27 March 1998

DUTCH FARMERS NOTICED

BETTER BUILD QUALITY

7341s are so new here that we cant quiz a UK user.

Instead, Geert Hekkert (machinery editor, Boerderij),

passes on experiences of six owners in Holland

DUTCHMEN have been working their new Zetors since last December. Some 50 units are now out on farms, with many going to dairy farmers who have traded up from the previous 40-series. Heres what six users think after between 40 hours and 150 hours behind the wheel. Four have a 5341 (identical to the test tractor, but less the turbo and with 75hp), the others a matching 7341. All but one were previous Zetor owners, the sixth changed camp from Belarus.

Its quite clear why these men bought Zetor – low cost. Some did look at other makes, but price differences (see comparison box) meant their cheque books stayed firmly shut. A couple considered new-ish, second-hand western models but still found good reason to stick with Zetor.

Before buying, all the farmers knew they would be getting only 10 forward gears; thats the way Zetor make em. Yet price differentials were big enough that all six would still be happy to fork out another £1500 or so for a two-step powershift. There was disappointment when talking about shift quality – with a loader its hard work – and finding gears seemed more than "just getting used to it".

Despite these snags, Zetor drivers use their Super Turbos for all jobs and with a range of tackle: A three-furrow reversible, front loaders, a big feeder, a sprayer, a silage block cutter. Working on a mix of polder peat and sand, dairy farmer Johan Mulder even pulls a 7000-litre slurry injection tanker working 50mm (2in) deep. Getting this lot under way takes some power, but his 7341 starts in second gear, low range and accelerates up to 8-10kph. Hes happy with the gearbox on this job, but anticipates trouble in summer with a 2.8m mower: "My old 7211 had the same box, so I know Ill often want to shift up or down but wont be able to. Still, every time it happens I just think of the price I paid and smile."

Generally, owners are very happy with their tractors. Compared with the outgoing models, the new ones are far more comfortable, have much better visibility and turn a lot tighter. Everyone noticed the much improved build quality and found noise to be less than before, but most thought the cab should still be quieter. Previous Zetorists found they could now steer on the road with one hand; the ex-Belarus driver was particularly taken with this. Operators on wet soils love the new ones for their light weight, too.

What about breakdowns? Its early days yet. Drivers of old models knew the way things were – an engine thats not that strong but never stops, dry brakes that often didnt, niggling leaks, and on some early versions, trouble with the external hydraulics. It looks as though the move to wet brakes has solved the wear problem, with only a couple of owners having an adjustment crisis. One tractor blew a head gasket, though this was fixed within the hour – a benefit of individual heads, and confirmation of the general view that a good relationship with the dealer is important.

Johan Mulder with his 7341. "After looking at other makes, I decided to put the price difference into the farm rather than a few more gears."