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  1. #1
    wen
    wen is offline

    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    1,490
    Location
    Hico, Texas
    Tractor
    Kubota M6800SD/LA1002 Loader Kubota RTV900

    Default Reliability of Tractors

    When I was looking to buy a new tractor, the reliability of the tractor was a real issue for me, but little data seemed to be available. I believe in self-sufficiency and hate to have to rely on a dealership to fix or service anything that I own. When my old Massey broke (and I literally mean broke the front axle off) dealer was backed up for 3 months for Massey and I wound up having to replace the front casting, pin, radiator, crankshaft pulley, oil pan gasket, sleeve bearings, etc. while the tractor was setting in my son's front yard. I was not particularly impressed with the tractor or the local dealer's shop. I then toured every make of tractor in the area and went to their shop to see what kind of problems they were having and talked to the mechanics to find out what their biggest complaints and problems were. I also looked at the tractors used by rental fleets and rental places and talked to them about the problems that they had with the tractors.

    It certainly varied by make, but one thing became very clear. All wiring on a tractor that is near a tire or under the tractor is very likely to get torn off, as are electrical components. Electrical connections and fuses, etc are also very subject to rusting badly where they are not adequately protected from rain. Vertical exhaust engines not suitably protected from the weather can rust shut and freeze up an engine, and clutches left out in the weather can freeze to the pressure plate. Some tractors are much worse than others in these aspects.

    As problems are discussed in this forum, electrical parts seem to cause more problems than far more complex mechanical parts. I used this information as I shopped for a tractor.

    I was not impressed with technology gadgets (and I sincerely believe in technology) for tractors. John Deere and kubota and even Massey did the best job of keeping things simple, yet effective. The Kubota shops were always clean and seemed to always be doing primarily make readies rather than repairs and in addition they ran a large rental fleet of Kubota's.

    Since I am an engineer, my attitude does not reflect a bias on technology or electrical design, but my Massey didn't have a single wire left under a fender, frame or rear end that hadn't been ripped off or a single connection under the dash that was not rusted so bad that it did not make reliable contact.

    As a result, I favor mechanical things that are very positive in their actions and do not quit working when exposed to dust, dirt, sunshine, rain, and mud. My tractor will see a lot of these (once the rain comes back to Texas). I like the Kubota 4WD system with no U Joints and a high-speed driveshaft that is protected from the environment under the tractor. The rear differential lock is a pedal to the differential and the front differential lock is a cable. The brakes are wet mechanical and work well. The shuttle is a lever to the transmission. The engine is clean burning and very low maintenance with everything well thought out and accessible.

    My interest was in an Ag tractor and I bought the Kubota M6800SD 4WD tractor with LA1002 loader and quick attach 6 ft bucket. Yes, I believe I can maintain the tractor myself for its useful life. It looks and feels like it was designed to last forever and be maintained without special tools in remote farmland or remote countries with simple tools. Where special tools are required, the shop manual gives the instructions to making them out of standard available materials.

    How much does (or did) reliabilty of the tractor affect your decision to buy?



  2. #2
    Epic Contributor Bird's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
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    36,984
    Location
    Texas

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Wen, in 1995, before I bought my B7100, I'll have to admit to knowing very little about tractors (guess I still actually know very little). My experience had been with a very old and very small John Deere as a kid, a little bit with a Case on my uncle's farm, a couple of old Fords on a part time job and that my brother-in-law had, etc. I looked for used tractors and found nothing I wanted at anything I thought was close to a reasonable price, so I was shopping mainly for price, although I had a friend in another state who thought (and still thinks) the kubota he bought used in 1972 was a fine, reliable machine (he still has it). Then after 4 years with the B7100, and working the hayfields with some neighbors with big John Deeres, big old Oliver, and a couple of old Farmalls, like you, reliability and simplicity to maintain were a major concern. I just didn't do near the research that you did, but bought another Kubota from the same dealer I used in 1995. I've only put 200 hours on the new Kubota in the past year, but no "repairs" required yet.

    Bird

  3. #3
    Roy
    Roy is offline

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    Apr 2000
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    569
    Location
    Central Maryland
    Tractor
    Kubota BX 2200

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Wen; Like you, I was frustrated when looking for real reliability data. You can make assumptions, but no hard data available to derive actual metrics. So, when I researched, I made the assumption that the unit would fail, and then asked "How would the factory/dealer most likely support it?" Based on postings, I saw that kubota had a strong reputation for product support. Now, that was one of many factors that made my buy decision, not the overriding one. As it turned out, yes, the first year of North American introduction has brought out some bugs in the BX. And yes, my BX is in for repairs as I type this. Butů the dealer support has been phenomenal! I think my local volunteer fire department could learn some tricks for those guys, as far as response time goes.

    As an engineer, I also like "simple solutions to simple problems". PLEASE give me a rod that moves lever "A" when gear "B" turns. Something I can look at in action and diagnose. DON'T wire an electronic sensor on point "B" and a computer at point "A". Three weeks to diagnose failure, if your lucky! Butů at the same time, I want the 'goodness' that electronics and advanced engineering brings. Give me an engine sensor. Give me HST. Give me a hot and cold beverage dispenser?



  4. #4
    Roy
    Roy is offline

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    Apr 2000
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    569
    Location
    Central Maryland
    Tractor
    Kubota BX 2200

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Ohů I want to add something for anyone who may question the "can not deduce reliability metrics". Reliability is measured (typically) in mean-time-between-faults (MTBF). That is, how much run-time does one reasonably expect before the unit is down. There is also an availability factor. That is, when it's down, for how long is it down? If owners posted data like "My Big Bud ran 15 hours, was in the shop 2 weeks, ran 400 hours, and then was down forů" we could derive an estimate based on a sampling. But we don't post that type of detail. What we do say, though, is that "My Big Bud had a locked wheel and the dealer came right out and gave me a whole new unit plus a case of beer." (Hey, it is a big Bud, right?).


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Posts
    42
    Location
    Carthage, Missouri, Jasper county
    Tractor
    2000 New Holland TC40D Boomer

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Hello and 73's Wen, from KF6GUW- Amateur Extra. I sincerely hope that the tractor I just ordered, a New Holland TC40D Boomer will be reliable and easy to service. I tend to research everything to death and as far as the big three; kubota, JD and NH goes, there seems to be a lot of satisfaction amongst owners and very few complaints. The tractor comes with a three year warranty, so I should know by then if I made the right decision. I don't think a person can go wrong with engines- gas or diesel that are made in Japan as they seem to historically last a long time. I like em all but I felt more comfortable on the NH, so that's what I bought! Take care, Sam

    "I love the smell of diesel in the morning."
    Cummins powered 24V Dodge Rams rule!

  6. #6
    New Member
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    Sep 2005
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    0

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Relative reliability didn't affect my decision to buy at all. I find that Ag tractors are remarkably reliable when compared with almost anything else with wheels on it. My own experience is that tractor reliability has been so good for the past 40 years as to be a non-issue. And compact tractors are darn near as good.....even with the odd-ball brands. Common tractor repairs are simple enough that a youngster can be trusted to carry them out - particularly on the older models. A tractor isn't like a car which wears out in a few years, with only moderate care you can expect a tractor to work for decades. Good care will make it last longer yet.


  7. #7
    jgh
    jgh is offline
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
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    460
    Location
    Goochland & Fluvanna Counties, VA
    Tractor
    NH TN90F; BX-2200; Bobcats 430 & A300; Liebherr 621C, Exmark XP

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    9/7

    All this technical and philosophical exposition can (or IMHO should) be summed up in one sentence--

    How happy are you (or are you likely) to be with what your machine does and how reliably it does it?

    An occasional repair to a complex but capable machine used hard, where the dealer handles it well or where it is relatively easy for you to do it will not strike that mfr out for most of us. On the other hand all the reliability in the universe will not make up for a cruddy low-capacity hard to use, uncomfortable, etc, tractor/implement.

    One example: my former 1720 Ford was super reliable and did some good work, but there were several things about it that bugged the crap out of me. Non-synchro gearing was one, but there were others. And every time you shoot one problem the richochet can cause another.

    I guess what I am saying is it is not always as black and white as some of the posts suggest. That is why in general today's product surveys are beginning to concentrate on the overall "ownership experience" rather than just one aspect or 2.

    FWIW, IMHO, etc,

    And..."Well duh", huh?

    Jim


  8. #8
    Epic Contributor Bird's Avatar
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    Mar 2000
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    36,984
    Location
    Texas

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    I think you've summed it up pretty well, Jim.

    Bird

  9. #9
    Ian
    Ian is offline

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    Jul 2000
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    25
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Tractor
    B2710, FEL,Hoe,Tiller,M/Mower

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Oddly enough, I bought my new kubota tractor because my old Kubota tractor wasn't reliable...here's the story.
    I had used a 10hp diesel Kubota lawn tractor around the property for a full year - great machine, but wanted something a little bigger so I could actually push more than 6" of snow at a time (and move dirt, etc.).
    Went to a municipal auction, and picked up a used B7100 for $4,400. I loved that machine - it had 2,200 hours showing, and could cut grass like nothing else I'd ever driven. With the addition of a scraper blade, I had a decent snowplow, even if I had to drive in reverse.
    On the last snowfall of the year, as I was parking it, the hydrostatic transmission failed! I bought the manual, borrowed the hydraulic test equipment, and checked out the transmission. Couldn't find the problem, so I separated the tractor, and took the transmission to Mr. Kubota so they could check it out. They drew a blank, so I reinstalled the transmission, and hauled the entire tractor down to the dealer. They never did isolate the problem.
    Bottom line - they wanted $4,000 for a new transmission (even though they couldn't tell me exactly what broke).
    I tried all summer to find a used transmission, and couldn't. Seems I had an uncommon problem - I did not talk to one person who had personal experience with this type of failure. The general opinion was that it was common for these transmissions to go 10,000 hours problem free.
    Since a broken Kubota was worth $4,000 to another Kubota dealer as a trade-in on a new B7100, and only worth half that to Mr. Deere, I ended up with a brand new Kubota [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img], complete with 3 years worth of payments [img]/w3tcompact/icons/frown.gif[/img] .


  10. #10
    Roy
    Roy is offline

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    Apr 2000
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    569
    Location
    Central Maryland
    Tractor
    Kubota BX 2200

    Default Re: Reliability of Tractors

    Truly, it is not black and white. Reliability is just one of the dimensions of a multidimensional issue - what tractor to purchase.

    Butů Reliability is unique to it's brethren dimensions. What is the cost? - Get a price quote from the dealer. How does it feel? - Test drive it. Does it meet your needs? - Will probably know that after the first 20 hours.

    But, alas, there is no way to touch, feel , smell and hear reliability. One can only take an educated guess. Can't accurately model it for any tractor. Will mine last 10 years? Who knows. The system (tractor) is the sum of it's components. Don't think any of the components in it were used 10 years ago. The only 100% accurate way of measuring is after the fact. When it's gone (assuming we kept accurate records), only then can we say with pure accuracy what the reliability factor was.

    Does it play in the buy decision. You bet. Cars as an example. Couple of my buddies purchased new or used MG Midgets back in the 70's. Joke was that you had to have two of them, one for parts. Several of my other friends back then went for the Chevy Vega with the aluminum block engine (motor?). Only if they would of known of what the reliability would turn out to be! Didn't matter how much you maintained it, the engine was almost assured to fail.

    So, to fill the information void we search. And yes, it is one of many considerations when buying a tractor and owner satisfaction.



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