Keeping older telehandlers fit and well is made easier with the help of specialists offering new parts for models that are no longer made. Geoff Ashcroft visited one Suffolk firm catering for Matbro, Terex and John Deere machines.
Like a pair of worn out, but comfortable old shoes, an old but venerable telehandler is increasingly becoming one that few farmers are prepared to let go.
Given the high cost of new and nearly new models, it would appear to make sound financial sense in the current climate to spend a bit on upkeep.
Even more so perhaps, if your handler preference is a model that would appear to be almost irreplaceable.
Which is good news for firms like DB and MP Barnard, who supplies new and used parts for now defunct models of Matbro, Terex and John Deere telescopic handlers.
Based at Corner Farm, Brandon, Suffolk, the business has been built up over the last 19 years up by former Matbro employee David Barnard. His passion for the once well-regarded brand is as obvious as those who simply won’t be parted from their pivot steer favourite.
“There is still strong demand for parts to keep older handlers working on a daily basis,” he says. “What’s the alternative for customers? Spend tens of thousands on a newer machine? And you won’t get quite what you’re used to.”
When it comes to parts availability, Mr Barnard says that his extensive stock of over £750,000-worth of components provides a level of reassurance to customers that most parts are still available.
Ranging from wiring looms to axles, D.B. and M.P. Barnard's racking hold a stock of parts worth more than £750,000.
Stillages and racking on two floors of a building are packed to the gunwhales with parts. It is a veritable feast of components that could - with a degree of creativity and one his parts books - be used to build a complete handler. Or two.
Parts include new joysticks and shuttle levers, axles, differentials, cab glass, wheel rims, door frames, ECU’s, boom pins and bushes. There are lights, solenoids, door seals too, and hydraulic hoses and steel pipes. It seems almost endless.
“We can also completely rewire a lot of those early models too,” he adds.
A lot of what Mr Barnard carries is new and unused, just old stock.
“I bought a lot of surplus stock when Matbro first closed its gates and again when Terex stopped manufacturing these handlers 10 years ago,” he says. “There are very few parts that we cannot supply, and most of what we do supply is now on an exchange basis.”
But the supply of parts for machines that are no longer manufactured is not endless. But he offers solutions.
“For those few components that we simply cannot get anymore, I do have the resources to get parts manufactured, if indeed they can’t be refurbished. So we’ll do our best to make sure we can keep a customer going.”
Where boom types are no longer available, David Barnard has them fabricated to an improved specification for his customers.
He has recently started fabricating booms and door frames too, and using his working knowledge of machines at work, takes the trouble to improve, strengthen and rework areas that have become known weak spots.
An obvious area is boom strengthening around the headstock, and the attachment carriage too. Extra plates, fillets and reinforcing are the order of the day.
“Kingpins on rigid chassis machines are a favourite too - they just don’t get as much grease as they need,” he says. “And depending on the severity of the wear - or damage - we have the ability to repair by welding cast iron and then we’ll machine the parts to the correct tolerances to achieve a high standard of remanufacture.”
Carrier plates are a service item, allowing Mr Barnard to refurbish and repair - often with new steel plates to put structural integrity back into the business end of the machine.
It is this attention to detail and focus that means there is always a supply of key components on his shelves, ready to dispatch at a moments notice.
“Customers expect an honest and efficient service,” he says. “So I need to make sure that I keep a supply of essential items so I can meet their expectations.”
While most of the parts he supplies are for Matbro pivot steer TR models and all-wheel steer TS models, plus Terex and John Deere equivalents, he also carries a few parts for earlier Teleram models and Bray wheeled loaders.
Rebuilt, tested and warrantied transmissions are available.
Sat on the shelves at Corner Farm are a plethora of hydraulic rams that have been overhauled and re-sealed, and headstock links that have been reproduced locally.
He also carries a stock of about 10 fully-rebuilt transmissions that have been leak-tested, pressure tested and run on a dyno. These include Clark, ITL and Turner transmissions, and are supplied with 12-months warranty.
Mr Barnard’s premises have evolved over the last two decades to include shot-blasting and painting facilities too, in addition to remanufacture and supply of components.
With such resources at his fingertips, it also provides the opportunity to refurbish and sell used telehandlers too.
Sat in the yard when Farmers Guardian visited was a JCB 531-70, which had just had its attachment carriage converted to a pin and cone system to suit its new owner’s needs.
Mr Barnard had also completed the refurbishment of a 15-year old Terex T200 to a high standard - its finished condition was rather impressive given its age and 5,600 clock hours.
Fitted with a new set of tyres, the T200 was up for sale at £21,500.
At Barthorpe Grange Farm, Acklam, near Malton, north Yorkshire, Phil Dobson uses three telehandlers for daily duties around the 323ha (800ac) mixed farm.
While one is a relatively young JCB TM model that hss covered just 3,000 hours in its six short years, the other two are Matbro models and can boast a collective total of eight times that of the JCB.
One is a rigid chassis all-wheel steer TS280 that has covered 8,200 hours and joined the business about nine years ago; while long-tooth honours go to the farm’s TR250-110.
Bought as an ex-demo machine with 400 hours on its clock, this machine has now clocked up 17,790 hours over its 19-year life, and its engine remains unopened.
“We’ve replaced a lot of pins, bushes and bearings so far over its lifetime, but its not been an expensive machine to run,” says Phil Dobson. “And a lot of the spares we’ve needed have been readily available through David Barnard.”
Used at both ends of the day for feeding and bedding duties with the farm’s 160-cow herd plus followers, the Matbro TR250 finds itself preparing rations and loading the farm’s feeder wagon.
“It also gets to spend time on the clamp alongside the JCB, but it’s mostly kept for daily duties with feeding and bedding,” he says.
During its time on the farm, the TR250 has needed a new inner boom, three crown wheels and pinions for the rear axle and an injector pump overhaul. A broken bolt on the engine, caused through a failed water pump, is the only reason that an engine casing needed to be removed, and a new gasket fitted.
“As long as the TR250 continues to start each day and we can continue to get parts to keep the machine up together, it’ll stay on the farm,” he adds. “