Tips for buying second-hand tractors

tractor1Originally introduced in 1999, New Holland’s TM tractors succeeded the firm’s 60 series machines. They originally ranged in power from 115hp to 165hp and now span the 120hp to 200hp bracket.

Manufactured at the firm’s Basildon plant in Essex, the units are powered by a home-built, 7.5-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Popular with both livestock and arable operators, thousands of the tractors have been sold in the UK, so there’s a good second-hand pool to choose from. But pick carefully.


Front axle
Starting at the front, it’s a good idea to check the front axle hub seals. Dirt and grime can work their way in here and rupture the seals, which cost about 80 each. Traces of oil around the inner rim are the tell-tale signs.

Jacking the front of the tractor up and shaking the wheels – top and bottom – will show up hub bearing wear. It’s not common for these to go, but it can be a labour-intensive job to rectify.

Hubs and rims
On mark one TM units, the front wheel hubs are known to crack. A line of rust either side of the bolts holding the centre on to the outer rim is a giveaway.

The centre also cracks where it meets the outer rim. On tubeless rims, this results in a constant slow puncture. It is advised to keep an eye on these and weld any cracks as soon as they appear.

Under the bonnet, the first things to check are the battery terminals – rusted or corroded connections can play havoc with the tractor’s electrical components.


It is important to look for leaks around the engine area, especially on the turbo. The seals can occasionally give and are expensive to replace. A lack of lubrication can damage the turbo – a new one will set you back 430.

Firing the engine up gives an indication to its condition. There should be no blue or white smoke and the initial rattle of the engine tappets should fade as the block warms up.

Check the fan belt for wear and splits. It is also a good idea to check the fan bearings.

Grabbing a blade of the fan – obviously with the engine stopped – and shaking it fore and aft will indicate any wear.


Models fitted with air conditioning will have a compressor running on the fan belt set-up. This compressor is fitted with a clutch system to engage the pulley when the air-con is switched on.

Run the engine and turn the air-con on. If the pulley doesn’t engage, the clutch is knackered and costs between 500 and 600 to replace.

Power Steering
The pipes from the Danfoss power steering unit – located under the front windscreen – can sometimes vibrate loose and leak, potentially damaging the power steering motor.


Back end
A general examination of the rear of the tractor, such as play in the lift arms and wear on the hook, will give an indication as to the work carried out by the tractor.

Check for oil leaks around the hydraulic couplings and for leaks under the back of the cab.

Pick-up hitch
The swing-back pick-up hitch is prone to wear through operator misuse. As the hitch is lowered, it swings back and out from the rear of the tractor.

Applying the brakes when lifting a trailer forces the hitch to lift the load and pull it forwards, causing excessive wear on the pins.

Hitch lock
The hooks that lock the pick-up hitch closed operate on a shaft that is fitted with a key. This key wears and the hooks become loose on the shaft.

With the hitch lowered, shake the hooks to check for wear. A worn key will result in the cable not releasing the hitch to be lowered. A pick-up hitch overhaul will cost about 200 in parts and about 200 in labour.

The pto shaft is held on by three internal bolts, and it is not uncommon for one of these to work loose and come off.

If the pto is used with one of the bolts missing, it can become bent. Running the pto while keeping an eye on the shaft will highlight any imbalance in the shaft. A replacement stub shaft comes in at about 95 but, being labour-intensive to repair, the total cost is likely to rise above 450.

Road trip
As with any machine considered for purchase, it is wise to take it for a road test.

In the case of the TM 135 Range Command model here, it is advisable to try every gear in the machine to check the potentiometers are all functioning correctly.

Keep an eye on the dashboard for error codes and run the pto in both 540 and 1000 mode to ensure it is selecting both ranges with ease.

Test the four-wheel-drive and diff lock are both selecting and disengaging on request.

Lastly, it is worth testing that the seat is functioning correctly. If the machine is to be bought for long days working in the field, it is worth having a comfortable seat and, considering a replacement base costs £650, it is something you should rectify before leaving the dealer’s yard.

Replace front hub seal Parts £80 Labour £150
Replace air-con compressor Parts £450 Labour £150
Replace turbo Parts £430 Labour £150
Replace pto stub shaft Parts £95 Labour £400
Replace seat base Parts £650 Labour £100
Pick-up hitch overhaul Parts £200 Labour £200
NB: Prices are based on approximate dealer charges


NB: Prices may vary depending on age and condition

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