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Author Topic: Vermeer M475 questions  (Read 5754 times)

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Offline Arenite_Boulders

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Vermeer M475 questions
« on: June 25, 2011, 05:16:16 PM »
Hello. I hope that this is not too far OT. I have ~40A mostly in trees and rocks, so I will have some questions in the future that are exclusively about foresting. In the meantime, there seems to be a relatively wealth of information here on the subject machine (at least in the sense that a man with a nickel in his pocket is wealthy when all around him are completely broke...) So here goes.
I am in the market for a versatile machine that can do a wide variety of maintenance tasks on ~40A of hilly raw land that is mostly in woods, with an abundance of large sandstone boulders. One of the main jobs for this machine will be to maintain a dirt & gravel access road bounded by drainage ditches and with one 120' steep grade that will apparently need continual erosion damage maintenance. We plan to retire to this property in 10 years or so, but beyond a vague intention to build, we aren't yet certain about the projects that we will undertake there, although for-profit crop raising is probably not in the picture. I figure the ideal machine will be able to do a little bit of everything. It should be fairly agile, and be able to clean out the ditches as well as do moderate grading and filling on the road without a lot of worry about tearing it up at the same time I'm repairing it. I have an F250 V10 with 6T towing capacity and an Eager Beaver AP10 5T trailer. It would be very helpful if I can safely tow the selected machine with this rig (400 mi each way home to land). I'd like to keep the purchase cost under $10K, far under if at all possible. I had been looking at medium backhoes (CK 580 class) and smaller excavator crawlers with backhoe capability. Both types are a little beyond my safe towing capacity, and may not pass both the agility and the "don't tear up the road while fixing it" tests. I recently came across a Vermeer M475 trencher/backhoe combination with 4WD, articulated steering, and a 6-way blade. It's an odd machine, but seems to rate highly on the "versatility index". I doubt that the chain trencher would be very useful - I could use the capability, but it seems to me that it would be a bit hard on the operator when it suddenly jammed on a rock (and it would, often). I have been told that the trencher can be removed in favor of a universal 3-point hitch (and a lot of added weight). Anyway, I'd appreciate both knowledgeable comments and speculation on the applicability of this model to my requirements and on this specific machine, which I will describe in terms of "good", "bad", and "ambiguous items and questions".
The Good: Original owner/operator was NYSEG (NY state utility) so fleet maintenance was probably reliable; meter shows just under 1200 hours (but who knows); 4-cylinder Ford diesel runs great once started - no excessive exhaust smoke, smooth, good power); unit drives fine forward & reverse; shifts well; hydraulics seem very strong - lifts the front end well off the ground with the blade, hoe operates and digs with no apparent issues; no sign of significant hydraulic system or engine leaks; trencher operates (although as mentioned this may not matter); not being a very experienced hoe operator, from a safety perspective, I sort of like the idea of having it out front where I can see it when moving the machine from place to place.
The Bad: it took a tiny spritz of ether to start it on an 80 deg day (although it hadn't been run in at least 3 months and the seller who bought it at auction in Leola, PA is clearly unfamiliar with starting and operating it, and it did run great after starting); gauges are mostly broken; brake pedal seems to be disconnected; there is quite a bit of rust (although none appears to be structural); there was a tiny wisp of smoke coming up the right-hand side of the engine (side with injectors, exhaust manifold is opposite) although I did not hear any of the sounds I would expect from a blown head gasket or similar combustion chamber leak).
The Ambiguous and Questions: the wheels are dually at all 4 points (8 wheels) with 9.5 x 16 traction tires all around (I could not find a pic of another M475 equipped this way anywhere on the net); there are no outriggers for the hoe, and no evidence that there ever were (the combination of the 6'10" sidewall-to-sidewall width and weight on the blade does seem to keep it pretty stable when digging); neither the seller nor I was able to figure out how to engage the hydraulic drive that is used for creep mode, so that function is untested; what would my prospects be to obtain operator and parts manuals?, and what would I face for parts availability?; does anyone have suggestions for checking systems/items beyond what I have done already? Finally, the asking price is $3,000 (down from $3,300 2 months ago) and I believe I could easily get it for  200-300 less. Most of the working examples of this model seem to be priced at $6K or so (what they sell for may be vastly different). Any thoughts on that? At ~8000 lbs. I'm thinking that scrap value should be a significant piece of that.

I know this was long, but I figure its a better use of everyone's time to get as many of the issues posted as possible, rather than engage in a "20 questions" back-and-forth. Thanks very much in advance for any knowledge or suggestions you choose to share.  


Offline Tom

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Re: Vermeer M475 questions
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2011, 05:56:00 PM »
AB, I'm not familiar with the piece of equipment you describe, but I'll tell you that the most valuable and versatile earth working machine I've ever owned has been my Ford 555A TLB.  It doesn't need a trailer unless it is going to the shop.  Most machine shops will work on site for many of the problems.  The rubber tires don't harm my roads or yard.  The front-end-loader will carry dirt, materials, and pass for a decent grader.  It is nimble enough that I've not gotten it stuck where I couldn't get it out.(a lot of that is a learning curve)  It is strong enough that I've "boomed" loaded dumptrucks out of trouble with the hydraulics.  It is only two wheel drive and I'd like four wheel drive, but don't really need the option.

I can't move dirt 180 degrees.  That is an imposition when digging a pond and it makes me want tracks sometime, but my rubber tires aren't nearly as expensive as tracks and don't require the maintenance.

I would not want to use a backhoe that was not supported by outriggers unless it was an excavator on tracks.

My Backhoe performs as an earth mover and doubles as a crane for the sawmill and other heavy maintenance jobs. 

I love the fact that I don't have to worry about trailering it anywhere.  I've made a mental limit of 5 miles away from the house only to make myself safe wear on the tires.

Around here, you would be hard pressed to find anything for $3,000 besides a small farm tractor.  Here's a question. If you got it stuck or ran off of the side of the mountain, how would you get it back?   Those are the types of questions I would be interested in since I use my equipment in a hardwood swamp.  Sometimes those high traction, heavy, dual tired machines don't do anything more than get you where you can't get help.

When I got my first tractor, the old-timer salesmen answered my concerned question, "will it do the job?"  with  "Sure! most tractors will.  Some just do it faster than others."

You will find that most of the time, the tires are to get the engine somewhere so that it can run the other equipment, like the backhoe.  Bigger isn't always better.  :)

Welcome to the Forestry Forum.

Online beenthere

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Re: Vermeer M475 questions
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2011, 06:03:04 PM »
Welcome A_B

From what I read into your situation, I sure don't see where the Vermeer M475 fulfills but a small part of your needs. If into trenching and laying lines or tile would be the majority of your needs, maybe the old Vermeer would be the ticket. But for the total road maintenance, I don't see it being much help.
Yet, it might just be worth the experience to find out and it may work just fine for you.

Hauling it back and forth will become a pain, but the biggest pain will be getting it to your property only to have it break down (and that will likely be too often) and unable to get it back on your trailer to haul home for the mechanical work. So you find yourself hauling tools and parts back and forth instead.

A full understanding isn't possible, but I'd seriously look into hiring work done on your road and getting to know the locals who can/will do that for you will have value in the future.

Just some thoughts to consider.  Nothing will likely be cheap, however. ;)

Does it look anything like this '81 M475?  Maybe a trencher rather than the rigging on this one?
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Offline Coon

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Re: Vermeer M475 questions
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2011, 07:25:58 PM »
For $3000 I would grab the thing up right now myself it were closer to me.  The machine may not be too big but it would still a whole lot of work if set up with a 3 point hitch.  You could always buy the machine now and use it for a while to see if it works for your situation....if not, resell it and get your money back to buy something larger. 

Having duals on the machine will add alot of stability on hills and in soft terrain it will help you from sinking in and tearing up the ground.  Using ether after it sitting for that long really isn't that big of a deal as long as you don't use too much or have to use it every time you start it. 

How much dirt do you really need to move??  If you have massive amounts to move, I would then think that you would be better off with a larger backhoe or excavator even if it means you have to purchase a larger trailer to haul it.  Moving it will get old quickly too.... 

Most of all remember there is all kinds of equipment out there for low purchase prices with the economy the way it is.  Look around for a while before you purchase you will be surprised on the deals out there....

BTW Welcome to the forestry forum.

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Offline Randy88

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Re: Vermeer M475 questions
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2011, 10:34:20 PM »
Do as you wish but I have a newer version of the 475 non articulating model I use for trenching, its actually bigger with a rigid frame, first off, I'd really have no idea what part of this machine would really appeal to you other than the price and weight.   Its not really worth much to dig anything, the backhoe is pretty worthless in my opinion, and the articulation is a pain for almost anything, the blade is too small to level anything, for what your looking for I'd opt for something more useful.   For what you described it would really fit none of the operations even remotely half way let alone any of them very well.   

Those machines were designed for trenching, they were big on power to run the trencher but worthless for anything else, the backhoe was one notch above a shovel at best and the blade was one notch above a hand rake, they were not handy for either operation at all.   Its been years since I've seen one of those machines, the articulated version went by the wayside decades ago once the rigid frames came out, if you were ever run the trencher part you'd know exactly why, they were hopeless on turning while trenching, couldn't crab steer it at all, had a bad weight to hp ratio, and you couldn't leave the seat for anything if you were running it, they had plenty of problems with the drives for the trencher portion and also the creep wasn't a good design either, I think they used a mechanical style back then vs the electronic of the newer version, the electronic version wasn't fully proven in the first years either, mine is a mechanics nightmare to keep running.    Those machines even in running condition aren't worth much.   Anyone serious about trenching anything isn't going to buy one and if they did it wouldn't take them long to find something else to do the job, case also made its own version of that machine along with several others, if you didn't do much and only had one machine to do it all, well maybe but for what your wanting spend the 3k and put it towards something useful and a lot less headache to keep running, I believe those machines were basically mechanical drives with chains to run it and a small 4 wheel drive articulation drop box to propel the back half, another headache to keep going.   Case's version of that machine always broke the drive shaft under a load and the last one I knew of that a guy replaced was 3K for just the shaft and he did it 2 times in one year before finally dumping it on an auction but that was 25 years ago so I'd have no idea how much that shaft was today or if its even available.   

If you were to put on a 3 point hitch I'd have no idea what you'd pick up with it that wouldn't destroy the center pivot joint or pick the front half off the ground, with the trencher out of the ground it would almost take the weight off the front tires, its not made heavy enough to do much with like pull anything, the transmission wouldn't take that abuse for long, it was designed to creep at a less than 30 feet per minute in good going pulling nothing but itself with the trencher stuck in the ground, without the trencher on back it would almost tip over forward due to the fact its not balanced without the trencher on it, thats how it got traction to trench was with the trencher on and in the ground it distributed the weight more equally, if not trenching and the trencher out of the ground it changed with weight balance of no longer being 50/50 or 50 percent on the front half and 50 percent on the back half, or 60/40 or however it was designed to work, without stabilizers on the backhoe and without the trencher on back for ballast you would literally pull the machine onto its nose if you tried to dig a hole with it.     Most all the problems with that machine were overcome when they went to a rigid frame design and thats why they discontinued the articulation machine.  I could write pages of the drawbacks of those machines but I use mine a lot every year and know the downsides of those machines, if you wanted to trench waterlines or just do odd jobs involving trenching or to dig a few start holes with the backhoe, I'd say go for it but for what you want to do I'd say your better off looking for something else, anything else would be better than that machine.    As for the ford engine using either to start, that wasn't all uncommon, mine has a jd engine and isn't any better, when it gets cold you use a lot of either to start them and I mean a lot, like cases a winter or leave them plugged in, I think the ford was worse for starting than the even the deere.   As for parts, good luck those machines ended production almost 30 years ago and thats about the time they went away from using the ford or duetz engines and went to deere almost exclusively.   As for 1200 hrs, I'd say on that meter only, actual would be way higher. 

 As for manuals I'm sure vermeer has them or can get you some, on the newer machines all the manuals are available free of charge to any new owner of any machine, even if its used when you buy it or they did have that option when I bought mine a few years ago.   Just gave them the model and serial number and they sent what I needed free of charge.   Best of luck

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