I've used 4 wheelers in the past with other surveying companies that I worked for. When I went out on my own I bought a Max IV 6 wheeler amphibious atv. I have been extremely pleased with how well suited it is for a survey crew. It's got some years on it and I'm considering buying a Kawasaki Mule. I'm curious if there's any surveyors out there that have used one for field work and wanted to discuss the pros & cons of their usefulness to our unique profession. Anyone got anything to say? I know surveyors are usually not very opinionated. I thought maybe y'all would make an exception to help a fella out. Thanks in advance. West TN Surveyor
This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network
I mainly survey in a rural situation and have used quads when surveying before and found them to be really useful - mainly for GPS surveys and mostly when using multiple parties on the same job in remote areas (same base with multiple rovers). Good for broadacre surveys of farming land, although with the narrow track width it did tend to throw the receiver around a bit so a solid mount on the quad is a must.
Having said that, the quad also spent a lot of time "in the shed" not being used. I don't have them now as I find that I do not have the use for them any more but I would encourage you to get one if you can use it, you will recover the cost pretty quickly, and besides they are great fun!
Thank you for taking time to reply.
Thanks. I'll check that out.
Thank you for the input. I appreciate your time.
I'm thinking it's going to depend what type of terrain you plan on working in. We use a four wheeler most of the time. We have a 4 seat UTV that will haul all of our gear no problem, but the problem with it is navigating thru creeks that have steep ascents/descents is a problem due to ground clearance with the longer wheelbase. Plus the fact that if the four wheeler gets stuck or rolls over, it's light enough that the rider can lift or move it. Low hanging branches is an issue with our ATV with the windshield and top on it, but we mainly use cattle trails to navigate.
Just adding my 50 cents worth to this discussion. 2 cents would not have been enough. In 2008 I began thinking about using a 4wheeler of some type that...
1) Was cost effective
4) Easy to operate
5) Had enough power
6) Was easy to get in and out of.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well, after seeing what the market had to offer I came to this conclusion and this is my result based on 7 years of experience using a Kawasaki Mule.
To me it is the ultimate field crew machine for a variety of reasons. It has its limitations but hey, Clint Eastwood always said "a man has to know his limitations." If you are looking for a four wheel field machine for deep mud, large ruts and hard terrain this is probably not for you. But I have found this, using this very dependable and reliable machine can save thousands of steps.over the long haul. We used our brains and thought through the process before buying.
The short wheel base version (Kawasaki 410) has only one seat but it is a bench seat. There are no restrictive bars or gear shift sticks to maneuver around. No climbing in and out so that at the end of the day you head straight to the ER with bruises galore. Instead the machine is at the right height so sliding into the seat from either side is both easy and comfortable. Granted the ground clearance is only about 12" in most scenarios no more than that is needed. As I said before, if you are looking for the Boss Hog of machines to go anywhere this is not the one. But for every day surveying on rural boundary or topo surveys there is no better machine. The battery for the machine is located under the seat which folds up for access. It also has a real hood in front that opens for storage (NOTE: Kabota machines while dependable have no storage under their hood at all (I looked) and Hondas thought also very dependable have harder access to get in and out.). The steel frame over the cab is strong and easy to attach lights or top to. We placed a plastic top from Kawasaki on it and is great.
A significant problem arose the first few months I used the machine though, in that sometimes it seemd to be hard to start like it was having a compression problem. I figure it out when a friend of mine who also had the same problem noticed his mule doing the same thing. As it turns out there are ventilation tube openings on the steel cab frame that allows the engine to get air. But if for any reason the mule is turned backward on a trailer while being transported the air is too much and forced fuel into the crankcase, hence, high compression. The fix required only a draining of the oil, refill and turn the machine forward only when traveling. In addition we installed a cut off valve in the fuel line and have had zero problems since.
The engine is tough and tops in with two people at around 28 mph. Four wheel drive has had no problems and works well. I have only had it stuck one time that required being pulled out and that was user fault for try to cross a deep creek with it.
As for as practical surveying it is great. I had a sheet metal shop custom build a tool box for me. It is placed in the back bed and bolted down but can be removed easily. Being made from sheet metal is great, strong and durable. We had it coated with bedliner material so it is cool in summer and in winter. The tools (survey equipment boxes) are easy to use, have a place for everything so it is impossible to place the wrong tool in the wrong box. When the instrument man steps out of the mule and turns around the total station case is at waist height and easy to open. Tripods and range poles go in separate boxes with a cargo net to keep them from falling out. Installed a slow moving sign on rear of cab for easy visibility by traffic, We keep radios, file folders, shonstedt, binoculars and other tools in the front hood.
On the front we installed a remote control winch that is not often used for pulling us out but great for getting logs and other debri out of a path so we can pass through.
Maintenance is very easy on this machine except replacing headlight bulbs which takes a little effort. Oil and filters easy to change. Tire need to be maintained daily. Maximum of ten pounds pressure or risk blowout. For a two man crew this machine is ideal. We haul it on a 12 foot long trailer. NOTE: Be sure to know the laws for these type machines for your state. In Texas DPS frowns only on use on highways although they will permit use on ROWs. Here we have to make sure we cross the chains at the hitch before going onto a public road. This alows support for the trailer in the event a trailer comes loose and fals. THe overlapped chain forms and cradle so the tongue of the trailer does not hit the ground.
In closing, with a 4 gallon gas tank that will easily runs 7-10 days before refueling and only about 900 lbs of weight, this machine will have you going in no time. My grandkids just want to ride on it even though it is my work machine. a final thought would be to consider a two seat version which has all the same amenities but with a longer turn radius. For taking clients to remote places to look at property it would be great. In the future I will buy more Kawasaki Mules because their tract records is proven. Any other questions please feel free to contact me. Love helping others. So many have helped me become a better surveyor!
PS I have pics if anyone wants to see how our comes equipped!
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Thank you for the thorough review. All these comments have been great. I went ahead and bought the machine I was looking at. The crew says it is spoiling them. I hope to see years of good operation out of it.