A second-hand machine can take much of the hard slog out of farmwork, but caution is required before handing over any cash
A JCB in the right hands is an invaluable tool. This distinctive yellow machine has always been popular on Irish farms because of its versatility in tackling a variety of jobs, including winter feeding, general tidying, drain cleaning and land clearance - all without breaking a sweat.
The cost of a new JCB is beyond the reach and justification for most farmers, but there is good value to be had in the second-hand market - especially if you can afford to wait for the right machine.
As with any second-hand purchase, there are pitfalls to avoid when parting with the cash. If you are not sure what to look out for, always take a more experienced set of eyes along with you to check over the machine. Depending on age and condition, you will likely be parting with anywhere from €10,000 to €30,000, so don't be hoodwinked.
Be sure to view the machine from cold and in good daylight. A seller having started the machine prior to your arrival should set alarm bells ringing. Are they trying to hide something? Start the machine, ensure all basic functions are operational and smooth.
Check that there are no major oil leaks and that everything appears to be in order - it doesn't take long to get a gut feeling for a machine.
A second-hand machine can take much of the hard slog out of farmwork, but caution is required
before handing over any cash, writes Jamie Casey
STEP 1: check the engine
Dip for oil before starting. The level and condition of the oil will give a good indication of basic maintenance carried out by the current owner. Do the oil filters look relatively fresh? Start the engine from cold.
A machine which is difficult to start from cold can be caused by a number of problems. It might be something as simple as a faulty glow plug heater, but in an older engine, it's usually a bit more serious.
Slow starting can be symptomatic of poor compression, caused by worn and/or cracked rings, requiring an engine rebuild to rectify the problem. Ensure there are no oil or fuel leaks on or around the engine, and that all wiring is in good condition.
Step 2: transmission/torque converter
Having started the machine, select forward and reverse, ensuring each gear is selected smoothly. In older mechanical transmissions, try shifting through all four gears in both directions.
Can you select each gear without a problem? If possible, find a pile of clay to dig the front bucket into.
Push hard into it to test the transmission; ensure the machine has good pushing power in the lower gears, particularly first gear.
If not, you are likely looking at torque converter problems.
Unless the machine is coming at a very reasonable price, it could be time to reassess the purchase at this point.
Repairs to torque converters are neither easy nor cheap.
Engage the four-wheel drive and check that it works.
Inspect the front axle, paying particular attention to the centre pivot pin and the drive shafts for the four-wheel drive.
Step 3: Front bucket/loader Arms
Assess the condition of the front bucket and loader arms. Look for any stress cracks, particularly around the mounting pins and bushes.
Ensure there are no oil leaks from the rams and that the chrome rod in the rams isn't scored or pitted.
A pitted rod will wreck the seals in the ram in a short space of time. Check that the front bucket is not twisted or strained in any way.
If the machine is fitted with a 4-in-1 bucket, check that it opens and closes evenly and fully. The grab function on a 4-in-1 bucket is invaluable for picking up rocks, soil and bushes. If the bucket is fitted with stow-away pallet forks, check that they are not damaged or bent.
Step 4: back actor - the business end of the machine
Operate all functions of the back actor and check for leaking rams or hoses.
On an older machine, it is common to find some perished hydraulic hoses, so an allowance should be made to replace any that are required. Check for stress cracks around the joints and any previous repairs which might have been made.
Operate the bucket and check that there isn't excessive wear in the bucket pins. If the machine is fitted with an extending dipper (far right), check that it runs smoothly in both directions.
Step 5: Sliding cross rail
The back actor is mounted on a rail across the width of the back of the machine, and the arm can be slid across the rail from one side to the other. Four hydraulic clamps, or 'hydraclamps', lock the arm into position on the rail.
Check that these four clamps tighten when their control lever is operated. Although they are a very important part of the machine, they are quite easy and cheap to repair or replace.
Step 6: The kingpost
Check the kingpost where the arm is swivelling on the back of the machine for wear. If this is excessively worn, you'll be looking at around €1,500 to repair it. Ask if the machine will be supplied with any extra buckets for the back actor.
A variety of buckets will be useful for different tasks, and while these can be bought elsewhere, they will set you back about €250 per bucket.
Step 7: The cab
Inspect the condition of the cab. Ideally, if all glass is present and the doors open and shut correctly, the inside of the cab should be clean and dry.
However, if a cab is missing doors or panes of glass for a prolonged period, you will generally have water ingress in the cab interior and dashboard. While the older machines are mostly mechanical, there are still a certain amount of electronics that will play havoc if there is water pouring in on top of them regularly.