Test: Branson F42H

By: Mark Fouhy, Photography by: Mark Fouhy and Justin Bennett


Branson F42H test The well spec’d Branson with front loader and industrial tyres Branson F42H test
Branson F42H test The seat has mechanical suspension with forward and rear adjustment Branson F42H test
Branson F42H test Basic brake/indicator/driving lights Branson F42H test
Branson F42H test Two sets of double acting rear hydraulic remotes Branson F42H test
Branson F42H test Basic dash with standard features Branson F42H test

With the tractor market running hot in NZ, even new players such as South Korean manufactured Branson are sharing in a slice of the action. Mark Fouhy test drives the Branson F42H.

About this time last year, Farm Trader had the opportunity to check out the Branson 2900H on a lifestyle property near Hamilton. This time, we headed to Auckland’s west coast to see the next model up – the Branson F42H, at work in a commercial chicken business.

It’s available in two transmission options: the F42R with 12x12 syncro mesh or the F42H (which we tested) three speed forward/reverse hydrostatic.

For ease of operation, it’s hard to go past the hydrostatic option. Working in confined spaces, the 56-degree steering angle allows super tight turns. Operating on hard surfaces and mostly indoors at a slow speed, tractor owner Steve Evans has assessed the risks, decided the ROPS structure is unnecessary for their usage and one less thing for the operator to worry about.

Branson is imported under the Stevens Outdoor Power Equipment banner and available throughout New Zealand.

Engine/servicing

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Checking out serviceability of radiator/air filter

Like many smaller tractors, Branson has used a three-cylinder turbo diesel engine to power its F42H model. Branson makes its own engines for the smaller tractors in the range. The engine for the F42H model is Tier 4 certified, without any AdBlue or diesel particulate filters to worry about, which keeps things simple.

The long stroke design of the engine is designed to produce maximum torque from lower revs, which Steve notices when working with the PTO driven aerator. This saves on fuel, as well as offering decreased engine noise, which is particularly helpful when working indoors.

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The seat has mechanical suspension with forward and rear adjustment

Oil dipsticks and fillers are easy to find and still accessible even with the front-end loader on. Oil filters are located on the right side of the tractor for servicing. After an initial 50-hour service, 300- and 500-hour services are done. Approaching his first year of ownership, Steve only recently had the 300-hour service done on his machine.

Because of the dusty environment he operates in, the easy lift bonnet (for access to the radiator and cartridge air filter) is a convenient time-saving feature for him and his staff. Aside from daily checks, Steve has had no troubles or issues with his Branson, which is exactly what you would hope for and expect from a new machine.   

Hydraulics

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The Branson self-levelling loader made to suit the tractor

When operating a hydrostatic tractor, hydraulic performance becomes just about as important as when operating an excavator, as not having enough hydraulic flow equals slow/poor performance.

With dual hydraulic pumps (one for transmission with 33.6 litres per minute flow, and one for steering and attachments with 18 litres per minute flow), transport speed, even while turning and operating the front-end loader, did not noticeably affect any aspect of the tractor’s performance.

Two sets of double acting hydraulic remotes at the rear should be plenty to run whatever you may need on a 40hp tractor. The Cat I linkage offers 1500kg of lift capacity at the ball ends, and 1100kg a further 610mm behind the ball ends, which should be more than adequate. A dial controls the hydraulic flow rate for the rear linkage, allowing for simple adjustment of the speed when raising and lowering.

The optional front-end loader is plumbed into mid mount remotes, with standard hydraulic couplers (with colour coding), making it simple to get the right ones back to the right spot when reconnecting the loader.

Branson loaders have third service function as standard, allowing for the use of bale grabs or the four-in-one bucket, which Steve has.

He finds this particularly useful when doing potholes along the metal roadways. With other attachments used for pushing wood shavings and pallet forks, etc., the self-levelling feature with Euro hitch was exactly what he was looking for.

Operator platform/operation

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Cruise control button above key is a handy feature

The Branson tractor boasts a roomy operator platform – a clear floor area with rubber surface for grip on either side. Difflock and 4WD controls are mounted to the left, with the handbrake to the right. A single brake pedal operates the wet multi-disc brakes.

An excellent steering angle of 56 degrees negates the need for individual braking to rear wheels when working on hard flat surfaces rather than slippery hill terrain.

The forward/reverse drive pedals offer progressive speed increase with acceleration, like a car. This leaves the handle throttle-free to set engine rpm for PTO work such as the tasks Steve uses his tractor for.

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Two-speed PTO to operate a range of implements

A handy feature with the three-speed hydrostatic transmission is the cruise control button. Push the button once and you have the tractor set at the desired speed. This is handy for jobs such as mowing.

The seat of the Branson F42H is mechanical suspension with forward and rear adjustment. Steering angle adjustment is one small feature the Branson could do with to accommodate different drivers and making access on and off the tractor easier still.

Construction

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Steve chose the industrial tyres option for a lighter footprint

Build quality is a strong point of the Branson tractor range. Powder-coated steel is used in the bonnets and mudguards rather than plastic. Weighing in at a hefty 161kg tells you there is plenty of steel used in the construction of the F42H.

This is an important factor for Steve, given that the tractor does a lot of pushing as one of its tasks. The high original weight of the tractor means he hasn’t had to worry about filling the tyres with water.

The Branson is pretty similar feature and specification wise to other brands of a similar size, but price is where the brand may have the edge. Although relatively new to New Zealand, Branson has been producing tractors for the US market since 1998, with the South Korean Kukje Machinery Company producing agricultural equipment and engines since 1968.

Since last year, when I checked out the Branson 2900H, the warranty has increased from 1000 to 1500 hours or 24 months across the tractor range, whichever comes first, demonstrating the confidence they have in their product.

Verdict

Replacing an old worn-out tractor with a well-built, well-spec’d, and well-priced Branson tractor has proved to be a sound decision for Steve and his business. With the quality of build and features offered, if you are in the market for a smaller tractor, the Branson F42H is well worth a look.

Branson F42H specifications

Engine Liquid cooled, three-cylinder, diesel, turbo 
Displacement 1700cc 
Power 40hp/29.4kW @ 2600rpm 
Emissions  Stage IIIA 
Transmission  3 range hydrostatic 
Speed  6.5km/hr min – 33.2km/hr max @2850rpm 
Hydraulics  
L/min 33.6L (main pump) 18L (steering pump) 
Lift capacity 1500kg 
Cat 

I

PTO 
 Speeds 2-speed rear 560&780rpm 
Tyres 
Options  Industrial/Ag tyres to suit 
Dimensions  
Wheelbase 1670mm 
Length 3429mm (incl. front weights)
Width 1450mm 
Height  2643mm 
Ground clearance  335mm 
Weight  1612kg 
Fuel tank  27L 
Service intervals  50-hour initial 

Pluses

  • Well-built, heavy tractor
  • Good service accessibility
  • Easy operation three-speed hydrostatic drive
  • Cruise control function

Minuses

  • Lacks adjustable steering position

 

Video: Branson F42H tractor

Watch the Branson F42H in action.

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