Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

April 1, 2004
Engine manufacturers have their sights set on constant improvement, and with EPA emissions standards in place through the end of the decade there is plenty

Engine manufacturers have their sights set on constant improvement, and with EPA emissions standards in place through the end of the decade there is plenty of work to be done. Electronics, overhead cam and ACERT technology have all resulted in lower emissions and fuel consumption; longer, quieter running; and easier starting. RER recently asked engine manufacturers to shed some light on recent engineering enhancements and the resulting impact on rental equipment.

RER: Describe how improvements in engine technology are improving the performance of the equipment they run in.

Briggs & Stratton: The commercial engines available today are the most powerful, reliable and longest lasting engines ever produced. Technologies like advanced composites, computer modeling and cutting edge alloy casting capabilities have allowed Briggs & Stratton to continue to raise the horsepower bar with engines that are quiet, easy-to-service and offer increased performance and productivity in the equipment they power.

Kohler: Kohler offers electronic fuel injection (EFI) on Command PRO 26- and 28-hp air-cooled engines, and 29-hp Aegis liquid-cooled models. OEM customers report consistent starting, reliable throttle response and superior fuel economy.

Cummins: The introduction of electronics allows engine performance to be matched to specific customer needs for the equipment applications and its operation. Cummins works closely with its customers to integrate drive line components, which also improves machine performance.

Wacker: Light construction equipment manufacturers are looking to proven technology in the automotive and airline industries and adapting it to engines for the construction industry. Wacker's WM 4-cycle engines utilize high-performance chain driven overhead cam technology (OHC), the same technology found in the automotive industry. This design offers benefits including more power; easier starting; quieter, cooler running; longer life; lower maintenance; lower exhaust emissions; and lower fuel consumption.

American Honda: We see a trend toward increased quality at a reduced cost as we continue to deliver our customers strong value and the durability, quality and reliability that they expect from a Honda.

Lessons learned from racing and automotive technology translate very well to our small engines. For example, we utilize similar techniques for managing combustion efficiency to maximize fuel economy and minimize emissions.

Robin America: The introduction of the OHC air-cooled industrial engines by Robin Subaru has improved the engine and equipment performance in several ways, including reduced noise levels. Fewer moving parts are needed in the engines, which has reduced the high-pitched sounds that are most evident to the human ear. This reduces the overall noise of the equipment, making it more user friendly. The OHC combustion chamber design is a more efficient design that reduces fuel consumption, lowers emissions and produces more power from the same size or smaller engine and improves engine starting.

Are greater efficiencies saving rental companies money in operating and maintenance costs?

Briggs & Stratton: Yes. Our Vanguard engines offer several features that both reduce maintenance, and reduce the amount of time required for regular maintenance. A good example is the Advanced Debris Management system featured on our new air-cooled Big Block V-Twins (25-35 hp). The system helps ensure cooling system efficiency by limiting the debris that can be sucked into the cooling system, which reduces the frequency of necessary cooling system maintenance. Plus, the system offers “clean out ports” that allow easy service access into the blower housing, through which the technician can quickly blow out any debris that has accumulated inside the blower housing or cooling fins with compressed air. There is no need to remove the engine from the equipment or the blower housing from the engine. The system not only reduces and simplifies maintenance, but it also increases the effectiveness of the cooling system, boosting engine performance and durability, as well as equipment productivity.

Due to the robust power and torque of these new Big Block engines, operators can often reduce engine rpm in light to moderate load situations, which saves fuel, reduces noise, prolongs equipment life and allows a longer runtime on a tank of gas.

Kohler: Yes. Kohler's overhead valve (OHV) engines run cleaner and longer. There is virtually no carbon buildup (so no decarboning downtime). OHV also allows for a higher compression ratio for increased power, improved fuel economy, and reduced oil consumption. In addition, EFI engines run more efficiently and cleaner, so there is virtually no maintenance downtime.

Cummins: Cummins focuses on customer needs during the product development process, which include improvements to maintenance intervals. Increasing maintenance intervals allows our customers to experience savings in labor, oil and other consumables.

Wacker: Yes. The OHC design in Wacker's 4-cycle WM engine series means a cooler running engine that directly correlates to the engine's long life. Increasing the engine's life means more uptime and in turn rental companies are going to see increased ROI. The OHC design also provides greater fuel efficiency, less noise and an easier starting engine. These features keep rental customers coming back. Greater parts commonality is another important factor in helping rental companies keep their costs down.

American Honda: Within the next couple years Honda will be bringing more of our automobile technology to small engines that will benefit the rental industry.

We will focus on maintaining the momentum of our GX series engines for commercial and rental applications, which is the cornerstone of our engine lineup, while providing our customers with increased options to meet their needs. For example, we will soon be introducing an all-new GS series that combines the compact, lightweight architecture of our GC Premium Residential engines with a cast-iron cylinder sleeve typical of commercial engines.

Robin America: Cost savings are generated in two ways — lower fuel costs and fewer moving parts on the engine, which makes for less wear and, therefore, less maintenance.

Describe how the improvements impact the end user on the job site.

Briggs & Stratton: End users will experience engines that run quieter, yet are more powerful, reliable and durable than ever before.

Kohler: Kohler's OHV and EFI engines allow for longer run times between refuelings, while low oil consumption means no adds between oil changes. So user uptime is maximized. From a performance standpoint, Kohler engines produce more power and superior torque backup for powering through tough jobs.

Cummins: Improving the overall machine performance increases operator satisfaction. Electronic integration with operator gauges can improve feedback to the equipment operator, which can help him/her run the machine more efficiently.

Wacker: Trends in light construction equipment design over the past few years have focused on ergonomics. Keeping the operator as comfortable as possible while operating the machines has proven to increase overall productivity. This trend has also been incorporated into engine designs. Less noise and vibration, and easier-to-start engines are helping to improve productivity. Better fuel economy is also an important factor to the end user's bottom line.

Robin America: Lower noise levels allow for worker comfort and reduced irritation to other people in the area. In addition, easier starting and less maintenance allows the end user to complete the job in less time with less headaches.

Do you offer education and training sessions for technicians and mechanics who service your engines?

Briggs & Stratton: Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power offers a multitude of specialized schools for its technicians. These schools are conducted at locations throughout North America and cover a range of topics from specific systems training, such as fuel or electrical systems, to courses that cover advanced engine technology as an umbrella topic. We also produce a wide variety of technical publications, both in printed versions and online, for our technicians in the field. Publications include full technical repair manuals to diagnostic posters and periodic service bulletins.

Kohler: Kohler offers factory-approved schools at its central distributor locations, as well as factory schools at Kohler. At the factory, Kohler offers two levels of training: Level 1, which is a base program that includes teardown and warranty issues, and Level 2, which is a more intense version that spends more time on EFI and troubleshooting techniques. At distributors, only Level 1 training is offered.

Cummins: Cummins distributors offer service training for technicians and mechanics. A Distributor/Dealer locator is available at, and many distributors publish their training schedules on their Web sites.

Wacker: Yes. Wacker has an extensive training program for rental company technicians and mechanics. The certified training schools are comprehensive programs to teach mechanics service and repair techniques for all areas of Wacker's product line.

Robin America: Robin America offers training through wholesale distributors as well as to OEM users. Through training, we ensure as many people as possible are exposed to the proper servicing of our products.

What kind of parts service do you provide?

Briggs & Stratton: Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power servicing dealers can order and receive parts anywhere in the United States within 24 hours through our world-class parts and distribution network. This minimizes downtime and enhances equipment utilization rates.

Kohler: Kohler offers a three-step distribution system of central distributors, service distributors and service dealers that represent more than 12,000 locations worldwide. Each is stocked with fast-moving parts to provide same-day or next-day delivery in most markets. Kohler maintenance parts are also available at numerous national and regional retail outlets.

Cummins: Cummins has more than 3,500 authorized service locations in North America, and more than 5,500 authorized service locations around the world. Cummins dealers and distributors have access to genuine Cummins parts and Cummins ReCon parts for millions of Cummins engines. Cummins also offers QuickServe and Mobile QuickServe to support our customers 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

Wacker: Rental companies will find doing business with Wacker is easy. Parts orders placed by 3:00 p.m. CST ship the same day and are usually delivered within 2 days. Registered users can order parts directly from Wacker through the Web site, An interactive spare parts catalog makes ordering parts very easy.

Perkins: TIPSS is a unique family of Web-enabled, multi-lingual Perkins software packages that provides registered users with rapid access to the most probable diagnoses for any given symptom.

Parts data is presented so that it always groups associated parts into a user-friendly display. For example, when searching for the right piston for a specific engine, the system will display not only the requested result but all the associated parts that will be needed to do the repair, such as liners, rings and gaskets.

By harnessing the power of the Web, diagnosis, repair and parts ordering is integrated into one standardized system that can be used by Perkins, its OEMs, and rental company technicians. Data is constantly updated and the architecture of the systems ensures users adopt best practices along with the most efficient processes.

Robin America: Robin America services the dealer network primarily through our wholesale distributors. We offer parts to OEMs that wish to offer engine parts to their customers. We feel that service is key to satisfying our end-user customer.

How do you test your new engines before introducing them?

Briggs & Stratton: Our engines endure a multitude of tests during the development process. We do all sorts of cyclic loading and accelerated aging testing, as well as thermal cycle and actual in-the-field testing. All of our Vanguard engines are also subjected to a brutal test that sees each engine model mounted to a dynamometer and run non-stop for 1,500 hours at full-throttle and peak torque. Additionally, our OEM customers have access to our Engine Application Center (EAC) for assistance with fit-up of new engines, as well as new equipment prototype testing. Engineers in the EAC work with the OEM to maximize the performance and durability qualities of Briggs & Stratton-powered equipment.

Kohler: We test our engines through the entire life cycle — tests for early failure, tests for failure during the normal life of an engine, and test to wear-out. We also perform special tests for specific components or governmental requirements. In some cases actual application testing may be performed.

Cummins: Cummins uses a robust set of test procedures, from endurance testing in our test cells to field tests that accumulate thousands of hours of real-world testing.

Wacker: Engines, like any new product Wacker introduces, are thoroughly tested both in a controlled R&D site and on jobsites around the world. Global field testing is an important aspect of Wacker's product development process to assure the engine and product will achieve top performance no matter what the jobsite conditions.

Robin America: Engine design and testing are done primarily in Japan. In the design process, we obtain products from our customers into which we install engines for testing. Additionally, they are subject to “real world” testing in the field. After introduction, we work with OEMs to ensure the proper engines are fitted to the proper machine for optimum customer satisfaction.

How do you address the demand for more and more powerful engines?

Briggs & Stratton: At the 2004 Rental Show, we introduced a new line of Vanguard “Big Block” V-twin engines in the 25 to 35 hp range, in both air-cooled and liquid-cooled versions. These new engines are tuned to produce high torque even at low rpm. This allows operators to get the power they need at a lower rpm setting, which reduces noise and increases engine efficiency and durability. Plus, all 12 of these new engines feature common footprint and engine mounting dimensions, which makes it easy for our OEM customers to manufacture equipment with a variety of different power levels on a common platform.

Kohler: Kohler is addressing the demand for more powerful engines by offering EFI (which gains at least one horsepower compared to carbureted engines), plus new, higher horsepower models.

Cummins: Since Cummins designs to customer requirements, our innovative designs deliver more power while maintaining reliability and durability. The use of analysis-led design, new materials and technologies, and the application of engine electronics ensure we're delivering to increasing demands on our engines.

Robin America: The introduction of the OHC engines has delivered more power to our customers in the same or smaller package. Since the conception of Robin America, we have introduced V-twin engines up to 25 hp to fill our customer needs.

Where does your company stand on the latest emissions regulations? How have these regulations impacted your research and development? Have you had to switch gears or were you headed in this direction anyway?

Briggs & Stratton: Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power engines comply with all current EPA emissions regulations. All of our commercial engines feature an overhead valve design, which increases performance while providing reduced emissions. The emissions regulations have not distracted our research and development effort, but have merely added new performance standards to the mix that we must design into any new engine we develop. Lowering engine emissions is a company-wide directive that we have been working on since 1987. The net result is that today's Briggs & Stratton engines are on average 70 percent cleaner running than engines built in 1990.

Kohler: California's new Tier III emission regulation, which is currently being finalized, will require significant design alterations and will force engine costs to rise significantly. The regulation has a more stringent exhaust emission standard and requires evaporative emission controls on fuel line, fuel tank permeation and venting. Engine manufacturers and OEMs could be forced to make a different product entirely for California, which means different manufacturing lines and distribution channels.

Kohler engineers are currently working on the technology and evaporative emission control strategy that will be required to meet this regulation.

Kohler deliberately re-engineered its engine designs to reduce emissions as early as the 1980s. The vast majority of our engine designs feature either an overhead valve (OHV) or overhead camshaft valve train configuration, which is far superior in reducing emissions compared to the competitive side valve engines. We also introduced electronic fuel injection (EFI) technology in the 1990's aimed at making our engines more fuel-efficient and reducing the emissions.

Cummins: Cummins engines are designed to provide customers with the highest levels of performance, durability and dependability at the lowest cost of operation. At the same time, we are committed to meeting or exceeding clean air standards worldwide.

The emissions solutions we use today are the direct result of a technology plan that was set into motion in the early 1990s, a plan that will carry us through 2015 and beyond. At the core of this road map was a strategic decision not to limit ourselves to any one approach, but to develop the right technology for each application and market served.

Different operating conditions and economic factors can and will influence the technology path most appropriate for each market. Developing multiple emissions solutions guarantees the Cummins customer that our engines will deliver optimum performance and reliability at the lowest possible cost of operation.

Wacker: Wacker has taken EPA regulations very seriously and has been addressing the demands of the EPA for a number of years. As mentioned above, Wacker continues to manufacture a 2-cycle engine for its popular rammer system that meets EPA emissions standards through 2009. This engine was originally designed to meet tough rammer applications and has been optimized over the years to meet EPA standards, making it the best engine of choice for rammers. Because Wacker builds this engine exclusively for this particular application, we can tightly control the compression, carburetion and load factors to meet tight EPA requirements. Other generic 2-cycle engines that were designed for multiple applications have since been taken off the market as they could not meet the newer requirements.

Wacker's 4-cycle WM engines with the higher efficiency of the OHC technology translates to less unburned fuel being emitted by the engine, making them compliant with EPA and CARB regulations.

Caterpillar: Caterpillar has not had to switch gears. R&D has focused on meeting Tier 3/Stage 3a standards for many years. A little history: In late 2002, Caterpillar introduced ACERT technology to the on-highway market, where emissions standards are tighter and the need more urgent than in the off-highway market. Now, with extensive real-world experience to back them up, the engineers at Cat have applied ACERT technology to seven new engines that were launched for the off-road market at Bauma in Munich on March 29.

The principle behind ACERT technology is simple. If you better control the combustion process, you minimize emissions. Controlling the combustion process requires precise control of two elements: air and fuel. ACERT technology is a series of evolutionary, incremental improvements that provide breakthrough engine technology built on proven Cat systems and components.

Faced with increasingly stringent Tier 3/Stage IIIA emissions standards, Caterpillar engineers wanted an emissions solution that would work across both on- and off-highway applications. This broad-based solution would reduce development costs and contain costs associated with both operation and parts and service support. The answer also had to have staying power. Whatever technology engineers came up with to meet Tier 3/Stage IIIa requirements must also provide the foundation for future development.

The solution they found was ACERT technology, one of Caterpillar's largest new product investments ever. The concept behind ACERT technology is that optimal combustion efficiency produces minimal emissions, a simple concept requiring sophisticated technology.

ACERT technology is a series of evolutionary, incremental improvements that provide breakthrough engine technology built on systems and components that have been developed by Cat with proven reliability. Cat's ACERT technology concept revolves around precise control of the combustion cycle accomplished via a systems approach to air management, electronics, fuel systems and combustion systems. ACERT technology blends both new and existing engine technology to meet the various global exhaust emissions regulations facing the diesel engine industry.

Perkins: Perkins launched its new Tier3/Stage 3 engines last month at Bauma. Our target was to bring extra value to our OEM customers aside from pure emissions and the 1100D Series represents a real leap forward in that respect. With more power, lower fuel consumption from a quieter, more refined package that will fit in current machines, it really is a case of offering tomorrow's solution today.

OEMs of rental equipment facing the burden of noise legislation will appreciate that the new combustion technology, in conjunction with mechanical enhancements, has helped lower bare engine noise in excess of 3dBA and improved subjective noise at idle, traditionally the yardstick among OEMs' customers. Using a ‘low noise’ design approach the company has engineered noise out of many of the critical components including block, sump, timing case, gear train and pistons and strengthened the engine in the process.

OEMs, rental companies and end users will be heartened to see that they can enjoy a big leap in performance with minimal impact on package size, limiting the need to re-engineer their own machines. A key contribution to this comes from a goal to achieve a zero percentage rise in heat rejection from coolant over current models, so existing cooling groups can be installed keeping costs and engineering down.

Robin America: All Robin Subaru engines sold in North America meet or exceed current emissions standards. The EX Series was designed with all future emissions standards in mind. In addition, our parent company — Fuji Heavy Industries — decided to design the micro series EH025 and EH035 to replace our previous 2-cycle engines. This decision was based on the future need of cleaner running 4-cycle engines. We felt that moving to the cleaner engines ahead of the requirement was the best approach. Therefore, we really didn't have to change directions to meet emissions standards.


Briggs & Stratton Commercial Power

Rick Geisheker, senior project engineer — Vanguard Engines


Cameron Litt, product manager — Twin Cylinders


Dave Goggin, market product leader — A Series/B 3.3
John Shoemaker, director — product planning

Wacker Corp.

Mark Conrardy, sales engineering manager

Caterpillar Inc.

Chuck Wills, industrial and railroad engine marketing manager


Richard Webb, customer solutions manager
Jasbir Gill, product marketing manager Stage 3 engines

American Honda

Dave Haack, Honda Engines national sales manager

Robin America

Bob Jensen, territory sales manager