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On-test: JCB 403: old vs new

After almost 10 years of production, JCB has updated its 403 compact loader. Richard Bradley looks at the key changes between the old and new machines.

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403 old vs new main picture

JCB claims its new 403 wheeled loader, the smallest in its range, has been redesigned from the ground up.

 

To see if the updates are as significant as the firm says, and if any major improvements have been made, we got our hands on both the old and new 403 models, testing them back-to-back on a large-scale dairy farm.

 

Scroll down to see the major changes between the two machines.

Old 403 Axle

Old 403 Axle

JCB's old 403 uses a 12.5kph hydrostatic gearbox, with drive going to independent wheel motors.

New 403 axle

New 403 axle

The new machine uses a 20kph hydrostat, with mechanical final drives to ZF axles - big improvement in pushing force.

Old 403 wheels

Old 403 wheels

Independent wheel motors mean no wheel hubs, and no way of providing equal drive to all four wheels.

New 403 wheels

New 403 wheels

Mechanical axles provide greater pushing force, with optional locking differentials providing equal drive to all four wheels.

Old 403 pivot point

Old 403 pivot point

Articulation angle of 49 degrees offers 4.6m turning circle with wide wheels fitted. Pivot point allows up to 7.5 degree chassis oscillation.

New 403 Pivot Point

New 403 Pivot Point

Articulation angle of 45 degrees increases turning circle to 5.6m. Pivot point allows up to six degrees of chassis oscillation.

Old 403 loader arm

Old 403 loader arm

Straight loader arm is used, with a single lifting cylinder providing enough force to pick the back-end off the floor.

New 403 loader arm

New 403 loader arm

New cranked arm is used, bringing the load closer to the machine, with twin lifting cylinders providing the lift.

Old 403 forward visibility

Old 403 forward visibility

Parallel loader arm frame sits in the line of sight to the head stock.

New 403 forward visibility

New 403 forward visibility

A wider loader frame does no favours to improve forward visibility.

Old 403 attachment locking

Old 403 attachment locking

Mechanical pin is spring-loaded to secure attachment in place - time consuming when constantly changing attachments.

New 403 attachment locking

New 403 attachment locking

Hydraulic locking pin is standard on all of the four head stocks available, with a safety switch to prevent accidental unlatching.

Old 403 coupler location

Old 403 coupler location

Hydraulic couplers are attached directly to the head stock, meaning no bending of hoses.

New 403 Coupler location

New 403 Coupler location

Couplers are mounted to the linkage, meaning longer hoses are required - a step backwards in our eyes.

Old 403 engine access

Old 403 engine access

Hinging seat provides good access to engine and transmission filters and servicing points.

New 403 engine access

New 403 engine access

Full cab arrangement reduces access to engine, with transmission access either through removable floor panels or from underneath.

Old 403 fuel tank

Old 403 fuel tank

Rear-mounted fuel tank should help to give good lifting capacity...

New 403 fuel tank

New 403 fuel tank

The front-end fuel tank in the new 403 does a lot to improve stability around the yard.

Old 403 cab

Old 403 cab

A fold-able roll over frame offers good all-round visibility, and allows for easy access.

New 403 cab

New 403 cab

Four-post canopy frame does reduce visibility, but reduces the feeling you will fall off the seat. Glazed windows and a cab heater are now also available.

Old 403 controls

Old 403 controls

Old joystick only features forward/reverse shuttle, with a separate handle controlling auxiliary function.

New 403 controls

New 403 controls

New joystick features f/r shuttle, speed range change, differential lock and auxiliary diverter. Auxiliary flow can be set to constantly pump.

Old 403 foot-well

Old 403 foot-well

Open design means muck is thrown at the driver, with central raised tunnel hindering access.

New 403 foot-well

New 403 foot-well

Central tunnel now has more of an impact, as cab roof impacts on ease of jumping on and off the machine.

Old 403 handbrake

Old 403 handbrake

Thanks to the oil drive to wheel motors, an electronic handbrake can be used, by stopping the pump from working.

New 403 handbrake

New 403 handbrake

Unfortunately this could not be carried over, as the new machine's mechanical drives mean brakes are fitted to the front axle to keep the 403 where you left it.

Loader rear-end

Loader rear-end

A rear-shot shows more improvements made to the new machine; wider mudguards, road lights and a reversing light, all subtle changes that go a long way to improve operator experience. Also, with styling taken from its big brother the 435s, the new 403 looks the business.

FG Verdict

It would appear the new 403 is bigger and bulkier than the existing machine.

 

However, with its sizes comes improved handling and stability, and a whole load of updates. Despite how subtle the updates may seem, they go a long way to improve the machine.

 

Keep your eyes peeled on our machinery on-test section, as we see how the 403 compares to competition on the market.

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