Nicholas Fluhart

March 26, 2012

Retreiving Ditch Witch R40

Filed under: Project: Ditch Witch,Trucks & Equipment — Nicholas Fluhart @ 8:52 pm

Recently my buddy Philip called and told me he had acquired an old Ditch Witch, and knowing my love for old iron and that I have a similar Ditch Witch, he thought I might come out and help him haul it home. It’s a 1970’s vintage R40 in surprisingly good condition considering it hasn’t run for a few years. I hooked a trailer to my truck and since the machine was close to his house, Philip drove his dad’s new John Deere tractor over to assist with loading.

This R40 is equipped with a rear trencher and a 4-way push blade for back filling. After reviewing the situation, we knew the first order of business was to raise the blade and trencher so we could tow the machine out to the gravel road for loading as the ground was much too soft to back the truck and trailer up to the machine where it sat. We disconnected the hydraulic line to the lift cylinder on the blade and used a come-along to winch it up.

Once the blade was up, we moved back to the trencher. The hydraulic line to the lift cylinder on the trencher had a quick-connect coupler, so it was easy to disconnect the line. I used the front-end loader on the tractor to raise the trencher while Philip held the fitting open so the hydraulic pressure could release. Once raised, we chained it up to the roll bar. Then we hitched the machine to the tractor and Philip towed it onto the road while I steered.

I then positioned my truck so we could load it up. Again, using the tractor, Philip pushed while I steered it up onto the trailer.

The trailer had a long tail on it, and given the weight of the machine when coming up the ramps, it provided enough leverage to raise the rear of my half-ton truck. Subsequently, the brake on the truck was of no affect and the truck skid a few feet as seen below.

Once secured, I set out on the road with the machine in tow. It was a weighty load for my small truck, but it handled the load just fine. Once we arrived at our destination, Philip used the tractor to pull the Ditch Witch off of the trailer as I steered.

We looked the machine over. First, I checked the normal wear points, such as any pivot pins, sprockets, teeth, etc., and overall, it is very straight and tight. It shows to have fewer than 2k hours, and the hour meter is functional. This seems to support my conclusions on the overall condition. In fact, the only wear I could really find on the machine was the tires, one of which is coming apart. The previous owner indicated that there was a drive problem, which is probably why it hasn’t been used in five or more years. We located a broken drive chain from the transmission to the drive components and rear hydraulic pump. That’s likely to be our drive problem and should be a fairly easy fix given there is nothing more serious that caused the chain to break. We then attempted to run the engine. We did actually get it to fire a few rounds, but only on two cylinders. The engine is the classic Wisconsin four-cylinder air cooled unit. Having set out in the weather for half a decade allowed for some moisture to get into the two rear cylinders and seize the valves. This should also be a relatively easy fix as long as the cylinders are in decent shape. Philip has already begun work on this his first equipment project.

I believe this machine would be a handy addition to a good equipment collection, or a start to one. Typically, you can rent a trencher cheaper than you can own one, but when the price is a bargain, like this one and like mine, it’s a good unit to have. The R40 is a sizable machine, about twice a big as my 2300. It has enough weight to easily handle the trencher, blade, and then some. It has provision on the front for a backhoe attachment, which includes the mounting points and the hydraulic hookups. The machine has hydraulic pump driven off the engine crankshaft, and it has a hydraulic motor on the transfer case that actually drive the wheels when the machine is in trencher mode. I think this is going to be a fun project and a fun machine for him.

Until next time…

UPDATE: See the project post for this machine here.

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