Review: Takeuchi TB215R excavator
This month we had a look at the zero-tailed Takeuchi TB215R mini excavator to see how it shapes up against others in the market.
Having a quick look over it, there are some features on the 1.5-tonne TB215R that should please operators lucky enough to jump behind the controls. Firstly, and most noticeably, is the lack of a rear overhang. This should get a big tick from those who work on close-quartered urban sites. Secondly, for those that have to keep the inner-city yuppie set pleased with new patio and garden areas, is the ability to hydraulically adjust the track width, and which should assist when shoehorning the machine onto site.
Following on with the urban theme and to reduce site-inflicted damage, Takeuchi has moved the ram to the upper side of the dipper arm and has further worked to eliminate harm from errant tree branches by running the hydraulic hoses down the inside of the dipper arm.
Its larger brother, the Takeuchi TB153FR has the ability to horizontally place the dipper arm on the other side of the machine. The TB215R doesn't have this feature, but like almost all other brands of mini excavators, it does have the ability to slew the dipper arm.
The side-opening rear cover has a clever little lock arrangement that takes a little while to work but, once inside, easy access to the daily checks means all skin is left intact on your knuckles. On the other side of the engine (accessed from the operator's area) is reasonably straightforward access for changing of the starter motor and alternator. Any other major engine work would require the panels to be unbolted, which appears relatively easy to do.
A 14.5-horsepower (10.9 kW) Yanmar 3TNV70 engine moves the TB215R, this being the same base power plant that is used in the Yanmar VIO17 (no surprise there), and the Hitachi ZX10U-2, mini excavators.
There usually isn't a lot of room to squeeze a pie-eating bloke onto most mini excavators, but the TB215R does a pretty good job of providing comfortable accommodation. It has (as they call it), a multi-adjustable seat and the weather is minimised with a sturdy canopy that contains twin forward- and rear-facing work lights. The control levers are wrist operated, which avoids a sore back that sometimes comes from forward-positioned lever models.
Sitting on the floor alongside each of the travel levers are two separate hydraulic foot controls that are used for the dipper arm offset and auxiliary attachments. To avoid accidental operation they are protected by flip-up covers. Being on a new machine the covers are nice and stiff to open, but I expect them to wear and loosen up before too long, which means they could accidentally flip open. One solution to this would have been the installation of a small magnet or spring mechanism. Like all small excavators, space is at a premium and the placement of the foot controls congest the area near the travel levers, so there is no way for the operator to safely operate the travel levers with their feet, unless they like wearing ballet slippers.
The dashboard features the all-important and prominently-placed fuel and temperature gauges which are lit up with an effective bar type readout. Other information is available via an LCD screen located below the gauges, and which was a bit difficult to read in the bright sunlight.
Also located within eyeshot of the operator is a nifty holder housing the grease gun. Hopefully its location should encourage use on a regular basis.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
Before climbing aboard, I gave a couple of guys from the group an opportunity to try the machine out first. Both commented that it ran well, but one said he was a little uncomfortable with the sharpness of the slew reaction.
With their information noted, I had a stint at the controls. Now I know I've said this before about Takeuchi machines, and the TB215R was no different — it gave me a comfortable operating feeling almost immediately. My experience with the slew controls was OK, unlike the fellow who tried out the machine before me, but I did understand what he was saying.
I didn't use the TB215R for any hardcore digging, as I prefer to see how a machine copes with small fast movements, such as the task we'd set — raking the high spots out of the gravel driveway. Doing this probably seems like something nana would do if she was using the machine, as it doesn't exactly showcase sheer grunt or loading speed. Importantly though, simple tasks such as these show the dexterity and controllability of each particular machine because as each of us knows — the next job for a customer is judged by the finish of the previous one.
Something else I should mention is the blade. The comment was made that it was positioned quite close to the body of the machine and this was viewed as a positive, because it would reduce being caught up when traversing road kerbs, while still enabling the bucket to pull up against the blade.
All in all, the stint on the machine was a very positive one, made all the better by the low noise levels of the engine. I'm not sure what the decibels were but they sounded low down the scale and this was noticed by some of the onlookers.
If you are looking for a replacement mini excavator that seems near ideal for tight urban sites, then remember to add this one to your list of possibilities.
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