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Farm Groups Tractor Survey Exposes "Lemons"
Australian farmers are enthusiastic about a new tractor owner's survey put together by an Australian farm group that contains detailed performance and reliability reports on nearly every tractor over 100 hp. built since 1973.
Although published in Australia, the survey covers most tractors sold in the U.S. and Canada and includes only one or two models not available here.
The survey is unique in that in-depth personal interviews were conducted with nearly 700 farmers, each answering pages of detailed questions about their particular tractor. The survey covers some 15 brands and more than 50 different models of both 2-WD and 4-WD tractors. The survey took more than 12 months to complete by six retired farmers who were hired to conduct the surveys. The results have been compiled in a book that is now for sale.
The book contains summarized results which detail overall problems as well as specific reports on each tractor model. Individual reports contain excerpts from the survey on both strong and weak points of particular models. Wherever possible, the reports contain direct responses from manufacturers.
Barry Whittington, chairman of the board of the Kondinin Farm Improvement Group, which put the survey together, says the book is gaining widespread acceptance. "It helps farmers pinpoint specific problems that may be common to their tractors so they can watch for them and take preventive steps. Most manufacturers were cooperative so we worked closely with them to find solutions to the most common equipment defects."
The survey breaks each tractor down into specific categories such as the engine, cooling system, lubrication, fuel system, electric system, power train, steering, wheels, hydraulics, cab, and dealer service.
"The survey revealed that every brand and model has at least one major reliability problem. Once you find out about it, you ought to keep in touch with your dealer, who will probably hear from the manufacturer as to how to handle it," notes Whittington.
The farm group's main aim in publishing the survey - besides identifying "lemon" tractors was to make manufacturers and dealers aware of problems occurring in the field.
One of the most interesting sections in the book is on preventive maintenance. Whittington himself spent a day or two in each of several different tractor dealerships walking through problems with mechanics on certain models of tractors. The sections detail problems with each tractor model and give suggestions from dealer mechanics on how to deal with them.
"It took quite a bit of persuasion to get dealers to understand that it's in their own best interests to help farmers avoid major problems with tractors that require special care or have manufacturing defects," says Whittington.
On International 986 tractors, for instance, the report lists 19 specific maintenance items that should be checked or performed regularly. For example, the report says that if not replaced regularly, seals on turbo charger bearings can let oil through, resulting in high oil consumption. Also, it says the clutch assembly should be checked regularly since the drive spline wears on the pressure plate. Failure to do so could lead to failure of the T.A. due to double shifting as engine rpm's increase on take-off.
Whittington says the tractor survey is the second equipment survey the group has taken. Two years ago it published a comprehensive look at combines. The tractor survey cost about $100,000 to put together, which the group hopes to recover from sales of the book.
Whittington says he's willing to help U.S. and Canada farm groups put together similar equipment surveys.
United Grain Growers in Canada plans to sell copies of the tractor survey for about $30. For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, U.G.G. Farmers Library, P.O. Box 6600, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3C 3A5 (ph 204 944-5624).
For information on the Kondinin farm group, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, K.D.F.I.G., 239 Adelaide Terrace, Perth, 6000 Australia.


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1985 - Volume #9, Issue #1