Review of The Bobcat T650 Compact Track Loader
As an owner of two previous Bobcat front end loaders (one sold, still have one) and in need of a machine that could perform well on a big job, clearing an overgrown lot to make a horse pasture, I decided to demo the T650. I had other tasks I needed to accomplish also so a purchase was not at all out of the question. In the end I shocked myself by buying this excellent machine even after a mishap that would have sent most would-be buyers running elsewhere.
My thinking on the T650 was it would be a compliment to the smaller Bobcat I already own. I had my needs for working in tight spaces, spreading materials and doing small miscellaneous tasks covered, but power and stability were issues that surfaced repeatedly. For larger jobs a much bigger machine like the T650 might be the ticket.
The T650: One Powerful Machine!
I'd been putting off: clearing a multiple-acre woodsy area containing 3-5" diameter trees, lots of smaller saplings and brush with the intention of making it ready to seed for a horse pasture. I own a Bobcat 463 which is one of the smallest machines Bobcat ever made- 25 horsepower with a 44" bucket, 700 lbs. operating capacity- and it didn't seem like it was up to such a massive task so I had Bobcat bring out the T650 with a tooth bucket to demo for about 4 hours. I saw it for the first time when they pulled up and I was impressed with both its design and looks. It would also be the first time I ran a track loader as all my previous experience was with much smaller wheel machines.
After a short tutorial on starting the loader the salesman left me to my own devices. I did like that the loader controls operated like my other machines so there was zero learning curve.
At first I was a bit disappointed as the smallest brush wasn't clearing out as easily as I hoped and remarked to a friend on site that the machine had less power than I expected. Boy was I wrong. Not long after starting I encountered a huge mound of dirt with some larger 8 inch trees in it. The machine's 74.3 Horsepower and 9,444 lbs. of operating weight combined to make short work of both the dirt and trees in impressive fashion. It also easily pushed huge piles of brush and saplings from one end of the site to the other.
The shortcomings of my 463- lack of traction in muddy conditions, poor stability on slopes, lack of digging power- were all readily adressed by the T650 with stellar performance in all three areas.
The whipped cream on the sundae was the optional heat and air conditioning package. It was about 6 degrees outside yet the heat was too warm, if anything.
The downfall at that point was the fact that small saplings easily lodged in the space between the bucket and hydraulic cylinder. I also discovered a stick up inside the engine compartment. But overall I was happy with the first 4 hours of operation and decided to purchase it. Purchase price was $51,400 plus $1,355 for the tooth bucket. Not cheap but you get what you pay for....if you want world class equipment and service it comes with a world class price tag, lol.
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The Bad Thing
It was about 6.7 hours into operation, after agreeing to purchase, that the real bad thing happened. I went to lift the boom to drop a load of dirt and the glass door exploded all over me. Disaster!
Fortunately I hadn't yet signed off yet so I had plenty of leverage but I didn't need to use it, Bobcat offered to replace the door at their cost. Once again, you get the service you pay for.
I found out later that glass breakage is not something that happens every day but one operator told me he'd broken two glass doors on his machine since purchase a couple years ago and seemed to think it was no big deal. It can happen due to excess pressure on the windshield from sticks and such and the glass is more easily broken in cold weather. Note that the machine can be operated without the door; naturally, the heat doesn't work quite so well without the window, lol. Typical replacement cost of a broken windshield is about $500-$700. Note that this job was a bit unusual and the right attachments might have minimized the stick vulnerability. I used a tooth bucket. Next time I'll go with a brush hog and landscape rake.
Bottom line: It's a powerful machine I highly recommend if the application is principally larger jobs. If you are purchasing, be sure to get the heat/air conditioning package, the increase in productivity makes it a no brainer.
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Bobcat T650 Specs
Tipping Load: 7343 lbs
Operating Capacity: (50% of Tip): 3670 lbs
Operating Weight: 9440 lbs
Ground Presssure: 5.8 psi
Length: 108.4 in
Width: 72.9 in
Height: 81.3 in
HP: 74.3 HP
Turbocharged: YES (significantly increases HP to as much as 110HP)
Fuel: Diesel with 27 gallon tank
New Holland: Nice But No Match
By the way, I also tried out a New Holland (at the dealer's lot, not on the jobsite). For me, it made the decision to go with Bobcat an easy one, mainly because the controls were counter-intuitive and awkward to use. Note that the reason for this may have been my previous Bobcat ownership; the new Bobcat joysticks and foot pedals worked the same way as my older Bobcat machines: a zero learning curve. I felt this fact would be a huge plus when transferring between my small machine and the T650. If you have never owned a loader before, this won't be an issue but if you have, it's something to seriously consider.
I also thought back to things I've heard about New Holland being in the repair shop a lot and contrasted that with my two previous Bobcats, neither one of which ever needed to go back to Bobcat for repair throughout years of operation, running reliably with only self-maintenance and minor self service repair work .
The New Holland was several thousand $ cheaper. And dollars in your pocket is a great thing, but over the long run that's not a significant enough advantage to justify sacrificing reliability and feeling comfortable with the machine.
List of Repairs on my T650
As noted above, my other two Bobcat skidsteers never spent a day in the shop. Besides the shattered glass door this T650 machine has suffered a hydro leak repaired under warranty at about 100 hours.
A second glass door breakage occurred at about 150 hours.
A second hydro leak on a hose going to the Bob Attach mechanism was experienced at about 225 hours. Due to time constraints I repaired this one myself by running a new hydraulic hose made at at a nearby hydraulic shop, up through the lift arm via a rope I had pulled through the arm, tied to the original hose as it was removed. Cost was about $80 for that repair.
A third hydraulic leak happened near the right wheel motor at about 375 hours. I was able to run on it by adding oil frequently but it finally worsened to the point I had to take it to Bobcat for repair. Surprisingly, the repair manager called a few days later to say the entire repair was completed under warranty, I didn't owe a dime. That in spite of the fact the warrantly clearly covers only manufacturer defects and they could have said anything. So score a huge honesty point for the fantastic repair team at Bobcat of Nashville!
T650 Tilt Spool Lock Fix
I've also had two problems with selenoids going bad on the T650. The fix was easy and cost nithing in one case. The other was another story.
The "tilt spool lock short to ground" code came up which locked the bucket making the machine inoperable. By lifting the cab and cleaning damp dirt from around the selenoids the short was removed. About a year later the T650 threw a hydraulic lock code which did the same but cleaning didn't help. A Bobcat repairman came out same day within two hours at a $150 trip charge + labor + the part and fixed the problem, a hairline crack in a different selenoid from the one that had mudded up a year earlier. This one had corroded. The repair bill was over $400 but the Bobcat company accounts clerk actually called me prior to sending it and negotiated the bill slightly downward to help me out (what company does that?). Once again, fantastic service all around.
This machine certainly has been less reliable than my previous Bobcats; however, it is a powerful machine that does heavier duty work than the others did and I tend to push it hard. Perhaps more downtime goes with living in that space so at this point I think no less of the brand or the machine. But I do think a lot more of the Bobcat of Nashville service techs and service team!
There Are Plenty of Attachments Available for the T650
There are over 50 different attachments available and approved by Bobcat for the T650 including pallet forks, snow blades, stumpgrinders, harley rake (landscape rake)...well, here's a list:
6 Different Material Handling Buckets
Forks - Utility
Grapple - Farm
Grapple - Industrial
Grapple - Root
Hi Flow Planers
Pallet Forks, Hydraulic
Having learned my lesson, my advice is to go easy on buying attachments even if you're in business because they may not be as useful or as popular as you assumed and they'll still be in your payment each month. I sold the auger attachment and bits for my smaller machine at a loss after using it only a handful of times over two years. Instead, rent them and if you start renting one attachment enough to justify owning it, pull the trigger then. Another factor to consider: if you're going to transport the machine anywhere purchase a trailer large enough to accommodate both the machine and the attachments you intend to use or you may find yourself making two trips, taking a second truck or some other equally horrific workaround.
Bobcat Battery 667986 - Won't Start? Check your battery!
At two years and six months of operation I hit the start button and the machine promptly died. It has the keyless start where you hit run, enter your secret code, enter, then start. The machine dies if it senses a voltage drop anywhere in the battery system.
You can get it to start by using a jumpstarter or charger. Be sure to read your manual before jumping or charging as the recommended points are on the selenoid and motor frame, not the battery itself. Jum,ping will get it to run but eventually you must fix it.
Clean the battery terminals. I discovered the Bobcat number 667986 battery that is factory installed in most T650 loaders has two plastic caps that cover six cells. If you've never added water to the battery the cells are probably dry. Purchase one gallon of distilled water, add to just bel;ow the top of the cell leaving room for the cap. Then charge the battery (12 volts) and take it to get tested. Chances are it will show good and ready to re-install. If not you'd berst buy a new one. Figure on spending about $110 to $$185.