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How To Evaluate A Used Tractor

Tags :  tractor  |  used-equipment  |  used-tractor  | 

We’ll have a short conversation today about some of the things to look at if you’re considering a used tractor. Take a walk with here me around this L3800. We’ll give you some of the tips and tricks that we use in evaluating the value of a used piece of equipment. Some of the very first things we are going to look at when we are looking at a piece of equipment is how well it was maintained. A lot of the places that we can see that are in the loader itself.

So if you come down here with me, down at the loader pins, we’re going to look around the loader pins for grease. For the most part, when we look at machines we don’t necessarily want to find something that’s too clean. Believe it or not, a machine is too clean it’s almost more concerning than the one that has got dirt in the right places. In the case of this one, if you look right down here at this pivot pin, you’ll see that there’s grease around it that is coming out the sides and that’s great, that’s what we want to see.

It means that a customer had been taking a grease gun and greasing these pins, making sure that they weren’t wearing. If we take our loader here and lift it up in the air, you’ll see that I can take this wiggle left and right, wiggle it up and down and not get any kind of slop or bounce in these pins. This tractor has about 600 hours on it and the owner took really good care of it. There is really no detectable slop in here at this point but you may go and look at other machines, I can think of another one of these that I had.

It was exactly the same model where a customer didn’t grease it all, it was really hard on the loader, and actually wore these pins so badly that they could fall out of their holes. You can see huge amounts of variation in the same hour of the machine, just depending on whether a customer greased these at every 10 hours like they are supposed to or not. Another thing that we can check on the loader is if everything is straight and true.

If we eyeball down the sides of the machine to make sure that the arms don’t seem to be tweaked one side or the other. We also want to check our skid steer quick coupler as well. If we come over here to our coupler and pull our handles up to release the pins out at the bottom of the bucket, we’re going to check and make sure that everything is straight, nothing is tweaked on the coupler or that the pins were broken off. Sometimes what we will see is when customers don’t even couple their buckets onto their loaders properly, as in they can burst the tips of these pins off down here at the bottom.

That would happen from the pin not dropping down and engaging fully in the quick coupler, and would also tell us typically that the customer’s banging around down here or something. Every once in a while too you can see one of these where somebody was running without the bucket on, and then may have crashed something into the loader and managed to quick tweak this coupler one way or the other. Taking the coupler off of the bucket, eyeing up the pins and making sure nothing was tweaked tells you whether everything down here is straight and true and in good condition.

Another thing that we could check here on our loader is to run through all of our functions, make sure everything works properly, and then use the loader to pick up the front tires off of the ground. That’s going to tell us that we don’t have a cylinder that’s leaking internally or a valve that has problems. We just start the machine up here, throw the bucket back around, and then lift. You can see we can pop the front end right up in the air, set that back down again, and run through our functions there.

This one is also going to have a float function on it. If we come up and we press the whole way forward we got a detent that lets the bucket drop to the ground and a speed dump position that will be back here to the side and down. Everything seems to move and function just like it’s supposed to. If we move on here to the tractor itself, we are going to pop the hood and go around here and check our fluids underneath. A couple things that we would want to watch for down here again is just the general care that was taken on the tractor. When we are looking at radiator screens, we never like to see grass and crap packed up against this thing, meaning that the customer wasn’t taking care of the machine.

If we check the radiator level over here we want to make sure that our fluids are sitting right about full, that we don’t have a leak or something there. We check our battery terminals and make sure there’s nothing here that’s badly corroded that’s going to cause a starting problem. There’s a couple of things here that we are going to check on the engine. First thing we’ll look at is down here at the filters. This guy was really meticulous and cared about his tractor. We placed him with Kubota oil filters, which we always like to see, and he actually wrote the hour meter that he changes filters at right here on the filter. He did the same thing too at the fuel filter as well.

Kubota’s original filters from the factory are typically painted grey. Once a tractor passes 50 hours it’s when its first major service is due. If we go look at a really low hour trading like a 200-hour machine if we see a grey filter on here, that means the customer never did their original service. It’s something that will typically cause us some amount of concern. Beyond that we are looking for clean filters typically with numbers on them is stuff that we can compare to the hour meter to tell whether the customer was keeping up with their maintenance or not.

When we check the dip stick for the engine oil right down here, usually we are going to do this twice. We’ll check the dip stick once before starting the engine, to get an idea of where the engine oil level is at, if it’s where it belongs. This one sitting right at the full mark. Then we’ll start the tractor up and check the dip stick a second time. When we do that, what we are looking for the second time is any kind of froth or anything on top of the engine oil or on the stick that could indicate that there is a problem in the head gasket allowing antifreeze down into the engine. Moving along through the engine here we are also going to check our air cleaner.

If you can't tell we are going through just a lot of the daily maintenance stuff that you would do on any machine that hopefully you own. We are going to open up the air cleaner, pull up the element and make sure was the customer changing his air filter like he’s supposed to. If you see one of these that’s really packed with dirt, again, it’s going to be something that’s going to cause you some concern to maybe dive in a little bit deeper and take a closer look at the health of the engine, if you are seeing these daily maintenance things that just weren’t take care of.

On the tractor itself we are going to run through all the tractor functions to make sure that everything is working like it should, particularly in the area the transmission and the brakes. When we start the machine up, we are first going to test the transmission and see if the transmission is good and strong. In this case, I’m going to push down the brakes and take the hydrostatic peddle and drive against the breaks on purpose.

You see I can stall the transmission now and stall the tractor. It would be concerning if I couldn’t do that. If the transmission doesn’t have enough power in order to stall the engine out it, means it’s not healthy. It’s slipping and losing pressure in some manner, it could indicate that you’ve got bad hydrostatics. Once we’ve made sure that our hydrostatics or gear drive transmission is in good shape we’re going to go through the rest of our transmission functions as well. In the case of this tractor, we’ve got a low medium high gear selector in our ranges.

Generally, we would want to start the tractor and drive through each one of those ranges to make sure that all the gearing is working properly. We would also typically want to turn on the PTO. In this tractor, we start the machine and engage the PTO and just check that the rear PTO is spinning like it’s supposed to. Really, we are not doing anything more than sitting down on the machine and walking the tractor through each of its functions to try to detect any kind of mechanical problems. If we hop around the back of the machine, we could check around the three-point hitch as well and make sure that we are not missing anything.

In the case of this machine right here, I traded it and I missed the top link, apparently. We have our lower links down here at the bottom but we should have a top link up here at the top of the tractor in order to detach the top portion of our three-point hedge. Fortunately, in our case you could pick these things up fairly inexpensively, but we are missing three-point hardware back here and so we are not, at this point, able to hook up and implement to the rear.

In hydrostatic tractors we always want to put an eye on our transmission fluid level as well. Most machines you are going to find a dipstick down here at the rear of the tractor. In case of this one it has a sight glass up in where your feet sit, but always make sure that, particularly in hydrostatic tractors, that the transmission level is good and full upwards as is supposed to be so that the transmission hasn’t been running dry. Keep an eye on that.

Another thing that we will look at too, related to transmission when we walk in someone’s garage we are always looking underneath the tractor to see if there are any puddles on the floor, letting us know that there is a gasket or something that’s leaking underneath the machine. Having to replace a set of tractor tires can be really costly on a machine like this. To put new tires on all the way around would cost nearly $2,000. We always want to go around and put eyes on the tires, looking for things like big chucks that may be missing, or if we look at our side walls and stuff, if we start to see a lot of checking and stuff in the sidewalls it could mean that the tires are dry, rotting and aging.

Those are the kinds of things we’re looking for. Making sure it’s not flat, well inflated, not checked and not having a whole lot of chunks out of it. If a tractor is equipped with a rollover protective structure, a ROPS, we always want to put eyes on the ROPS and make sure that the customer hasn’t drilled any holes in it. This structure is actually a certified structure and if we take a drill and drill holes in it now, we can no longer be confident of its ability to stop the tractor from rolling over.

That creates a real liability concern for a dealer or anybody who’s reselling a tractor, because if that machine were to roll and something with the structure would go wrong, you could be found at fault. If a tractor is equipped with one, we always want to make sure it’s there. Periodically we’ll see people with tree branches removing the ROPS. We want to make sure we always have it. We want to make sure that it hasn’t been modified in any way.

You can see this gentleman here, when he put a work light here on the back, chose to do with U-bolts and zip-ties as opposed to drilling holes through the ROPS to put his lights on. Really intelligent move, typically if we see that, a missing roll-bar or one with holes in it, we do figure into the course of the trade the expense that it takes to replace and put a new roll bar on the machine. That’s some of the things that we look at when evaluating a used tractor.

If there’s anything that you could add to our list let us know down the comments below. We are always looking to sell equipment, if we can help you with the purchase give us a call at Messick’s. We are available at 800-222-3373. We are also available for any parts or service needs you may have as well.

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