SAM Hillsider 3600 sprayer test

We hit the slopes with the used SAM Hillsider 3600 sprayer and discovers it’s just as good as new

  • Unique system keeps tank level on sloping ground
  • Minimal electrics means the machine is reliable
  • Good visibility from the cab
  • Pneumatic controls and air-cooled engine

Self-propelled sprayers are machines that contractors and large-scale cropping farmers usually buy new because the timing of application is critical on a lot of crops and they need the reliability of a new machine.

Having said that, there are lots of contractors who run a truck-mounted sprayer for the majority of their work as they are generally more economic to run and a lot quicker on the road. But they still need a high clearance, self-propelled sprayer for the likes of spuds or vegetable seed crops.

Likewise, a lot of cropping farmers who may have traditionally run a spray truck and who now grow vegetable seed crops find that a used, self-propelled unit gives them the ability to spray at the correct time and doesn’t blow the budget.

A lot of used sprayers have been imported to fill this market, with some in near-new condition as many operators in Australia and the UK update every two to three years.

SAM sprayers have been a popular brand among used imports, and Temuka- based Talbot Agriculture has brought in more than 50 used sprayers in the last 12 or so years.

The Test

The test took place at the Talbot family property Woodlands, a 700ha mostly cropping farm near Temuka in South Canterbury. The farm sprayer is a 1997 SAM Hillsider 3600 with just over 6000hrs on the clock. It was imported from the UK.

Hillsider models are designed for those farming inverted flat land and Jeremy Talbot had a steepish paddock lined up for the test.

First we filled the sprayer, a relatively easy procedure, although the boom has to be lifted from in the cab to allow the induction hopper to be lowered.

The hopper can be fitted to the left side beside the filler connection if required by the client, and it certainly would be more convenient mounted there.

Filling and washing is controlled by rotary valves with a level gauge on the rear of the tank. It’s difficult to see and means that to be accurate the sprayer has to be level, so a digital filling meter with auto shut off would be worth fitting.

The SAM has no passenger seat, which means standing on the step and hanging on.

The SAM is required to meet European regulations for stopping and nearly stands on its front feet to achieve this.

Operating the sprayer

The operator’s gloves are stowed in a locker incorporated into the top step with a hand-wash tap beside that keeping any chemicals outside the cab.

Inside the cab the controls are basic but well-placed with a console to the right of the seat housing the hydrostatic transmission lever, the throttle and switches for 2/4wd, diff lock, road and field range.

Foot-operated controls take care of four-wheel steer and boom on/off with boom section controls, tilt and folding switches mounted to a panel on the right cabin wall. Forward of that the SAM pneumatic sprayer control and a large pressure gauge is situated, easily viewed by the operator.

The boom section toggle switches consist of two rows: one for the front line fitted with twin cap nozzles, the other for the rear fitted with triplet nozzle bodies. For an older machine the cab is reasonably quiet even with the door open.

Visibility to the boom each side is very good.

Carbon-filtered air conditioning is fitted, with the filter mounted horizontally in the cab roof to prevent any settling, ensuring the operators environment is safe.

Hillsider option

The Hillsider models have a unique system which keeps the tank level on sloping ground. The centre of gravity stays the same as when on flat ground.

The fully-baffled tank sits on a specially-designed cradle with a trunnion-mounted ram on each side which lifts the tank as required to keep it level and uses a Danfoss pendulum system (the same as used in self-leveling combines and pea viners).

A pendulum in the cab gives the operator a visual indication of the slope and has an alarm if you are about to exceed the sprayer’s sidling ability. Sensors in the hydraulic system sound the horn if oil levels are low.


The Hillsider is fitted with the SAM 24m “up and over” type boom and can spray at 18m or 24m.

Made from high tensile steel it is robust and with the up and over folding the pivots are horizontal giving a rigid boom when in the working position.

The end section is the break away and because it has quite a short arc, it works very well compared with many gullwing booms that break back at the centre pivot and therefore have a longer arc.

The paddock was ideal to test the self-leveling ability of the boom as it had small areas of flat at the top and bottom with a steep section through the middle, but its shape meant climbing from the bottom on the diagonal which the boom handled with just a slight lift on the tower ram to keep the top side clear of the ground.

Unlike many boom suspensions that have a parallel linkage system for self-leveling, the SAM boom hangs on a single ball joint type pivot and reacts to changes in terrain quite quickly.

Wing lift on the up and over boom can be done either with the short end section or at the middle hinge point, depending on the terrain. Having said that, I didn’t use the wing lift at all in the test paddock which I would consider a fair test of any boom’s contour-following ability.

A point worth mentioning is the pneumatic yaw locks which operate as the boom is turned on or off. They allow the boom to yaw freely while spraying yet lock as soon as it is turned off.

This means the affect of a sudden turn or rough ground is not transmitted to the boom when spraying, but because they lock as soon as you turn the boom off you don’t get the situation of the boom yawing forward into the fence on the corners of the first round.

A law change in the UK meant this style of boom exceeded maximum heights when unfolding which required the change to “gull wing” booms and, given the power lines I’ve seen over some farmer’s and contractor’s yards around NZ, I can understand why they did this.

As described above the boom is fitted with twin spray lines. The rear line is fitted with triplet nozzle bodies and the front with twin caps.

Twin cap nozzles have two nozzles in one cap – one facing forward, the other back. Coverage is excellent, particularly with fungicides, so in most cases an air-assist system is not required.

During the test the twin lines meant we could go from our 180lt/ha rate using the rear line to about 320lt/ha by turning on the front line, all from the cab without a nozzle change.

The twin caps had 02 nozzles so with two per cap delivery is about the same as a 04 giving the advantage of small droplets and good coverage but without the high drift normally associated with a single 02 nozzle at high pressure.

Hydrostatic drive

The twin pump hydrostatic drive has two modes (road or field) and drives 10-piston Poclain wheel motors giving the ability for high-torque-low-speed field work through to a high-speed-low-torque road work.

The system is able to split torque as needed depending on the load and its ability to stop the sprayer on the steeper parts of the paddock and then reverse up the slope with no wheel slip was quite impressive.

While it has “diff lock”, being a hydrostatic system it technically has no differentials as such. In basic terms it changes from a series to parallel system to achieve this.

Axle weight distribution is 50/50 with a full tank and the boom in the working position, and remains the same as the tank empties.

The sprayer will do about 43km/hr on the road and gives a reasonable ride.

Clearance beneath the sprayer is 950mm with a 72″ to 84″ inch track width manually adjusted via sliding axles, although depending on row spacing the wider the track the more stable the sprayer will be on sloping ground.

Deutz engine

The Hillsider has the reliable six-cylinder, turbo-charged, air-cooled Deutz engine producing 165hp. With no electronics or water-cooling issues to worry about, some of these engines have done big hours.

Servicing is fairly straight-forward with good access to the engine and hydraulic filters and once again good design in and around the filters contributes to the reliability of these machines.

The verdict

Many of these “older” SAM sprayers have done a few hours and with regular servicing seem quite reliable, so the combination of pneumatic controls and an air-cooled engine obviously works well.

Purchasing any used machine can be a gamble, but by choosing a brand with proven reliability and a good service history the risk can be minimised. As we all know, there are steerers and operators, so stay clear of anything owned by the former.

See SAM boom sprayers for sale.


Capacity 2500 – 4000L
Width 2.9m
Height 3.4m
Depth n/a
Boom width 24-30m
Pump capacity 250-300 lpm
Washing tank 150-280 litre
Emp 2.3-2.7 tonne
Engine horsepower 125-165hp


Photography: Ian Harwood

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