Caterpillar 3516 Engine Rebuilds


In past years my primary occupation has been as a mechanic/machinist and then process management and control in the latter years. Twelve of those years were with companies in the Texas Panhandle as an engine re-builder, natural gas fired irrigation engines. Boring bars, valve reconditioning, head mills, power hones, the whole ball of wax.

On returning to Illinois I took a job for a petroleum company (oil field) playing nanny to a 3MW power generation station. The plant utilized 4 3516 Caterpillar engines as prime movers turning 800 KW generator ends. The fuel feedstock was field gas piped in from two directions via 4″ pipe with two LeRoi gas compressors (screw type) and piston units out in the field. There were also three 398 Cat.’s and a 3412 unit out in the field.

The gensets ran on a 480v buss and it was then stepped up to 13KV for distribution to the company owned/maintained field grid. The 480v switchgear incorporated Woodward 2301A governors and synchronizers and was all simple relay logic stuff, as were the rest of the engine controls. The generator ends had digital voltage regulators but were not wired for cross current compensation.

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I did all the engine rebuilds/maintenance in house as well as the switchgear/electrical repairs. The gas compressors and all that were just extra chores. However on two occasions we did ship the engine blocks out to have the decks re-surfaced. The 3516 weighs 17,699 lbs dry, displaces 4210 cu in/69 liter, has a bore and stroke of 6.7×7.5 in, and is turbocharged with after cooling.

The 3516’s usually had to have the heads, pistons, and liners replaced at about 20,000 hrs or so. If you didn’t the valve heads would pop off and really muck up the piston and liner. Major rebuilds and main bearings at around 60,000 hrs. The units ran 24 hours a day so it didn’t take long to rack up 20,000 hrs on one. That by itself kept me busy and chasing bugs in the relay logic controls filled the rest of my time slot.

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It was fun while it lasted but I don’t miss it much. I’d much rather work on the process management and control end of things now that I’m getting some age on me. Throwing cast iron around is getting old….

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