The Jinma Arrives!
After a mere 3 or 4 hours of operation, I decided that I'd made a huge mistake with the Ford 5000. Aside from the patched coolant system-to-oil-system leak, which I'll never trust, it's simply the wrong tractor for the job. Too big and bulky by at least 30% and, worse, the high profile and 1/4 turn of play in the steering makes it patently unsafe for certain areas at Shamrock Hollow. No, I needed a smaller, more nimble (and brand-new ) tractor. After much scrutinization (and rationalization) of the budget, I chose this one;
It's a Jinma 454LE, using a 3-cylinder Hunghai glowplug diesel engine of 3.05 liters, 45 HP at the PTO, with such neat features as creeper gears, 2-speed PTO, compression release, etc. I purchased it from at Circle G Tractor in Lamar, Mississippi, and I can recommend Mr. Gooch without reservation.
This is a Chinese-made unit, of course, and while their reliability reputation is spotty, at best, my Inner Scotsman couldn't resist the budget-friendly price. I looked at (and drove) Mahindra, New Holland, and TAFE. This tractor out-the-door amounted to barely a down payment on a New Holland. Whew! They're nice, those Blue tractors, but they're not priced for poor Panola County white trash. :-/
A Mahindra would have run about the same price as the Jinma.. but with no front end loader. And I'd have probably had to settle for 2-WD, too. The closest Mahindra equivalent (40 HP and 4WD) would've run me about $5K more bare, without the FEL.
The TAFE looked great, did
have a loader and MFWD.. but was 5 HP less and, worse, nearly $3K more. The
final straw that became the deal breaker was my online research, which
said that TAFE is down to less than a 5,000/year production
level, hanging on by it's fingernails. Jinma, OTOH, is bringing
about 6,000 units/year into the US alone. Add in the rest of the globe
(a far larger market!) and it's clear they're making a lot of tractors. And they drive good;
O' course Pam's an old hand at stick shifts. From a '68 Dodge D200 to our current Miata, she's pretty much driven it all. God I love that woman...
I dunno.. I'm not too apprehensive about the reliability rep factor of the Jinma. Mind, there are horror stories on the online forums. Failure of the Jinma hydraulic pump at low hours ( < 250) seems to be a particular concern. But then Jinma hydro pumps run a mere $400 brand-new, vs $2K for a John Deere. And I suspect those who suffer this fate don't follow the rigorous out-of-the-crate drain-and-flush regimen that tractors require. Mine did, thanks to the good folk at Circle G. And I plan to repeat it at 15 to 20 hours. All fluids - engine, hydraulic/injector/PS pumps, radiator, trans - the works. 'tis cheap insurance...
There was the guy who had massive cylinder and valve wear at 400 hours, but I'm convinced his improperly installed (modified, really) air filter caused the meltdown. I reckon the Jinma's like every other vehicular conveyance from the 50cc scooter buzzing around your block to the supertanker plying the Seven Seas - you can get a good one or a bad one, depending on what day of the week it went down the Assembly Line...
Of course merely DRIVING and actually WORKING are totally different propositions when it comes to tractors;
So, it'll pull the 6' bush hog through the deepest growth without bogging down, even up the hills in 2-Low 4WD. The loader is stout, capable of lifting 1,200 pounds without breaking a sweat. The 3-point hitch/lift works just fine, and the 2-speed PTO means I'm good to go should I decide to add a backhoe or sprayer. The controls are laid out logically, and are easy to operate - the canopy even goes up and down much easier than I expected, a one-man job. Mind you, the transmission can be a bit balky at times. But that's to be expected with 16 forward/4 reverse, and will likely smooth out once the tractor breaks in.
Yep, I guess you could say I'm quite pleased with the Jinma. All in all, it's near perfect sized for the job at hand, and at the price of a used Camry, an excellent value. The caveats, reliability and parts availability.. well, only time will tell. The latter is really not a worry for me, as I've seen Circle G Tractor's extensive parts inventory in person. The former.. well, 'tis a roll of the dice, I know. "You pays yore money and takes yore chances.."
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