Review: Takeuchi TB215r mini excavator

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

Reviewer Evarn Covich recently received a phone call from a mate asking if he’d like to test his new 1.5-tonne Takeuchi TB215r mini-excavator. He didn’t have to be asked twice

Takeuchi -TB215r -mini -excavator

 

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My mate Nick was looking to update his excavator early next year as the old one was starting to show a few signs of wear and tear. He asked for my thoughts on what brands impressed me when it came to new machines I had tested and used in the past.

Having played on almost every brand of excavator over the past 30 years, I learnt in the last couple during testing that, when it comes to this type of machine, there doesn't really seem to be much difference in performance between manufacturers like there used to be in the past.

With this in mind I informed Nick that, since the machine will be his ‘office’ for the next three-to-five years, he should look more towards a machine which sports more of the functions and aftersales care he is looking for to make his time behind the controls more enjoyable.

Anyway, just over a week went by and I got another call from Nick to let me know he had broken an idler on his old machine. This must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Takeuchi -TB215r -mini -excavator

In with the new

After trying out a few different brands of machine which ticked most of his boxes, Nick informed me that he was now sporting a new 1.5-tonne Takeuchi TB215r on the back of his truck.

Now, Nick is a man who likes to thoroughly research anything that may lighten his wallet, so I was somewhat surprised when he told me there were a lot of specs but not much in the way of reviews online regarding the TB215r.

This actually concerned him enough to suggest that, even though this model of machine has been in production for a number of years, maybe I should try it out and put something together to help more people like him. Not one to disappoint, I readily accepted the challenge.

By the time I was able to finally view the machine it had already been in service for Nick’s Bobcat Hire for more than a month working around the Gold Coast area, and was already sporting a few bumps and bruises from some of the close encounters while working in tight areas. However, now that Nick already had bit of time in the driver’s seat, it did allow me to quiz him a little bit about the machine.

Takeuchi -TB215r -mini -excavator

Boom and bucket

I started my walkaround with the boom, which looks to be well made. As you would expect from a machine of this size, the grease nipples are all easily accessed from ground level. The boom lift ram cylinder is situated behind the boom in order to give more clearance and keep it well away from the line of fire of any projectiles or large objects protruding from the bucket.

The hydraulic hoses are also cleverly run through the inside of the boom to the individual ram cylinders, minimising the amount of hose exposure to the elements and foreign objects. I'm not sure how easy it would be to change one of the hydraulic hoses but I imagine they should have a pretty good lifespan. They also have a protective cover over them for added peace of mind.

This particular machine was purchased with an aftermarket tilt hitch from Norm Engineering that looks to be quite a compact yet sturdy unit. It has a working range of 180 degrees and a set of buckets from SRS Attachments, which also appears to be well made and rather heavy duty for the size of machine it’s fitted to.

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Engine

The machine, powered by a 3-cylinder Yanmar 3TNV70 engine producing 10.9kW (14.6hp), is neatly tucked away under the driver’s seat. The battery, radiator, header bottle, oil level and various filters are accessed through the rear door, while air filter and hydraulic oil sight glass are located through a flap under the driver’s seat. To me everything seemed to be easily accessible but I still wouldn't be too keen to stick my hands in there while the engine is hot.

 

Tracks

The expandable track frame can be adjusted by pushing down with your right heel on a small lever located near the floor (to bypass the blade function) and use the blade controller to operate the track adjustment which ranges from a width of 980mm to 1300mm.

This feature can make all the difference when negotiating the machine through narrow gateways or having to dismantle a whole section of fence to gain access to some of these ever-decreasing worksite areas.

The expandable tracks can also be quite beneficial while working in boggy conditions where sometimes you might need to change the machine’s footprint in order to gain better traction, especially if the machine’s 205mm of ground clearance isn't quite cutting it.

Takeuchi -TB215r -mini -excavator

Dozer blade

This particular machine is fitted with the optional extended dozer blade that protrudes around 300mm further out than a standard blade past the end of the tracks.

Nick claims he quite likes this setup as it provides additional counterweight when working on awkward sites, and he is also able to jack the tracks up higher when working on slopes.

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In the cab

The canopy covering the operator work station is ROPS and FOPS rated with two work lights recessed at the top front. Another work light was situated on the boom but this has been removed to reduce damage that may be caused working in tight areas.

The climb onto the driver’s seat is fairly easy. With the safety lever engaged, the left-hand control is tucked up well out of the way, requiring only a small step onto the track and then another into the workstation and onto a seat that easily accommodates my ample girth and feels comfortable to sit on.

The control levers were comfortable to hold and, along with the conveniently placed armrests under the forearms, made for a good operating setup. The right-hand lever has a couple of buttons situated on top in order to control the electric-over-hydraulic tilt hitch, which I personally prefer much more than operating the tilt through foot controls.

There are also two foot controls positioned on the floor: the right-hand one operates the boom pivot and the left-hand one operates auxiliary attachments. The tramming levers have small bars attached near the bottom between the foot controls to help when tramming with your feet. Unfortunately there is not much room to operate these with my size 10 boots and I found it almost impossible to use them to tram the machine backwards. A button conveniently situated on the right-hand lever provides easy access to control the tramming mode between rabbit and turtle modes.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent as one would expect from a machine this size. You only need to lean in any particular direction to get a good view around the machine, and the poles for the canopy don't cause any concern when it comes to vision either.

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On the job

I cranked the machine into life and immediately set out for the back of the block where we were performing our test. The plan was to dig a trench near the boundary line for Nick to plant some bamboo to help create a screen from neighbours.

Although the site had a slight slope, the grade wasn’t steep enough to test the machine’s climbing capabilities to its full extent. However, I did find the machine was able to traverse the slope we were working on with ease and at a good speed.

As I set about digging, I quickly found that, although the ground that we were working was very dry, it was quite hard with a lot of tree roots running through it, which had the machine working harder than usual at times.

I found the bucket break-out force seemed to be superior to the break-out force encountered through the arm, especially when digging through the tree roots. Once I found a happy medium, though, I was able to dig the trench at a good pace with minimal bucket stall.

Although the machine felt quite smooth and responsive, while final trimming at full revs I found that when I powered the mini excavator down slightly I was able to achieve a neater cut without compromising too much in the way of speed. I'm sure spending a bit more time on the machine would negate the use of lowering the revs, though the practice can be a good fuel-saving technique.

The aftermarket Norm Engineering tilt hitch seemed to perform well under some of the harder digging conditions.

There wasn't any sign of the hitch trying to pivot by itself, even when digging the harder ground or breaking out some of the tougher tree roots. The hitch seemed to move at an optimum speed, which makes adjusting the tilt angle while digging feel smooth and effortless through the use of the electric-over-hydraulic push button thumb controls located in the operating lever.

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The bottom line

Although this model of machine has been on the market for a number of years now, Takeuchi still seems to leave some of the competition behind with simple innovations like positioning the lift ram on the back of the boom, or running hydraulic hoses through the boom to minimise unwanted damage or wear and tear.

The provision of three hydraulic service ports as standard also helps with machine setup, mitigating the need to pay for aftermarket piping in order to run auxiliary attachments such as quick coupler or tilt hitch. This was one of the key points that helped Nick with his decision to purchase this machine.

I found the Takeuchi TB215r comfortable to operate, only lacking a bit of legroom – which is to be expected with a machine this size. The digging power, speed and fluency were all good for a machine its size and reach has been enhanced by around 300mm with the tilt hitch extending this digger’s reach to around four metres at ground level.  

Tramming around sites is made quite swift with a rabbit speed of 4.2km/h and a turtle speed of 2.2km/h. The width adjusting tracks are also an important item when it comes to working on restricted access sites.

Nick did mention that at times he is faced with work areas where a zero-swing machine would be ideal and, even though this restricted swing machine only slightly protrudes over the side of the tracks, it can be awkward to negotiate in some of the tight areas that he often encounters. However, he says he always manages to work around things to get the job done.

I like that the machine itself is quite basic with only your standard control levers, tramming levers, foot pedals, blade control lever, and a small throttle control lever situated in the operator’s work station. There is a small LCD screen showing fuel and temperature and a few switches for the quick coupler and lights etc.

Overall, I feel the TB215r is an operator’s machine. By that I mean it doesn't have any of the computer-assisted tricks some machines do to help the operator make a better job. The skill of the operators themselves will determine the outcome of the job.

 

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