When I bought my tractor last summer, I didn’t want to say anything until I had actually used it. Now that I have put 80 hours on my new John Deere 4310, I wanted to just let the world know how it has performed. While I do have a bias toward loving it, and have dreamed of owning one all of my life, I will try to be fair and balanced in my review.
What I needed to do
After moving away from the city last year, Amanda and I bought a nice little place in Rough and Ready, CA, just outside Grass Valley. The view is beautiful, on a hilltop overlooking the town of Penn Valley. The lot is 5.3 acres (the smallest in the 8 parcel subdivision), with half of the land fairly level and half rolling off the side of the hill. The house is situated on the level part, not quite backing the hillside, so we could put in a nice little backyard. Since we are getting married, we had decided to spend the money landscaping the backyard and have the wedding at the house. That is coming up on May 21st, I am happy to share. The upside was that nothing was done as far as landscaping, the down side was that nothing was down as far as landscaping. Since all of our soil is hard clay, we were going to be importing quite a bit of topsoil/sand/etc to make our land arable. We also wanted to do a bit of terra forming, and thus the excuse to get the tractor was born.
What I bought
Tractor- 4310 4WD with hydrostatic drive and top-and-tilt option for full automatic 3 point hitch adjustment
Front-end Loader (420)
Box Scraper (Woods 4×2)
The tractor is set up very well ergonomically, and the push button four wheel drive is a godsend. You don’t want to be in 4WD when making a tight turn (or else the turn won’t be so tight and you will be buying new tires more often than necessary), but you do need it when pulling a full load with the scraper, for instance.
With the hydrostatic drive, you hardly ever use the brakes, since letting off of the directional pedal (separate pedals for forward and reverse) will slow the tractor down immediately. No coasting to a stop anymore. This is very useful to increase cycle times, such as moving a lot of material with the front-end loader.
The rest of the controls are in easy reach, and the seat and steering wheel are fully adjustable. It even has cruise control, for those times when you want a constant speed (just tilling for me).
I chose the 32hp size to make sure that I had enough power and weight to do the jobs that I needed to have done. I think the salesman is correct: “You will never regret getting a bigger tractror”. If I had gone with the residential size tractors, I would have ended up with a glorified lawn mower on my property, because it takes the full weight of the tractor (3000 pounds) to move any of the soil from its position on this property.
The backhoe was an absolute must have for the amount of landscaping that we had to do. With it, digging holes for 5 gallon, 15 gallon, and 24 inch box trees was an easy task, even with the 50% clay/50% granite mix of the soil. We made sure to dig all of the holes double oversized, so that we could put good soil back into the holes, to help the tree out health-wise. Since we planted 3 dozen trees, and the tractor still only has 80 hours on it, the investment was well worth it. Keep in mind that a backhoe attachment for any tractor will be the most expensive thing you buy. That is the reason most people don’t get it. But it is worth every penny. The other day, my 82 year old neighbor asked if I could come down and remove two dead trees. “No problem” I said, and headed down the road. He met me out in his little orchard, and in 5-6 minutes, I had removed both trees, and filled the holes back in. One tree came out with the very first bucket! Needless to say, my neighbor now loves me to death, and it only cost me 15 minutes to keep up the neighborly relations. I tend to refuse payment for any tractor work that I do for neighbors, with two exceptions: repayment in things like refueling and washing it, and barter for something else. Cash doesn’t need to trade hands because I enjoy playing (working) on it so much.
The bad, the ugly
With the hydrostatic drive and the 3 speed transmission, the gearing is just not low enough for the hillside that I live on. I think it is set up perfectly for flat land, but the hills are just too much. Consequently, if there is nothing I can do to lower the gear ratios, I would buy a standard transmission if I were to do it again.
The parking brake light is hooked to a switch that is activated by the brake pedals. This light goes on and off at its own whim, and seems to not work, even though I have attempted to fix it several times. It only bothers me for two reasons, one that the tractor is new and shouldn’t have any problems like this, and two, anyone else who uses the tractor thinks that the brake is on, and spends minutes trying to figure out how to turn it off.
The scaper model that I bought is one size too big for the tractor, so the 3 point hitch is always trying to re-raise it when the tractor is just sitting with the scraper lifted in the air. Although this is non-optimal, the extra weight of the larger model is necessary for the tough clay soil here, so I would leave this as-is.
The tractor seems a bit top-heavy on the hillside, moreso than I would like. I don’t know what I could do to compensate for this (I believe that the tires are already loaded with water). I guess I just have to learn to live with it. A wider stance would have been great, but I don’t think you will find an option for that in this portion of the market.
Switching implements between the 3 point hitch and the backhoe is a genuine pain-in-the-ass. I have started to look around for things that need finishing with the current implement before I consider switching. I really wish this could be made easier, but I think the fact that the backhoe really needs to attach to the tractor frame for strength is going to keep this particular problem from being completely solved.
I noted that the size was a good thing, well it is also a bad thing. In certain instances, I really wish I had a larger tractor (lifting that 1500 pound boulder, digging up that 1500 pound boudler, etc). This is really more of an inconvenience than anything else, but just remember to size the tractor for the largest job that you need to do, not just the average job.
Overall, I am happy with my purchase and use of the tractor. I tend to use it almost every weekend for one thing or another around the house. It is too big to mow the lawn, but I can live with that I would also say that you will not be disappointed with the purchase of a John Deere 4310, just keep in mind what I said about transmission selection. That is the one thing that I really would change if I could. If you have any questions about the tractor, please don’t hesitate to post a comment here on the site, and I will answer as soon as possible.
Note to self, don’t post 2 pictures side-by-side in HTML. It looks a bit funky.