Mahindra 4550 Competitive Comparison

Tractors have improved and come a long way in the last 50 years. Somehow this thing has been stuck in its own little time capsule and not progressed with the rest of the industry. One of the things you that need to be aware of and watching when you're looking at a Mahindra product is who is manufacturing it. Most of the more popular models that they sell are either built by Mitsubishi or by TYM. They simply will say, “Mahindra on the side of the hood.” They buy most of their more popular models from other companies and put their name on the side of the hood.

In the case of this tractor, this is a machine that Mahindra themselves does actually build. There are a large Indian company. Much like Ford in the United States, Mahindra is their domestic car and tractor company. Much like Ford was for us. The interesting thing is these tractors really have only ever developed to the point of meeting the needs of a third world country. They haven't progressed with modern standards and transmissions like we've come to expect in the United States.

When Mahindra took their own product, they built here and shipped to the US. It came along with all those interesting intricacies that are possible in India that are just things that we've moved past here in the US. There's a lot of the things that we can go through here from transmissions to fenders, to block, all your three-point hitch implements.

Just come along with me here and I ‘ll appoint some of these things out to you. We'll start here with the loader. This loader says, "Mahindra" on the side. Isn't actually a loader that they've built. It's made by a South Korean company called Ensung. Ensung builds loaders that will fit onto a lot of different tractors, but one thing that will typically notice about Ensung's loaders is they are very economy-oriented loaders.

When you go around doing the knock test, right there in the side and you look at the gauge of the steel around here at the top you'll see that there's not a whole lot of heft and bulk in these loaders. The size of the torque tube across the bottom here is really light for the capacities of this loader and tractor, so the ability of the operator to tweak or to bend something in here could happen.

When we look at the steel here in the back of the quick coupler, skid steer quick coupler. Good, Mahindra. Thank you for doing that, supporting industry standards.

You just notice some cut steel and things that just look not as refined as what you typically would find in a modern loader from a modern loader manufacturer. The valve body hangs right up here off the side with all the hoses piped up directly into it. This loader stick isn't too terrible to move and it's not in a horrible position from the operator's platform. The 50-horsepower tractor today, you just expect to see more than this. My eight-year-old could come up with this.

The one fun thing that you often will find about aftermarket loaders is that there's varying degrees of skill and the development of the mounts to go onto the tractor. Companies like Woods who makes aftermarket loaders has really advanced engineering teams into a great job of fitting their loaders onto a variety of tractors. This one is different. We've got this grill guard thing around here with another piece in here with a bunch of bolts there. We've got more bolts going back in here. We've got another piece to the loader housing running back to the rear axle. There's three different parts in probably 16, 18 different bolts that are holding this thing together.

Interestingly, when we get to the back of the tractor back here, we do some rather thin pieces of sheet metal holding pieces in place. This is a heavy tractor with a significant capacity loader. I don’t know, there's a lot going on.

My biggest pet peeves on tractors is-- I get on the loader and start moving things up and down and start to stroke multiple functions. What I'm looking for are large sweet spots where I can raise the loader up and level the bucket at the same time, and get those functions going smoothly up and down. This is not as bad as some but particularly when I'm coming down and rolling my bucket back, and having a hard time getting that function to happen in as smooth and predictable manner.

Going up, I have some of the same problem, if I'm going up I can get the function going to start to level, but I can't manipulate the speed of my leveling very much, like it'll go but it doesn't go the way that I want it to go. It's not the worst but there's room for improvement.

When I joked about this tractor being from the 1960s, this is what I was talking about. The operator's platform of this tractor feels ancient, it feels like an old tractor. The throttle, for instance, is up here on the dash with this long lever that pulls back and forth like an old age tractor would have been from years ago. The gears selectors are down here on the floor with a high-low and a 1-4 and the Reverse.

All of these gears are unsynchronized which-- what that means if you're not familiar with transmissions is that you can't shift these gears without bringing the tractor to a stop. If you're rolling along and you want to go from second to third you either have to magically get the gears to line up and jump them in the place without grinding them somehow, or you're going to get a little bit of grind action is the straight cut gears drop and the places you’re moving.

I’ll do a quick driving demonstration then, to show you exactly what this is like in operation. What you should know is more or less. Take your loader, for instance, you drive into your loader pile, you push your clutch down, you're in first gear, you're going forward. Now, you want to go back. Stop the tractor, clutch, bring this thing over here in overlaps. Let the clutch out again. Go back and reverse. Stop. Clutch. Any modern gear-drive tractor is going to have a reverse or up here on the dash to change directions, or the very least one down here on your left-hand side where you can pop between low-forward and reverse on the side.

They’re easily and quickly, and most of the time even the most economy tractors from a major manufacturer are going to have some synchronized gears. Sometimes not every gear but some synchronized gears at least in your top-end range, say between third and fourth where you're already clocking down the road and you want to go a little bit faster, you can slide into the next gear up without coming to a stop, changing gears and taking off again.

This is unsynchronized, if you can even hear me. This thing is so loud. I'm in second gear now. I want to go to third. I need the clutch. Slide over the third and you hear that grind. I basically have to stop to get in the third gear. Now, I’m going to turn it to speed here. I grind there when I go into the fourth.

If a synchronized transmission has what's called a 'synchronized gear' in it that helps those gear changes happen while you're moving it on the fly. On this tractor, these are non-synchronized gears, and so they’re simply not easy to change. Also, if I want to go in reverse, Reverse is here on my main shifter.

When we go back to our common loader application, every time you're changing directions, you're going down a reverse. Then changing and going over here in the first gear. While this is an inexpensive simple transmission, one thing that we can regard as a modern tractor is frequent clutch jobs. You're on and off the clutch every time for every moment, it's a big heavy tractor with a dead simple transmission. This thing is going to need clutch jobs. It's as simple as that. That would have to be expected on a machine like this.

Another thing you'll notice too, if I look at the location of all my controls I can look down and see the ground. Virtually, every tracker anymore is going to have cowlings down in here or around the sides, if your cell phone falls out of your pocket, it doesn't drop down and get chopped by the motor behind you. In this case, I can see clear down to the ground.

All the cables and stuff are seeing my parking brake, are right here straight down to the bottom of the tractor. My PTO lever, I can see goes down to the transmission housing right down there across the deck of the machine.

Most tractors are going to make some effort to have a relatively uncluttered operator's platform. One where you can get your legs from one side to the other. Getting on this tractor and have to get my legs across. I got to wiggle them around the gear selector here to get to the other side. There's just so much going on down here, makes it very difficult to do that. Most companies have moved far beyond that at this point.

I've even got two hydraulic hoses wrapped across the operator's platform zip tied together here running back to something. I'm not sure where they're going exactly. When I rest my foot here on the platform, I'm on top of a hydraulic hose. It just seems unbelievable that in this day and age this kind of thing actually exists in the marketplace.

If you paid attention to any of Mahindra’s marketing they’re very loudly will trumpet themselves as being the largest tractor company in the world. Many of us in the industry will laugh at that because it is a really unusual tractor in a lot of parts of the United States. I, myself don't have a viable good Mahindra dealer anywhere around our dealership because we have a healthy market from mainline tractors.

There is actually some truth to Mahindra being a huge tractor company. India, China, these countries are some of the most populous countries in the world and their rural economies demand tractors and equipment, and simple basic tractors and equipment. In those markets, Mahindra has done very, very well for themselves. They built a lot of tractors. One of the things that you would notice about India, you see some pictures floating around the Internet sometimes of people with their whole family sitting on the side of these fenders, a part of the reason why these fenders are flat, or because in India and some of these countries people use tractors as cars.

We're talking third world economies where somebody is out working in the field and when they want to take their family somewhere for transport, you pile people on the fenders to get from place to place. We forget in the US that we've moved far past many of these things but this is the reality in a lot of places where these tractors are sold and designed for. Thus the reason, why we would speculate that this tractor has a flat fender.

As emissions changes have happened as years have gone by, Mahindra has managed to keep up with them. The biggest and most dramatic change has been here for final which most manufacturers have addressed with one of two solutions, either diesel particulate filter or a diesel oxidation catalyst.

Mahindra uses what's called a DOC, diesel oxidation catalyst. They put their initials MCOD in front of it, I believe, I'm not sure exactly what their branding of the day is but essentially, it's a DOC only engine. This is not a technology that's not found from other companies-- New Holland, Bobcat's, several other companies also use DOC-only engines. The selling point of being DOC-only is supposed to be that there is no soot capture device on the back side of the engine. Which would typically be the particulate filter section of the engine, Deere, Kubota and a lot of other companies also use.

By eliminating that particle collection screen on there, the engine never has to go through a regen cycle to burn those particles off. You always have to go back and ask yourself, how are they still meeting emissions requirements. The way that a DOC-only engine meets emissions is by running hot continuously. It is essentially always burning the soot off rather than collecting it and burning it. The end result is DOC-only engines run hot all the time.

When you look around the engine compartment here, you can see that there is heat shielding here up against the firewall and around several of the components here related to the emissions system to hold down the heat coming off the engine. All these pieces right here in the EGR. Another thing of DOC engines is they use a lot of EGR exhaust gas recirculation circulating dirty exhaust back into the engine. Your EGR components, all of your dark components up here are heat-shielded because of the amount of heat that the engine creates.

It's a little difficult for us to sit here and say that that's necessarily going to shorten the life of the engine. We don't know. A lot of companies are using this engine technology and it's going to take years for us to see exactly how these things hold up. I can say from my vantage point up here looking around the inside of this engine, like the rest of this tractor, it feels cobbled together. There's some scariness going on here.

Another thing that I learned too, if you look around the side of the engine here, the electronic control systems on this tractor are very simplistic compared to modern equipment. Right over here on the side, is the diagnostic port for the emission system. You'll notice that this is a regular ODB port like you would find in a car.

The emissions system in the engine will throw codes but it won't give data and that can make diagnosing an emissions system really, really difficult. We work on a lot of other bigger equipment and a lot of more advanced equipment, and typically when we're plugging laptops into things that machine and that engine can give us a lot of data about its operating condition. We can get charts and that kind of stuff showing the phases of regen and the operating conditions of the injectors and stuff in the engine, and real data in ways that you just can't get when an engine throws a code.

In this case, this is nothing more than a code scanner like you'd find in a $20 code scanner from NAPA, and so if you get into a situation where you're having complex engine problems and emissions systems issues this is going to be a vastly more difficult tractor to work on and diagnose than a more modern piece of equipment.

There's some fun caution labels down here in the front of the tractor too that I would be interested to ask them questions about. One of them is "Do not start the tractor with a battery disconnected and when the alternator is fitted on the tractor." Not sure when the alternator would not be fitted but it sounds like you always want to have a battery there. I'd be curious electrically what's happening in that condition.

Another thing down here at the bottom is to say, "TO PROTECT THE ENGINE AND HYDRAULIC COMPONENTS, Idle the engine for 1 minute before shutdown or full load operation. Do not exceed 1/2 throttle for the first 5 minutes of operation." I could tell you pretty confidently that not exceeding half throttle for the first five minutes of operation has to do with the dock emissions system. For that thing to work properly, it has to be hot and you probably need that first five minutes or so to get the dock up to operating temperature so it's able to adequately scrub the exhaust when you take the machine up the full revs.

One thing that you often hear about Mahindra tractors is how inexpensive they are. I'm not sure that that's really something that we've seen playing out in the marketplace. Dealer pricing can always swing the pricing the tractors is fairly dramatically. A low-price Mahindra dealer versus a high-priced dealer of another brand can make it look like there's a big difference.

If we look in the MSRPs of a lot of the tractors, they're more expensive than what you would expect. This 4550 that we're out here with today, tractor loader has an MSRP of over $32,000. That's in the same neighborhood as a machine like this, a Kubota M5660 that's specs out very close to what this machine does and it's something that you would actually want to own and drive.

Tags: 4550, kubota, mahindra