equipment could cost as much as six percent more, and smaller equipment costs could increase by “double digits.”

“Our engine cost is going to go up 60-80 percent,” Wilke says. “It’s a costly regulation to meet. Industry wide, it’s going to be expensive for people to get equipment over 25 horsepower.”

“The engines will most likely cause the price of machines to increase,” Kabel says. Kohler’s new small diesel engine does not require a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

As a result, users will see increased fuel efficiency and decreased maintenance. “We’ve designed our engine to run clean enough that it didn’t produce that particulate.”

Kohler’s engine also includes a four-valve head with a centrally located injector, a cooled EGR that re-circulates exhaust gas temperatures and a two-stage cooling system.

Wilke says that Kohler initiated the design process more than three years ago.

Mitsubishi has announced production of three new small diesel engines, which you can read more about on pg. 20, that are Tier 4 compliant, Kabel says. These new engines include a DPF and a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (ODC). On the positive side, contractors can expect higher efficiency and less fuel consumption, which will at least partially offset the higher prices of new equipment.

“Our engines are going to be more powerful and efficient,” Wilke says. “They’ll have better fuel economy. The engines are quieter and maintenance intervals are longer.” Giorgianni says that, as part of efforts to become Tier 4 compliant, larger pieces of the company’s compact equipment have been “repowered” to fit into a lower power band.

Some skid-steers and track loaders will now top out at 74 horsepower instead of 84 hp. “You want to get as much as you can out of the engine. It’s really forced us as manufacturers to focus more on efficiencies,” Giorgianni says. Mitsubishi’s new Tier 4 compliant engines are expected to have up to 16 percent better fuel economy and increased output of up to 50 percent compared with Tier III engines. Because of the burden of implementing new regulations, engine manufacturers say there may be fewer products available in the marketplace, at least in the near term. “There’s going to be a smaller selection” of 25-74 hp compact equipment, Wilke says. “There are still going to be options out there, but they’re going to be fewer and farther between.”

New service model. Chris Knipfer, marketing manager for Bobcat, says service technicians will have the biggest challenges when it comes to dealing with these new engines.

The Fargo-based company has spent years training its dealer network to handle an influx of high-tech powerplants that are light years beyond a standard diesels engine.

Bobcat, which uses mostly Kubota engines, will use a DPF and DOC system to comply with the regulations, but the external look of most of its models remains the same.

“From the outside, unless you have a very trained eye, you wouldn’t notice anything,” Knipfer says.

The same holds true for regular maintenance of the new engines, he says. Fuel and oil filter check-ups are similar, and the engine electronics alert operators to other necessary fixes, like the regeneration of those DPF. But it’s those same electronics that could trip up inexperienced service departments.

“With our experience with interim Tier 4 on big loaders, there was a lot of fear out there,” Knipfer says. “That’s a big thing for customers, now it’s even more important that you have a strong service department in the dealer you work with.”

For more information on Tier 3 go to For more on engines, go to