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  1. #1
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    Default Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    I hardly know where to start, so I guess I'll just start at the beginning. A while back, I was doing a web search on some tractor-related stuff and ran across the Power Trac web site. I then did a search on the TractorByNet site and found some related posts I'd missed (mostly because they were about the "turf models", which aren't my bag). I did note with interest, though, the favorable opinions of Power Trac from several posters. I was impressed with the claims on their web site and some of the design features, but generally quite skeptical, so I made a mental note that the next time I was anywhere near the factory (in my home state of Virginia, but about 375 miles from where I live), I would visit them so I could see whether they were all they claimed to be. Frankly, I didn't think it was very likely.

    Well, a couple of months ago, I got a chance to do just that. My friend Jack (the retired NASA engineer) and I had to go within 100 miles or so of the plant, so we decided to make the detour. To make a long story short (well, shorter, anyway), when we left there several hours later, we were absolutely amazed by what we'd seen. In fact, stunned would be a better way to put it. I found myself trying to come up with something I'd missed, anything that would help me shake the feeling that I'd never be happy with my kubota again. I did come up with one major fly in the ointment, but that's being fixed. More on that later.

    The result of that visit to the Power Trac plant was that I've decided to sell my L4310HST and get a Power Trac 2465. (You should expect a "Power Trac enhancements" thread to appear in the "Tractor Customization" area pretty soon... [img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img]). I apologize in advance for the length of this, but I'm taking a huge step here, as most of you can appreciate, so I feel a detailed explanation/justification is in order. I haven't taken this step without serious deliberation. In fact, it's occupied a lot of my time for the past 6 weeks or so. (Besides, you guys are used to lengthy posts from me, right? [img]/w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif[/img])

    A disclaimer is in order at this point: While much of what I have to say here applies to all the Power Trac models, the only ones I'm intentionally talking about are the 2400 series. I don't get into the turf stuff, because I'm just not interested in it and have no need for it.

    The first thing I have to say about the Power Trac is this: After seeing the Power Trac in action, my view of tractors has changed considerably. I guess it's true that "you don't miss what you never had", but it was an incredible experience watching what I think must surely be the next generation of tractors in action. While I don't claim that my needs are typical of everyone else's, for my needs, the Power Trac is a far better piece of equipment than anything else I've ever seen and I feel I owe everyone a thorough discussion of the reasons why I've come to this conclusion. (I've always said I have no brand loyalty and would switch if anything I thought was considerably better than what I had came along, no matter who built it. Well, now you see I meant it.)

    As I said up front, it's hard to know where I should begin. Power Trac's web site, http://www.power-trac.com, is a good place to start, I guess, if you don't know what the Power Trac is. In general, it's an all-hydraulic drive tractor that's articulated in the middle in a manner that also lets the front wheels oscillate with respect to the rear wheels.

    What does all this mean in practice? The oscillation ability means that the front and rear wheels can be on planes different from one anther by as much as 12 degrees (the front of the tractor can "twist" horizontally from side to side with respect to the rear) and still maintain all 4 tires in contact with the ground. For example, one tire can be climbing over a rock or stump or drop into a hole, and all 4 tires will still stay on the ground. This makes a huge difference in traction, stability and, consequently, safety.

    The articulation, up to 45 degrees, allows for a much tighter turning radius than with any "normal" tractor, without damaging the surface you're driving on at all, and, again, increasing stability at the same time. This incredible feature just amazes me every time I see it.

    The hydraulic drive works by means of a central pump and a motor at each wheel. The way the wheel motors are plumbed automatically allows the torque to go to the wheels getting the most traction. This approach also greatly simplifies the design - no transmission, differential, drive shafts, etc. are necessary - just a pump, hoses, and motors. A second pump provides PTO power to both the front and rear (more on that later), and a third pump powers the loader and steering hydraulics.

    The engine is located between the rear wheels, greatly improving weight distribution. This gets the weight off the front wheels so they're free to carry the weight of the loader and its payload. This improved balance improves the rear ballasting considerably, along with lots of other advantages. Standard compact utility tractors are designed as scaled-down ag tractors, which is unfortunate because that's not they way they're typically used, especially when they're fitted with a loader. The Power Trac's design is much better suited to the typical uses of compact utility tractors.

    Quick-attach plates on the front-end loader allow it to use many different implements, while front mounted hydraulic outlets (front PTO) provide power for augers, tillers, sweepers, stump grinders, etc. An auxiliary front PTO provides power for tilting implements, etc. Unless the implement requires hydraulic connections, attaching and removing it can be done without leaving the seat.

    The rear of the tractor takes a heavy duty backhoe, and will also accept a three-point hitch linkage. It was the three-point hitch that worried me. It consisted of a hydraulic top link and two cylinders to control the height of the side links. The cylinders are controlled by a three-spool valve on the right side of the seat. It had the advantage of allowing down pressure, which is something I've always wished my Kubota had, but it did not provide a float position - the side link arms are held rigidly in whatever position they are set to with the hydraulic cylinders. This was completely unacceptable, because most three-point hitch implements require the float position. So, Jack and I have developed a plan for a new three-point hitch design and are working on the implementation of it. The new design also uses only three cylinders, but provides both float and down force when necessary, as well as top and tilt functions, and is a significant improvement over both a standard compact tractor three-point hitch and the original Power Trac design, in my opinion. The new three-point hitch design will do everything a "normal" compact tractor hitch with hydraulic "top and tilt" will, plus down force. A rear hydraulic PTO provides power to rear-mounted tillers, etc. provided, of course, they're hydraulically powered. It would be possible to mount a hydraulic motor that would accept a mechanical PTO shaft on the back of the Power Trac, but I wouldn't think it would be the best idea, unless maintaining compatibility with a large number of existing shaft-powered implements was a necessity.

    One of the first things I noticed about the Power Trac is its rugged design and build. I love things that are designed with huge safety margins. The Power Trac is an incredible example of just such a machine. 3/8", 1/2", and even 3/4" plate steel is everywhere. There is almost no "sheet metal" anywhere, at least not of the type used extensively by all other manufacturers. Even the tractor's "skin" is plate steel - the fenders are 3/8" plate. Jack even remarked that, in order to mount accessories, etc. (a subject of great importance to me, as most of you know [img]/w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif[/img]), in most cases you could just drill and tap holes. One thing that maybe should be noted here, though: these aren't "pretty" tractors - they're built to handle rugged duty and take a beating without showing any signs of the abuse. Woods work that would crumple the sheet metal on all "normal" tractors would, at most, only scratch the paint on this thing. A Power Trac doesn't resemble a Ferrari. It's a tractor. Jack remarked to me, after we walked around them a while, shaking our heads in disbelief at the strength of the construction: "I think the only thing that could hurt one of these tractors is a bigger one of these tractors."

    The Power Trac is powered by a Deutz oil-cooled diesel engine (there are some smaller models powered by gas engines, too, but I don't even look at anything over 15 hp that isn't a diesel). I didn't know a whole lot about the Deutz, but I did know that the oil-cooled diesels are extremely efficient. They require no pre-heating in anything but extremely cold weather, and seem to have excellent low-end torque. The lack of a typical radiator means that there's less maintenance, less to go wrong, and a lot less clutter under the hood - plus the front end doesn't need to be designed to accommodate one, so it can be (and is) much sturdier. Deutz recommends 1,000 hour oil changes under "normal" conditions, but I'll never wait that long. They also claim that average lifespan between rebuilds is more than 10,000 hours. A timing belt needs replacement every 4500 hours.

    Another thing I like about the Power Trac is the simplicity of its design. For example, steering is accomplished via two hydraulic cylinders. No gearbox, tie rods, linkages, etc. The battery is mounted on a swing-out door for easy access.

    A few words about visibility: On the Power Trac, you sit on top of the engine, just behind the articulation point. This position provides considerably better visibility than you have with a "normal" tractor because you're up a little higher, and there's no big hood necessary to surround the engine - you're sitting on it. (I'm going to need to replace the seat with one that has more suspension, now that I've gotten used to the custom one I installed on my Kubota.) This also allows a larger, less cluttered operator area.

    One of the first things I look for on a piece of machinery is grease fittings. Everywhere you look on the Power Track, you find them in abundance. No sealed-for-a-short-lifespan no-maintenance disposable bearings on this thing. It's designed to last and allows you to maintain it to ensure that it will. Access plates everywhere let you get to all components easily when maintenance is necessary. The hydraulic oil is the same 15w40 that the engine uses, so only one fluid, plus grease, is needed to maintain and service it. (Well, three if you count diesel fuel to run it and a little water for hosing it down every once in a while...) A big 10-micron filter on the hydraulic system must be changed every 50 hours, or the warranty is void. This is to protect the expensive main pump and wheel motors, so the emphasis is appropriate.

    Instrumentation on the Power Trac looks deceptively simplistic at first. There's a single gauge with segments for fuel, oil pressure, engine temperature, and battery charge. I say it's deceptive because these gauges have real numbers on them - none of that "it's in a range we like to call 'normal'" stuff. Gauges without numbers have always been a major peeve of mine, as most of you know. A glaring omission, in my opinion, is the lack of a tachometer. Fortunately, the Deutz is already supplied with a sensor, so all you have to do is buy the tach, install it, and run a wire to the sensor. No major problem there. It's just a matter of time before hydraulic pressure and oil temp gauges get added to mine, of course, but I'm a gauge-oholic. The unit comes stock with two forward-facing lights and two rear-facing ones, so I don't have to add those. I'll be adding motion warning beepers as well, of course. The all steel ROPS/FOPS is much sturdier than any of the canopies I've seen, and vibrates so little that I think I'll be able to mount mirrors on it so I can see behind me without turning around. Since the front and rear halves of the Power Trac independently follow the terrain, I'm going to want two TiltMeters: One can mount on the console to measure the tilt of the back half - the one to measure the tilt of the front half will have to be mounted on the "hood". Oh yeah, and a third to measure front to back slope...

    A few other things worth noting: A self leveling loader bucket is standard. The loader lift capacities are quite large for this size machine, 1,800 pounds for the 2445 and 2,400 pounds for the 2465. These are also very conservative lift capacities. (Remember I said the engine is between the rear wheels? Guess what that does for stability and capacity when you're using the loader to the max...) Pricing is extremely reasonable. Fuel and hydraulic oil capacities are larger than in other machines in their class - 15 gallons for the 2445 and 20 gallons for the 2465. The same quick-attach plate is used on the loader and the three point hitch. Fail safe brakes on all four wheels operate on hydraulic pressure (much like the air brakes on trucks) and stop the tractor in the event of a hydraulic failure and also serve as a parking brake. The bottom of the tractor is smooth steel plate from end to end - nothing to catch on anything, and nothing that can be damaged.

    One of the things I was most concerned about was tractive power. The Power Trac design, as I said before, is totally different, so I didn't know how to compare the pulling/pushing power to a "normal" tractor. I needn't have worried. In testing it, I found that it's got ample power to do the job. In researching the wheel motor concept, for example, I found a 115hp Vermeer track-type vibratory plow that uses two of the same motors the 2465 is equipped with four of.

    The people I've dealt with at Power Trac impressed me as much as the machine did. These guys have been around a long time - more than 20 years - and they cut their teeth building mining equipment, which is still a major part of their business - so they really know what they're doing. I suspect it's the mining equipment background that causes all their designs to appear to be well into the "overkill" area, as far as strength and reliability goes.

    Everything has it's disadvantages and weaknesses, of course. So what are the Power Trac's weaknesses? The three point hitch was such a glaring, major, ugly enough one that it's out of contention as a compact utility tractor replacement for most people without my modifications. Fortunately, a much better one can be built, and I'm pretty sure I could even pay somebody to build it for less than Power Trac charges for their own inferior one. There is no dealer network. However, this is somewhat of a moot point, in my opinion, because anybody can work on this equipment. Short of an engine overhaul, pretty much everything can be done by anyone able to swap out components. Power Trac's service department seems to do an excellent job in this respect, from the folks I've talked to.

    Another consideration is the difference in the way an articulated machine steers. Nothing is without compromise. While this thing will turn around in a far smaller circle than other compact utility tractors - 4'5" inside radius for the 2445 and 4'9" for the 2465 - implements attached to the rear swing a lot more from side to side when turning. The Power Trac folks will quickly tell you these tractors aren't designed for plowing, for example, because turning tends to swing the plow so much that you can't keep it in the ground. They also recommend that box scrapers be used on the front loader instead of the rear hitch for the same reason. Alternatively, you can plan your work so you don't have to turn sharp curves without lifting ground-engaging implements first. Personally, I feel it's a small tradeoff in comparison to all the advantages. Your mileage may vary.

    So, with all that said, if I've peaked your interest in a Power Trac and you want more info, give Chris at Power Trac a call (800-843-9273 or 540-988-6938) and tell him I referred you. I'm trying to talk them into making some changes, it'll certainly help my chances if they know what's going on. In addition, you'll help everyone's cause if you tell him you're not interested unless the three-point hitch is redesigned. (This assumes you actually feel that way, of course. Please don't lie to the man on my account. [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]) Also, if you do call them to inquire about the Power Trac or request information from their web site, I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me know by e-mailing me at powertrac@benesyst.org. I'm trying to convince them that if they concentrate more on the 2400 series, they can sell a lot more units to prospective compact utility tractor purchasers, and I'd like to be able to track the TractorByNet response a bit. Everybody benefits because it'll improve the features of their products and their suitability to our needs. Being a relatively small company, they're a lot more responsive to customer feedback than most of the companies we deal with. I've already gotten their attention on the three-point hitch issue, for example, so I'm anxious to see what happens.

    Oh yeah, one more thing: if you're in the market for a tractor and still convinced you want a high quality "normal" compact utility tractor, I have a highly customized '99 model Kubota L4310HST with 325 hours on it for sale, along with a Bradco 609 backhoe, Danuser digger with 18"/30" auger, Bush Hog digger with 12" & 24" augers, and other implements, etc. I'm going to sell all of it as a package, if possible, and definitely won't sell the tractor without the backhoe. Most of the details on the tractor itself can be found in the "L4310 enhancements" thread on the "Tractor Customization" forum. If you're seriously interested in purchasing it (I'll sell it for a fair price, but I'm not giving it away), please e-mail me at mchalkley@attglobal.net. I can even (probably) deliver it myself on an expense-only basis. I'm anxious to get the Power Trac, but it's not going to happen until the Kubota sells, so we'll see. (And if it takes longer than I want it to, maybe by then your phone calls will have convinced them to make an intelligent 3-point-hitch for it... [img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img])

    MarkC

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    But does it have a cup holder? [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    Very interesting, please keep us posted on what happens.




  3. #3
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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac


    Geez - hope they're giving you a discount. That's better advertising copy than they have on their web-site! They could use some help in that department.

    Patrick



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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    Patrick - Nope, no discount. I did ask them if they would be willing to discuss me taking a rep-type part-time selling position with them, but they're not interested. Their loss, in my (probably not-so-humble) opinion. On the other hand, they got me to advertise their product without paying me a dime, so maybe they're not so dumb...

    One reason they weren't interested may be because they realized I'm going to call 'em like I see 'em. Their three-point-hitch is dumb, dumb, dumb, worthless even. And I'd say that whether I was selling them or not. (I told them so, too, but they disagreed - on the basis that they don't think enough typical compact utility tractor customers would be interested in their product. Time will tell whether I'm right or they are. Thus my request for the mention of my name, and the separate e-mail to me...) Of course, if I were selling them, I'd have a source for buyers to purchase a working hitch based on my design, which I may do anyway, if they don't fix it. But I think they will.

    Pitbull - No, no cupholder, but it does have a nice big flat deck that the seat is mounted on, which a magnet-equipped cup would work extremely well on. Now if I could just find one of those, a big one... [img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img]

    MarkC

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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    I just quickly glanced at the Power-trac website. Looks very interesting. One thing I noticed, however, is that the backhoe only swings 60 degrees each way from center. I'm not sure I could get used to that after having one that swings 90 degrees each way. Can we look forward to a thread on "How to make a Power-trak backhoe have a wider boom swing than an excavator"?[img]/w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif[/img]


    5 out of 4 school students have trouble with statistics. [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  6. #6
    Epic Contributor Bird's Avatar
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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    After all that time and work on the "enhancements", I'm shocked.[img]/w3tcompact/icons/shocked.gif[/img] Find it hard to believe.[img]/w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif[/img]

    Bird

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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    MJB - Yep, only 60 degrees, a bit of a disadvantage, but not a major one, from my usage patterns. It's another compromise. It's a lot more compact design than anything else in it's power class, at least compared to all the ones I've seen. The one on the 2465, for example, has just a little less bucket breakout force than my Bradco 609, but a little more dipper force.

    MarkC

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    Bird - I understand completely - I'm more than a little shocked myself. That's the main reason for my relative silence the past month or so - I didn't really feel right saying anything about my preferences, setup, etc. when I was debating it all with myself. As I said in my first post, this decision has occupied most of my time for the past month or so. It's certainly not been an easy one - partly due to my investment in time in what I've got, though much of that is directly transferable to the upcoming Power Trac enhancements [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img], but also because it's a totally new approach to tractoring. I think very few people research stuff as thoroughly as I do before committing myself, and there's a good reason: It takes a huge amount of time, is a bit frustrating at times, and requires a certain amount of fanaticism, even lunacy [img]/w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif[/img].

    One of the big things that stunned me when I first visited the Power Trac factory was that I kept saying to myself: "This is the way I would've done it", or "This is the way I've always wished my tractor worked" or "Why are these guys the only ones who have something like this? Why do they not have any competition?" I've never ever in my whole life been so blown away by a piece of equipment that I forgot to ask all the right questions, until I saw the Power Trac. I've made three trips out there already (involving almost 14 hours of driving and a night's stay in a motel each time) just to satisfy myself that I haven't missed anything on the previous ones, partly because I couldn't believe I'd seen the whole picture.

    MarkC

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    It is very interesting that someone with Mark's experience and credentials has come to these conclusions about Power-Trac. (There is a hyphen.) It is the same conclusion I reached in my thread arguing that "Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong", where I predicted that Power-Trac may be the wave of the future:

    http://www.tractorbynet.com/cgi-bin/...collapsed&sb=5

    The no-float on the 3ph of course must be solved for the Power-Trac to compete more effectively. However, I want to focus on mowers.

    Unlike Mark, many if not most of us would want our machine to have large (60"-72") finish mowers and brush mowers. We would also want them front-mounted to take advantage of the Power-Trac design genius. We also want backhoe options. While I could be wrong because the list of Power-Trac models and attachments is so bewilderingly rich, it does not appear that there is a serious model that has front-mounted finish and brush mowers as well as a backhoe option. I say "serious" because there does appear to be a 22hp model with backhoe that has very small mowers.

    If the 3ph design is fixed, I suppose one could hook up rear mowers on a 2445 or 2465. But who makes hydraulic 3ph finish and brush mowers? Besides, the idea is to get them on the front of the machine to get them ahead of the wheels, ahead of the articulation point, and ahead of your head. Is there some reason the large decks on the large "turf machines" can't be mounted on the large "TLB machines"?

    Perhaps Mark could encourage his contact at Power-Trac to join this forum to answer questions. It would certainly seem to be in their business interest to do so.






  10. #10
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    Default Re: Goodbye Kubota, Hello Power Trac

    Glenn,

    You did predict it, didn't you? [img]/w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif[/img] (There's only a hyphen on the web site - it's not on the machines themselves or their literature.)

    I'm working on them as far as their Internet presence goes, too. That, at least, is one thing they agree with me on...

    You misunderstood, I think, my lack of interest in turf machines. I'm very much interested in 72" brush mowers. They do, in fact, have very heavy duty 60" rotary cutters, as well as finish mowers, that are front mounted. They do not, yet, have a 72" model, but I think that will be remedied shortly, because they also agree that there needs to be one. So, in response to your comment <font color=blue>it does not appear that there is a serious model that has front-mounted finish and brush mowers as well as a backhoe option</font color=blue>, the 2445 and 2465 qualify. And believe me - they are both serious machines. Nobody else makes anything in the hp class that will do what these things will, period. As long as you can live with the compromises I mentioned in my first post, there's nothing out there that will touch them - I'm certain of that. That's one of the reasons I think they're such excellent candidates for the typical compact utility tractor purchaser.

    As for hydraulic powered rotary cutters, there are a bunch of them out there. I was looking for a heavy duty ditch mower a while back (that was affordable) and there were more hydraulic ones than mechanical ones.

    MarkC

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