Machinery & Products

Why listen to warning signs?

By John Droppert

Free advice is a wonderful thing. Everybody knows how to make a great ad; people who watch sports always seem to know from the couch where their team went wrong; everyone can tell you an ideal price for milk.

Some say talk is cheap, but if the case of a titbit from my brother-in-law a few months back is anything to go by, the odd piece of dispassionate advice is worth contemplating.

‘Be careful with that antique!’ he said, in reference to the Chamberlain CJD791 backhoe I ultimately purchased and reviewed some months ago.

Based on sale photos alone, his comments proved remarkably prescient.

Now let’s be clear: There were warning signs. Plenty of warning signs. The rust, the odd tyres, the unbushed pins, the smoke (SO MUCH smoke), the claims that the owner had ‘never tried to’ shift gears, the need to jump start it every time, and, critically, the regular use of Aerostart.

Yeah, I saw the signs. But hey, I’m not some fancy pants F250 driving contractor with hire purchase agreements coming out my ears. I just wanted a cheap set of teeth to move some dirt.

Seriously, it only had to last a month, followed by a rich retirement of occasional trenching and slow, luxurious refit. Or being on-sold.

Did it? No. It did not. By the end of the first day, the side of the truck was covered in oil from the hydraulic leak that came out of nowhere on the backhoe boom.

On the second day, I travelled the length and breadth of outer eastern Melbourne securing as many drums of ISO68 hydraulic oil as I could lay my hands on, on a Sunday.

This project was going to be finished, if I had to fill the tank with my own sweat and blood. On the third day, the value of my hydraulic oil stockpile depreciated somewhat, when the ‘ever reliable’ Perkins 212 stopped turning, and refused to start again.

Having been through the electrical system (what little there is), and checked for seized ancillary components, I can only conclude the engine has seized. Cheap grunt indeed.

That was in November, and the little yellow backhoe remains perched next to the dam it was meant to dig, squarely in sight of my kitchen window.

The project itself took precedence; actual progress tempered with adjustment to the idea that I may have purchased a very expensive item of children’s play equipment.

That is, of course, unless efforts to unseize or replace the engine on a shoestring go better than anticipated.

As for the actual earthmoving, well other machines have stepped up to the challenge, and the only excavation remaining is under the Chamberlain itself.

So I will imminently be faced with the choice between pulling it out of the dam or pushing it in. Thoughts?

• John Droppert has no mechanical qualifications whatsoever, but has been passionate about tractors since before he could talk.