8 September 1995

Pointers on how to pick a good one

A second-hand tractor can turn out to be either a low cost bargain or high cost disaster. Here the Case IH 956/1056 comes under the spotlight. Advice on how to pick a good one comes from Russell Brett of Herefordshire-based Case IH dealer Ross Farm Machinery. Andrew Faulkner takes notes

EVERY motoring era has particular cars which become synonymous with the period. Likewise for farming, only here the era tends to be symbolised by something with bigger wheels, a pto shaft and three-point linkage.

During the mid-1980s property boom the affluent estate agent made the Porsche 911 and BMW 3-series symbols of the decade. On farms the four mid-range tractors that will probably be remembered above all others are the Case 956XL/1056XL and the John Deere 3040/3140.

It is no coincidence, then, that these tractors are four of the most popular models in todays buoyant second-hand 100hp market. All have six-cylinder/long stroke engines, long wheelbases, synchromesh gearboxes and cabs – the Case XL and John Deere SG2 – which were ahead of their time.

Here we concentrate on the red/black liveried Case IH 956 and 1056 models – early examples were painted red and white – and ask why these two models are still in such demand on the used tractor market.

"There are not many other tractors which can compete with the 956 and 1056 in terms of the three used tractor priorities: Performance comparable with a new tractor, reliability and low repair bills. That is why demand for the old 56-series outstrips supply," explains Ross Farm Machinerys Russell Brett.

Few changes

Over the 11 years the 956 and 1056 were built (1982-93) there were few design changes. Engine, full synchromesh gearbox and Sens-o-draulic hydraulics were all refined but basically stayed the same. The only big landmarks (reflected in the guide price table) were changes from side- to centre-drive for the front wheels on 4WD models and the addition of air conditioning and 25mph box as standard spec on the 1056 (D/E-plates on).

No models to avoid, although the change to enclosed centre-drive did improve turning circle and reduce the risk of crop wrapping on 4WD tractors.

There is a price differential between 956 and 1056 tractors but that largely reflects extra spec on the four-digit model. In other respects the tractors are identical except for fuel injection settings, which give the 1056 an extra 10hp. Most 956s, as one might expect, will already have been tweaked to give 1056 output.

When looking out for a sound example, both at a farm sale or an auction, all the usual rules apply. Check around the tractor for obvious cosmetic damage, cracks and leaks, and always try to negotiate a drive on the tractor to test the obvious such as brake and clutch operation.

Other particular points to look out for are highlighted in the pictures and captions.

Worthy of special note is the transmission test. Both 956 and 1056 incorporate pressure lubrication of the transmission, which gives smoother gear changes and reduced drive train power losses. The downside is that the system is open to abuse, with the most common problem being a driver who has a blind spot around the "handbrake on" warning light.

Break-up of pump

A handbrake left on over a long period can result in handbrake clamp filings in the transmission pump, reduced pressure lube and eventual break-up of the pump itself.

Final word of warning from Mr Brett: "If the transmission pump does need changing get it done by a main dealer. It is a false economy to have the new pump whacked in on the cheap by someone who isnt interested in the cause of the original problem.

"The casing needs to be immaculately clean before re-assembly, otherwise the odds are you will need another pump within the month."


YearHrs Guide Price (£)











These guide values relate to clean, genuine 4WD models on tyres that are 60% (or less) worn.

Ross Farm Machinery holds stocks of used 956 and 1056s. The firm reports it has more demand than it can meet and, as a result, is always interested in buying tidy examples from farmers (01989-768811).


Production: 1982-93. Originally in French and German factories, latterly just in Germany.


Engine:95hp, 6-cyl105hp, 6-cyl

Max torque:364Nm @ 1400rpm378Nm @ 1400rpm



Lift capacity:4.46t4.46t

Fuel tank:140 litres (30.8gal)140 litres (30.8gal)

Weight (4WD)4.5t4.7t

Black smoke from the exhaust stack, dont worry too much. Blue smoke is a far greater cause for concern because it could mean a worn engine. Check for excessive crankshaft compression from breather pipe (above). Listen out for sweet IH engine note, it has a tune all of its own.

…If start-up test fails, inspect wiring under the cab. Should the wiring be disconnected, start asking questions about previous ownership.

This 105hp G-plate Case IH 1056 is as clean as they come – 4673 hours on the clock and the interior is still tidy and all external panels are in place. Cosmetics may seem trivial but can be as expensive to put right as mechanical faults, says Ross Farm Machinerys Russell Brett.

Rear hub is stamped with year of manufacture and is useful quick check on registration plate authenticity. You will probably need your specs, though.

Tyres on this tractor are strong selling point – only 20% worn. Note cracked/smashed wing mirror, which comes as standard spec on most used tractors.

A crouch under the tractors nose reveals front axle pivot. Look for excess gap. If one exists it will need re-building, requiring special machinery and high labour costs.

Drop pick-up hitch and look for signs of wear. Missing bolts are indicators of abuse. Swing pick-up hitch from side to side to assess wear in pivot points (above).

Air conditioning is standard on late 1056s but can be more of a pain than a blessing on used models. If faulty it is expensive to put right. Check for leakage stains on cab lining, though these could be from blocked roof drain holes – much simpler to put right.

Oil in radiator suggests something nasty and a tractor to be avoided.

Interior condition is good test of tractor authenticity. Suspect 4000-hour tractor with floor dimples completely worn and invisible gear stick markings. While in cab check electro-hydraulic engagement of 4WD, no excess slop in pto lever and Sens-o-draulic hydraulic controls work. Sens-o-draulic system means no hidden mechanical linkage wear in awkward places to worry about – it will either work or it wont.

Transmission oil pressure warning light (bottom right) check is a must for would-be 956/1056 owners. If light comes on in normal operation it suggests suspect transmission pump (£220 + 16 hours labour cost). At start-up, light should come on after 30secs then go out when foot touches clutch…