As part of our buyer’s guide series, we check out the ‘value-for-money’ Case IH Maxxum MX 135.
Replacing the 5100 Series, the Doncaster-built MX Maxxum range comprised four models at launch in 1996; MX100, MX110, MX120 and MX135.
All shared a 5.9-litre turbocharged CDC (Case/Cummins) engine and all came with a four-speed powershift transmission with four synchro speed ranges and four clutchless powershifts, giving a total of 16 forward and 12 reverse speeds.
In 1998, MX150 and MX170 models were added to the line-up, and while staying with the same 5.9-litre engine, they did get a beefed up rear-end to handle extra power and load. The meatier components also added about two tonnes of weight to the MX150 and MX170.
Earlier models could be identified by the bonnet decals with the Case IH and MX designation applied in a straight line along the lower edge of the opening bonnet. Later models gained a more curved decal which followed the upper profile of the bonnet.
Given the almost identical nature of the MX line-up, the MX135 quickly became the biggest seller, as Cotswold Farm Machinery’s Simon Carrington recalls.
“At the time, the MX135 was outstanding value in terms of specification and performance compared to the 100, 110 and 120 models,” he says. “The extra power of the 135 was less than a grand compared to others in the range and even with high hours on the clock, the mechanically injected 5.9-litre is robust.”
Compared to the earlier 5100 models, the new MX series brought a larger cab with better visibility – the latter a direct result of removing the cab filter from the top rear of the cab roof, and introducing a much improved control layout on the right-hand console.
Electronic instrumentation provided powershift gear indication, speed, revs and engine hours. Analogue gauges were used for fuel level and water temperature.
The MX offered a clutchless electro-hydraulic shuttle and an optional creep which doubled the number of ratios to 32 by 24. The creep lever’s location towards the back of the console meant it could be easily knocked into neutral, fooling operators into thinking drive had been lost.
Powertrain changes were few and far between from that used to underpin the 5100-series. There were subtle tweaks to power output and transmission – the latter included a 40kph road speed.
PTO is independent, two-speed offering 540/1000 using a reversible shaft system, held in place by a circlip. Remote PTO control on the rear wings was optional, as was auto PTO function for stop/start and if fitted, was determined by the rear linkage lift height.
Front linkage and PTO was also optional, and if fitted offered a 1,000rpm PTO turning anti-clockwise.
Lift capacity of the Cat III rear-end was identical across the MX100-MX135 models, at 5.87 tonnes, with the larger 150 and 170 models lifting 8.3 tonnes. All UK-spec MX135’s were also fitted with a telescopic pickup hitch, run through one of the mechanical spools.
All models had electronic rear hitch controls, and pressure-flow compensated (PFC) hydraulic system. This was said to accurately respond to the smallest changes in draft resistance, and match oil flow to load.
While maximum pump flow was 109 litres/min, the amount of flow available to remote valves – all mechanical – was from 6.9-95 litres/min.
For the rear linkage, ride control was a standard feature – automatic damping for the rear linkage – and could be turned on and off from the cab. Wheel slip radar though, was an option.
Higher road speed compared to its predecessor saw the development of a suspended front axle for the MX. However, this factory fitted option only arrived towards the end of production, from about 2002.
Independent front axle suspension was way ahead of its time when fitted to the Doncaster-built MX. Control was electronic, with the system using hydraulic cylinders with accumulators to provide suspension. From a switch in the cab, it could be locked for loader use, raised/lowered or left in auto modes.
If fitted, check for excess wear as the sophisticated system uses double wishbones, and it needed regular attention with a grease gun to ensure it gained adequate lubrication.
The MX135 is four-wheel drive only. A 55-degree steering angle combined with a six-degree castor angle gave a turning radius of just 4.65m. Such maneuverability led to many models being fitted with a loader.
Sophistication included electronically controlled diff-lock, four-wheel drive and wheel-slip control. When used in auto mode, diff-lock and 4wd functions could disengage when either the foot brake was pressed or the rear linkage was raised.
While the red paint is known to fade, cosmetic appearance is easily restored. At 16 years of age, our used example is a well-kept model which remains straight, as proved by the condition of steps, windows, tinwork and rear wings. Even the cab interior has stood the test of time, hinting at its well-kept overall condition in the hands of an all-arable farm owner.
Later models also gained a high-back seat – and all seats had air suspension for added comfort.
Mechanically, the MX135 holds little to fear and like any used purchase, a good run through of controls and functions could easily highlight any pending issues when it comes to tractor functionality and rear-end noises.
Only those models which may have been abused from perhaps towing heavy trailers with poor trailer brakes might be in need of rear-end strip-down. And a repeatedly blocked hydraulic oil filter will be a tell-tale sign that you will need to look inside, as the transmission and hydraulic system share oil.
As with all used machinery, condition is everything and a thorough test of the tractor will confirm if everything works and sounds just as it should, before you part with the cash.