JCB 3185 – Review for used buyers
There are few tractors in production today that have stood the test of time quite like JCB’s Fastrac 3000-series, a model that was introduced two decades ago. During it’s long production run the Fastrac 3185 in particular has become an exceptionally popular model, we sent Howard Shanks to the Victorian High Country to find out what makes them so sort after by new and used buyers.
If you are seeking a versatile tractor in the 200HP range to handle a wide variety of paddock work in steep undulating country or have some distance to cover between paddocks, then a used JCB Fastrac 3185 should be on your shortlist, if you can find one that is. The reason they’re so scarce in the second hand market place is because they’re so reliable and flexible that owners who purchased them new are reluctant to part with them.
A Cummins B5.9 Litre engine with 95-amp alternator (114.8kW PTO) coupled to a Smoothshift 54 by 18 transmission drives the Fastrac 3185 and it boasts a top road speed of 80kph with the 495/70R24 tyres. The addition of the triple link front suspension system greatly improved the turning circle compared to previous models along with ride and handling characteristics.
The 54 by 18 Smoothshift transmission and clutch are reportedly backed by JCB for about 6,000 hours, which instils confidence that it’s a durable package. An Eaton six-speed transmission coupled to a three-speed powershift, with high, medium, low and reverse gears ensures there are a wide variety of ratios to suit all tasks.
The two axles use outboard planetary drive with steering via the front axle. Front and rear differential locks are standard and include a soft engage system.
JCB’s full suspension system sees the Fastrac 3185 utilise coil springs with dampers and anti roll-bar up front while a hydro-pneumatic self-levelling system keeps the rear at a constant ride height.
The hydraulic tank capacity of these tractors is 75 litres, with the hydraulic flow rate at 108L/min, at a pressure of 214 kilograms/cm3. Two sets of spool valves are standard but this machines features the optional four sets of valves.
The rear three-point linkage category III and PTO is standard and the lift capacity is 7000kg. The 3185 series has 1000rpm PTO at 2195rpm and 540rpm PTO at 2118rpm. Fuel capacity is 350 litres, more than ample for a day’s work.
Euan Bell oversees the plant and equipment operations at Yencken Pastoral Company in Mansfield and says they mainly use the JCB 3185 for their spraying and spreading operations primarily because the machine is so much more efficient as it is capable of higher speeds in the paddock than any other tractor.
“Because the cabin is centre mounted the ride inside the far more smoother than a traditional tractor where the cabin is located over the rear axle,” Euan explained. “The suspension package in this machine allows for extensive axle travel and the coil springs really iron out the bumps you find in most paddocks.”
“In the steep going where we are working today you really get a good opportunity to see how sure footed this machine is and with the flick of few switches the diff locks are engaged, then it will climb up the steepest hills we have without any problems,” he added.
“Reliability wise the little Cummins B-series engine is terrific, all we do is change the oil and filters at the recommended interval and it just keeps going. This 3185 has done over 7000 hours and its pretty much bullet proof,” Euan revealed. “It all comes down to how you look after them. Fuel economy wise, it’s one of the more economical machines in our tractor fleet.”
Euan’s infinite and first hand knowledge of the JCB Fastrac 3185 made him an ideal candidate to ask what should a second hand buyer be on lookout for when searching for a used one.
“As I said earlier the Cummins B-Series 5.9litre is a reliable engine and if it’s been serviced regularly there shouldn’t be much wrong with it, so pay particular attention to its’ service history. These engines are popular in light trucks and buses, which make parts availability widespread and price competitive from many truck or tractor dealers.”
“If the machine has high engine hours, it’s worth while inspecting the exhaust silencer as these are prone to blow holes after extensive use,” he added. The replacement cost can range from $800 – $1000.
“The Eaton transmission is very reliable,” Euan said. “However some of the actuation is by air cylinders at the back of the gearbox working with micro switches, when the shifter linkages have excessive wear, the micro switches will not recognise a shift and fault codes will appear on the dashboard. The cost to replace these linkages if worn should be factored into your purchase costs and decision.”
Fastrac 3185 Cabin
The Fastrac 3185 cabin has changed little over the years. It provides a wide but short-backed cab with a central driving position. However, there are compromises required for taller operators seeking extra legroom, because when the seat is pushed fully back you will hit the rear window latch.Meantime the multifaceted dashboard offers a wealth of information from service details, fault codes, performance monitor and tractor data, although interpreting all the data might require frequent referrals to the manual.
“Again on some machines with high hours they are prone to cracked dashboards where buttons are repeatedly pressed,” Euan advised. “We are fortunate with our machine that we have good operators and our dash is still in good condition.”
“While we are in the cabin check the front of the seat base as it can suffer from excessive wear,” Euan explained. “That’s because the steering column is not user friendly when it comes to moving it out of the way, which means bigger operators have to squeeze themselves in or out between the steering wheel and seat. Mind you, most local upholsters will be able to recover the seat relatively cheaply,” he added.
“It might come as no surprise the complex nature of full coil suspension means there are a lot of shafts and linkages within the Fastrac 3185 chassis,” Euan explained. It will pay to get underneath and give everything a thorough inspection, looking for wear, lack of grease and general well-being.”
The brake pads have a groove through the middle of them, which is an easy way to check wear.
“Some later versions have electronic Bosch spools that can suffer with condensation affecting each valve’s circuit board,” Euan cautioned. “There is no cure and replacement is costly, so search for error codes.”
Rear PTO system is run directly off the gearbox, however, a front PTO can be easily retro-fitted using shaft drives with speeds available at 540rpm and 1,000rpm.
“The rear axle location linkage is by a V-link which sits on top of the diff casing, extending forward into the chassis,” Euan explained. “It uses a large ball socket to enable oscillation and its rubber seals can sometimes deteriorate, allowing dirt and grit to enter the ball and socket. There is a seal kit is available, although by the time most operators have noticed there is axle movement, the ball will be worn to the point where a new V-link is required, so keep an eye out for this one.”
The JCB Fastrac 3185 is renown for excellent operator comfort and their flexibility for a range of options along with high transport speed more than offsets the initial higher purchase price when compared to an equivalent conventional tractor. But that’s because the Fastrac 3185 can replace more than one other machinery item.
Model: Fastrac 3185
Chassis: 4×4 4WD
Engine: Cummins 6 BTA
Displacement: 359 ci (5.9 L)
Horsepower: 185HP (137kW)
Torque: 553.2 lb-ft (750.1 Nm)
Transmission: 54 Forward & 18 Reverse
Fuel Capacity: 92.5 gal (350 L)
Alternator: 95 amp
Hitch Rear Lift: 15,435 lbs (7001 kg)
Weight: 14,916 lbs (6765 kg)
Wheelbase: 118.5 inches (300 cm)
Overall Length: 202.8 inches (515 cm)