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  1. #1

    Default Ford 550

    I'm considering buying an older Ford 550 backhoe. It has 4 levers for the hoe, so it must be from the early 80's or older. My question is this.

    Is it a reliable machine to dig foundations and footers. I mean it is big enough to handle large rocks and such. I have driven some big machines that just doesn't have the power to dig out small boulders. On the other hand I have been very impressed with some smaller machines. Does the 550 have the weight and power to match others in its class? I don't want to spend the money on something that won't be big enough for what I want it for. I'm located in South Eastern PA so the soil is part clay, and very rocky.

    Anyone with experience on one of these machines is welcome to respond. Any videos or pics of one digging would be fantastic. Youtube doesn't have anything that I can find. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default

    I work in rock country. The 550, in it's day was a beast. Built between '75 and '78. The BH was a beefed up version of the 4500. The engine/trans/rear axle is nearly identical to the 3500/4500. The flat deck, loader, front axle, and frame were all new and used until the 555C came out in the late '80's.

    In good working order, the BH should be able lift, as I recall, over 4000 lbs. Keep in mind the age of the machine. It was known as one of the best, and fastest trenching machines.

    As far as pushing power, by today's standards, it is weak. I think the engine was rated at 50-55 HP. NH's smallest BH for the past 15 years is bigger than 75HP, and topping out at 110 HP.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Ford 550

    What would be the weight of this machine? Would a 5 ton trailer haul it?

  4. #4
    Gold Member
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    I'm thinking they are in the 12,000 lb range

  5. #5
    Veteran Member
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    SSTT (Sideways Snake Tain Tractor) and STB (sideways train box) tractor, dirt harvester

    Default Re: Ford 550

    others be able to say better, but when i went and looked at i want to say 14 specific TLB (tractor loader backhoes) i found off of tractorhouse.com and sister site machinetrader.com and some local papers. i did this all in one day looking at them 20 plus hour day needless to say.

    a 3 cylinder diesel vs a 4 cylinder diesel. was a huge difference in power. regardless of manufacture make or model. i mean ya get into them and took them for a test spin up into some dirt piles or like. and just night and day difference in power differences and reaction speeds.

    the 555c TLB ended up getting and now have, ((was actually the very last one on the list i was going to look at))

    i think is rated for 4200lbs in FEL and 2100LBS for the 12 foot BH.

    it is a digging machine for sure.

    ==================
    as far as actually finding a TLB, for what you are wanting, i would be looking for a construction TLB. meaning a single seat that ya pull a lever to switch between driving tractor and backhoe use.

    as far as finding out if tractor is worth getting or not. after that day of test driving them all. i would suggest shut your eyes as far as how they look (rust, paint, etc...) ugly looking tractors on interent ran good while others look new barely ran. it was a mix of it all.

    some had a lot of slope in the BH (backhoe). when i say slope, ya swing the BH left and/or right. and sudden stop and they would keep on going. or if ya raised BH all the way and sudden drop and sudden stop of levers. and the BH would just bounce all around.

    same went with the loaders on them. but the BH are more imporant less slop the better.

    as far as transmission, engine, rear end, and hydraulics. get in them, start them up let them idle for about 5 to 10 minutes to let them warm up, do a test drive of them.
    run loader into the ground and see how much power there is to keep on pushing into ground to see about digging. run at all gear speeds, then do same thing with full bucket of dirt and see how the power is in all gear speeds. run the backhoe, no need to dig, just work everything 10 to 20 times. to get hot warm oil in all the cylinders and lines.

    once ya done with the inital test drive, set the throttle half way to 3/4 and let it set for 30 minutes to an hour like that. then redo all your tests. and see if there is a difference. on a couple of the TLB i tested i remember a decrease in power.

    when you are all done with tests, raise the FEL (front end loader) up all the way, and do same thing with backhoe and the Turn OFF the tractor. and wait for 30 minutes and see how far they come down. the more they drop the more likely valves, seals, etc... are worn out.

    the 555c just the main largest cylinder for BH has a small leak. and over 24 to 48hour period will drop down to ground. but over the initial 30 minutes you can hear it slowly drop, as it grinds and moves within the joints of it. the lock pin to lock the BH up when driving some were down line before i got it. look like it got hung up on something and tore the pin out. and was never fixed. so i am guessing all the bouncing around. caused extra strain on seals and valves. which is result of this. but beyond that. it all works.

    ==============
    if ya serious about TLB, be willing to drive 3 hours away. and test drive a few older ones. so you get a better idea of things.

    once ya get one, get a shop manual, the 555c TLB shop manual i have is about 5 to 7 inches thick and very detailed info in how to tear stuff apart, check things and then steps to put it all back together.
    Ryan

  6. #6
    Veteran Member jimmysisson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ford 550

    Those Fords were a pretty tough rig, but I question digging foundations with a backhoe. A small excavator will cost more but dig 5x faster. You wouldn't have a truck loader, but we don't know what your work is. I ran a 4-lever hoe for several years way back and you do get good at it but two is a smoother setup. Good luck, whichever way you go.
    Jim
    "Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly" Mae West

  7. #7

    Default Re: Ford 550

    I greatly appreciate everyone's response! I love forums where guys know it all and are willing to share.

    I don't have a huge amount of cash on hand and it has a rebuilt motor that he claims is worth 4k. It isn't hardly rusted. I know that it will need a power steering hose, and a muffler (he never got around to putting the hoods or muffler back on after the motor swap). He's only asking 5k for it. I've looked into other options, but right now this is what I can afford and it might be slower, but if it will do the job then that's what I need. This should pay for itself in 2 jobs so in a few months I can look for some more equipment - skidsteer, excavator, etc.

    I've been in the construction business for years, and have always hired excavators, or rented the equipment. I took a look at last year's numbers and decided that if I have my own equipment I could save about 20k a year. That said, I'm thinking of an all-in-one machine first then branching out into some more "specialized" equipment. As always I appreciate your input!

  8. #8
    Silver Member nrc17gto's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
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    Mt. Juliet, TN
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    Bobcat 753, Ford 555D

    Default Re: Ford 550

    I know it has been a little while since your last post, but what do you think about the 550 now? I have been keeping an eye out for a backhoe for our 20 acres and ran across a 72 Ford 550 today.

    Thanks,
    Nick

  9. #9

    Default Re: Ford 550

    I love my machine. The previous owner didn't own a grease gun apparently, so I have spent a good bit on repairs because of it.

    The overall machine is great. The engine doesn't have the horsepower of more modern units, but it is almost indestructible. These machines were turned around and used as their heavy duty fork lifts too so the drivetrain parts are easy to find.

    One thing to watch out for is the routine maintenance. If you test drive it push the bucket down far enough to lift the front wheels off the ground and climb underneath and check the king pin (the pin that holds the axle to the frame. Also look to see how the front frame is attached. The oil pan is actually what the front frame bolts to, so make sure the bolts are tight and they don't have a lot of spacers. If they have a lot of spacers then you are probably looking at a $2500 bill at the shop to get it fixed.

    Also look for any transmission fluid leaking from the sight hole on the bottom. If the plate isn't off then unscrew it and check for any leaking oil. If there is - RUN!!! The transmission is bolted to the engine and there is a gasket in between. This gasket holds the transmission fluid in. The only way to change the gasket is to split the entire unit and remove the engine. It's about a 40 hour process at a professional shop. It's not something you can do yourself (besides needing to separate the halves each weighing 6,000 pounds) because it has to be aligned perfectly or you have to do it all over again when the gasket leaks... If the current owner doesn't let you check this, then think very carefully on how to proceed.

    Overall I would say if you get the 550 for a good price then yes, it is a beast. It will work hard and ask for more. It might not be the most powerful, but it is very reliable. I would buy mine again if it didn't have the maintenance issues from the previous owner - it's cost me a lot of money and time - but not because it wasn't well built, just not well maintained. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I'll try to help for what it's worth.

  10. #10
    Silver Member nrc17gto's Avatar
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    Mt. Juliet, TN
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    Bobcat 753, Ford 555D

    Default Re: Ford 550

    Awesome, thanks for all of the advice. This one had a good bit of slop in most of the pins on the backhoe. I kind of expected this for '72 model. It seemed to run pretty good and move pretty good.

    I seen your post after I looked at it but I will check some of this if I go back. He wanted $7,500 for it. Seemed to high for that old of a machine and the work I knew it needed (not sure about what I did not know to look for).

    I shot him a low offer and he may/may not call me back. But that just seemed high, maybe it is not.

    I may be sending you some more questions if I end up with a similar machine.

    Thanks again!
    Nick

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