VIDEO: Takeuchi TB153FR

A few months back, Hibiscus Coast contractor, Bryan Hodges purchased a Takeuchi TB153FR excavator. We met up with him to see how the machine was performing.

For those unfamiliar with the region, the Hibiscus Coast is located approximately 30 minutes north of Auckland and is made up of a number of small settlements, including the ever-expanding Silverdale area. The area was once a coastal holiday destination, which had a mixture of farm and bush areas. Now it is steadily being consumed by urban sprawl and as a result is something of a big-boy's machinery play pit.

Bryan Hodges (Hodgi) has been around the contracting game for years, and started out on his own in the mid-90's doing a variety of work including bus stop replacements around the Auckland region. These days he'll more than likely be doing anything he can shake a digger control at, as far north as Warkworth and anywhere in between.

He tells me he quickly came to appreciate the benefits of short tail swing machines when working within the tight confines of bus stop replacement work, and purchased his first Takeuchi to help with these jobs. Now in 2013, he is onto Takeuchi number four. He says he was a little apprehensive about purchasing a TB153FR, as it features a different type of boom configuration and setup to his previous models. Even after a test drive Hodgi still pondered the purchase, until a friend offered him a slice of wisdom, suggesting that he needed to move with technological advances and be at the forefront of machinery development. Taking this advice on board, he purchased the machine shortly thereafter.

On the day we meet, the weather gods are having a lunch break between rain storms and this has given Hodgi and his Takeuchi the opportunity to swap out some 225 diameter concrete pipes with larger 600 diameter polypropylene ones. Today's job is a small part of the larger protection project he has undertaken on this 30 acre block over the past while to alleviate flood concerns of the land owner.

While it's a fairly straight forward looking project, the pipes are located reasonably deep, and this is where the Takeuchi TB153FR starts to come into its own, with its adjustable one-piece, side-shifting boom system. Being able to move the arm into a number of different configurations, the machine is able to remain in one place longer, reducing the need to move the machine along the edges of the trench as often as a traditional excavator might need to.


Hitting the scales at 5650kg, the front and rear zero tail swing, rubber tracked TB153FR is of a size that puts it within the realms of being easily carried on a four- or six-wheeler truck, but big enough to load out honourable quantities of material when required.

With a standard arm the machine has a maximum digging depth of almost 3.4 metres, and an impressive dump height of over 3.7 metres. Its biggest feature in my opinion is the arm configuration, which allows a range of horizontal movement across the width of the machine and in one setup allows the bucket to be pulled in alongside the cab. This means that a truck can pull up within millimetres of the machine and be easily loaded. A feature such as this must be a huge benefit for tight jobs and the sites developers shoehorn houses onto nowadays.

For those worried about the bucket being accidentally pulled into the cab, they can breathe easily as this is prevented from happening by a clever system of limit switches and relays that also keeps the digger arm safely away from the cab, no matter what configuration it is operating in.


Powering the machine is a four-cylinder direct injection diesel engine that puts out 28.8kW (38.6hp), with maximum torque 131.8 ~ 143.4Nm. Access to daily checks is via the rear-lifting hood, with the entire cab being able to be tilted forward after two bolts are removed if anything more dramatic is needed. According to Takeuchi, the FR Series (Zero swing Front and Rear) engine is designed to meet most exhaust emission standards and provides significantly reduced noise levels. The engine also features a clever emergency shutdown/return-to-idle system for extra safety protection.


For a machine of this size my 183cm frame felt quite comfortable inside the cab. However like all machines where space is at a premium, I would never be able to stretch my legs out directly in front of me if I was on a slow job. The seat felt well designed which aided comfort levels. The controls feature good wrist rests that definitely help with keeping on top of those jobs that sort a real operator out from a wannabe. The buttons on the control sticks (one of which controls the revs), are numerous with spare buttons available for attachments.


I was keen to give the machine a try, as I had heard good things about this particular excavator. Someone had told me that these units are 'a small machine with a big machine feel'. After trying it out I had to agree – it had a solid feel to everything I did with it.

One of the things I tried out was scratching up spoil with the blade raised off the ground, as this is a common task and one that will quickly get an unchecked zero tail swing machine bucking like a bronco. To my surprise, the excavator hardly budged and provided a steady work platform despite the arm being at full reach.

As I was operating the machine in a fairly restricted environment, I didn't have the opportunity to crank the revs up and give it a test with loading product, however I was able to try the arm out in different positions and with the added tilt-bucket, the work was definitely a lot easier than I would have otherwise expected. This all adds up to increased productivity in the real world.

One of the first things Bryan Hodges asked me after I stepped off the machine was whether I thought it was intuitive to operate, to which I quickly replied in the affirmative. Indeed, it was user-friendly to operate and everything I reached for was where I instinctively expected it to be.

For a relatively small machine, it has a big future in front of it. I'm sold.

Takeuchi TB153FR

Machine weight

5650 kg


4 cyl, direct injection




28.8kW (38.6hp)



Fuel tank capacity





(transport) 5330mm





Rear slew radius


Track speed

2.7 – 5.7km/h

Operating range


Max dig depth


Max vert dig depth


Max dump height


Max dig height


Max dig radius


Max bucket offset

RH – 825mm


LH – 720mm

Pump type

2 x variable + 2 x gear

For more information about this machine contact NZ Equipment Group, phone 0800 959 959.

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