Test: Case IH JX 90 Farmall tractor

By: Jaiden Drought, Photography by: Jaiden Drought


Although lacking all the bells and whistles, there is still a serious market in New Zealand for basic spec models. This month Jaiden Drought tests two little beauties.

Often in Farm Trader you'll find us testing the more showy tractors with computers and flashing lights. However, this month, with an open mind, I went and tested two Case IH Farmall tractors, a model of tractor that's perhaps more familiar among the older generation.

As I've discovered over the years, more and more people are opting for a basic reliable tractor for staff to operate, for two reasons. The first being things usually get broken, no matter how expensive the tractor is, and the second being the tractor usually looks like it has been to the moon and back after 1500 hours. So this month I have a solution (not about going to the moon and back).

Farm owners want a reliable tractor that isn't too expensive to buy or maintain, whilst still being reliable and doing an adequate job. Staff on the other hand, need something basic and simple to operate and maintain, yet still comfortable. Enter the Farmall JX range.

The test

For the test, I had the Farmall JX90 ROPS and cab version, both kindly supplied by Giltrap Agrizone in Otorohanga. These tractors arrived off the ship at the beginning of the week, so the team at Giltrap Agrizone did a sterling job fitting the loader for me in two-and-a-half days.

The most impressive upgrade to the Farmall is the introduction of the wet clutch, which offers clutchless forward-reverse shuttling. This will give any new owner peace of mind knowing the reliability and longevity is considerably better than the dry clutch predecessor. The wet clutch upgrade is only one of many subtle changes to the already-popular Farmall JX range, which I will expand on later in the article. Just as a side note for the keen readers among you, these tractors had 30" rubber on the back, which is the incorrect tyre size — they will be standard with 18.4 R34" rubber on the rear and 14.9 R24's on the front.

Engine

The four models (75, 90, 100, 110) in the Farmall JX range all have the same TTF four-cylinder, two-valve engine, which is both turbocharged and intercooled and meets tier 3A regulations, rather than the more stringent 3B (which is actually a benefit for you). The engine feels perky and responsive, probably due in part to the mechanical feel of the whole tractor, which given there is very little power lost through the transmission, even with only five hours on the clock, it felt like this little fire cracker was up out of the blocks and away. The hood is actually three pieces, although the main section of the bonnet is hinged and lifts high to give easy access to the daily service points. The exhaust doesn't impede the bonnet, where it is mounted outside the bonnet but not on the cab pillar. Mesh screens cover the radiator and are easily removed — much easier than having to blow the whole radiator out.

Transmission

As I mentioned earlier, the wet clutch is a great improvement, but keeping in tune with the low-cost theme of the tractor, the mechanical cable-operated shuttle does without a processor, which not only keeps the initial cost of the tractor down but also has less to go wrong. (It's worth mentioning, though, that a dry clutch option with creeper is also available for market gardens — lower cost and specialist applications.)

In terms of the gearbox itself, it doesn't come much simpler (see, there is a theme going here), with two gear sticks — one selects from the three ranges (optional creeper), while the other has the four gears in each range giving a manual 12 x 12 trans. Very basic, no splitter, the gates in the gear box are tight but are still easy to use and you don't feel like you're chasing the long lever all over the cab.

One thing of interest is the drive to the back wheels where an older (but well proven) design is implemented, called a bull gear. This is where a small cog comes from the diff and the rear wheel shaft has a large cog in a separate casing to the diff, providing the speed reduction. This drive design again keeps the manufacturing cost down, as they have used this method for years, but are also very low maintenance. All you need to do is change the oil every 1200 hours (when you do the transmission). An additional benefit is the casing sitting closer to the wheel, which means twine and netwrap can't make their way into the seals.

Hydraulics and PTO

More basic controllers here, to keep in line with both the Farmall name and the low-cost theme these tractors have been designed around, but from what I have seen, it doesn't affect the performance of the tractor at all. There are two PTO speeds — 540 and 1000. Speed selection is on a lever, which is actually at the rear of the tractor directly above the PTO itself. In reality, this is something that isn't going to be changed very often. I would be surprised if 1000 was used very often on this size and spec level of tractor. A small lever on the floor to the left of the seat engages the PTO through a wet multi-plate clutch. For those operators that need it (or more importantly have a machine that actually requires it) there is another lever just behind the seat for running ground speed PTO.

The rear lift capacity is just over 3.5 tonnes and should be ample along with the 51.7L/min hydraulic pump. Up to three double-acting spools are available. The cab version of the test tractor had two, only one of which had a float function, and although they worked well on the cab version located on the right-hand console, the ROPS JX had long levers below the seat, which were awkward to reach and felt flimsy — and again, only one had float function.

The two test tractors also came factory-fitted with the two hydraulic mid-mount valves, with the loader-ready joystick already mounted into the right-hand console, allowing the Sigma 4 loader to be plumbed straight into it.

Thankfully Mike, head mechanic at the Otorohanga branch, accompanied me on the test and gave me the inside scoop on some of the internal improvements. One worth a mention is the steering pump now gets its oil from the transmission reservoir, rather than having its own (on the old JX). It also shares the same filtration system as the larger Farmall JXU, providing just the one filter for both pumps, and also makes it easier to change, additionally using more standardised filters.

Operating environment

When you first hop in the cab and look at the right-hand side with the linkage controls, the long gear sticks, manual diff and PTO clutch, it all screams Fiat tractors in the basic design. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, they sold in huge numbers and you cannot deny it is proven technology and gives the tractor a great mechanical feel.

The rest of the cab is actually quite the contrary. European styling has taken over the dash, there is an expansive roof line and the air con controls are on the 'B' pillar. The cab has a nice bright appearance, is quiet and visibility seems good — especially for loader work. I am also told a nice comfy passenger seat can be ordered and, although having just come from the frostbite-inducing fog of Mystery Creek, I am happy to report the air con worked well and has ten outlets to keep you cool on those long summer days (don't say I don't go the extra mile for you guys!). Also, the gold spec cab version comes standard with large extendable mirrors and turnable fenders, which are great on any tractor and makes getting implements in and out of those tight gateways a breeze.

For the even more cost savvy purchaser, the ROPS version comes with the majority of the gold spec features, with the only real difference being the location of the spool levers that I mentioned earlier. This version also has two mirrors for seeing behind you, a flat operating floor, 12x12 shuttle trans and the mid-mount valve. Literally all you miss out on is the glass and radio — oh, and the heater for those cold mornings feeding out.

Verdict

These tractors have a great place in the market, particularly in the sheep and beef sectors, and as a daily run-around tractor on the dairy farm. Now with the incorporation of the wet clutch and clutchless shuttle, these will be great workhorses for feeding out and daily chores with upwards of 90%, I suspect, will end up with a loader on. When purchasing you need to work out what sort of machine you need — you can't be focused purely on price. These tractors are not designed to pull 12m3 wagons around hills, though I'm sure they will. But spending a little more initially will see longevity prevail in your favour. If you want a simple farm tractor for staff, or just to feed out some bales and palm kernel, or as your first tractor when setting out sharemilking, you can't go wrong with the Farmall JX90. After all, they wouldn't put the Farmall name on something they didn't think would stand up to the reputation now, would they?

Specifications

Case IH Farmall JX90

Cylinders

Four

Displacement (L)

3908

Bore/stroke (mm)

104 x 115

Fuel tank capacity (L)

110

Rated speed (rpm)

2300

Optimum fuel consumption (g at kWh)

213 at 1200

Rated power (hp)

88

Max torque (Nm at rpm)

356 at 1400

PTO max power (hp)

82

Transmission type

12+12

PTO type

Mech

Clutch

Wet

Speeds

540/1000

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