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Buyer's Guide: Top tips on buying a used square baler

Looking for high-capacity large square baling output with sensible running costs and low depreciation?


Then a Hesston-built MF machine could prove a sensible choice. James Pavey of Big Bale Co (South) shows Geoff Ashcroft around a 10-year-old MF2190...


Massey Ferguson’s 2100-series balers first arrived in the UK 10 years ago, with a six-model range offering bale chamber sizes of 80 by 70cm for the MF2140 four-string up to 120 by 125cm for the flagship MF2190 six-string baler.


Replacing the 2000-series, the 2100 proved to be a range which operators had been waiting for, as James Pavey, Big Bale Co (South) workshop manager, explains.


“Durability was improved, reliability was boosted and build quality really stood out when the 2100-series arrived, and the 2200-series which replaced it has built on this reputation,” he says.

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“We have seen users lengthen ownership from changing every three years, to changing every five, and we have recently seen one owner with a 10-year-old 2100-series model coming up for replacement.”


However, like many machines, he warns models can suffer at the hands of operators who just feel the need to get on.


And this is where the specialist knowledge and in-field experience of Big Bale Co (South) – which has continued to sell, service and hire the Hesston-derived baler range for more than 30 years – comes into its own.


The 2100-series’ common platform design saw shared components and design cues use throughout the range. All models were IsoBus-ready, and used an integral hydraulic system to exert bale chamber pressure at the rear of the machine.


Model changes were minimal during production, though factory-supported modifications did reinforce areas which needed attention during the baler’s lifetime.


Our 2009-model MF2190 example features an optional tandem following axle and roller chute. With 45,000 bales under its belt, it is priced at £41,000.



Powertrain and driveline is robust, but there are areas which need to be checked, not only when buying but also during use.


“It starts with greasing the pto shaft tubes, so the shaft can slide easily under full-load,” says Mr Pavey.


“Users often overlook this and the shaft-support plate can start to crack if the pto tubes are not adequately lubricated.”


Release the flywheel’s band-brake and wriggle the flywheel with a pry bar to check for wear on the bearing. This can be shimmed to reduce excessive play, and frequent shear bolt breakages point towards too much movement in the flywheel.


“Shim kits are available and we have developed our own specific thicknesses to avoid stacking thin shims which can easily be damaged during installation, or when the flywheel bolt fails,” he says.


Check the main gearbox’s lower mounting. Many will have been strengthened to better resist fatigue and failure. Should the mounting plate fail, the gearbox will be shoved out the front of the baler as the plate failure makes it easier to push the gearbox than the plunger.


Push grease through the con-rod bearings and look at the colour of what comes out.


“Grease should be clean, it should not smell burned and it should not look glittery,” he says. “If it does, bearing failure is not far away.”

Typical MF2100 series baler prices

2012, MF2160, single axle, 22,500 bales, £51,000

2010, MF2190, single axle, £43,000

2009, MF2190, twin axle, 45,000 bales, £41,000

2008, MF2170, single axle, 44,000 bales, £35,000



A 2.6-metre pickup makes the most of feeding the stuffer box as part of the pre-compression process.


Pay attention to the pickup’s mounting points on the chassis, as many have been strengthened during their life.


Likewise, with the right-hand side bearing mounting for the stuffer fork’s crank. This is also prone to cracking and could have been fitted with a strengthening plate. The crank’s near-side packer bearing can also take a lot of lateral load from the pickup from an over-zealous operator.


Mr Pavey says: “If the baler has been bulldozing into the swath, the load has to go somewhere, so look for a stretched bearing flange on the crank’s nearside packer bearing.


“Going slower can put more wads into a bale and create a denser package, and give the baler an easier time.”




Check tines, stripper plates, stuffer fork bearings and linkages – the latter need a good tug to feel for play.


The central unit is the hardest to grease and its taper roller bearings are likely to have received less grease than those either side of it.


Model: MF2190 (as featured)

Bale size: 120cm by 125cm by up to 2.5m

Pickup width: 2.6m

Tying: six, double knotters

Twine capacity: 30 balls

Weight: 10,500kg

Controls: IsoBus, GTA and C1000 terminals, automatic density control

Tractor requirements: one double acting spool, from 200hp

Hydraulic system: Self-contained



Sitting up top of the MF2190’s chamber is a six-knotter set-up, using double-tying. Knotters get auto-greasing, which was extended to include drive chains and pickup chains on later 2200-series models.


Inspect everything carefully and compare positions and settings on adjacent knotters, looking for signs of misalignment and wear. Misshaped stripper arms and flat spots on bill hook rollers will all lead to trouble and a drop in performance and reliability.


Mr Pavey says: “This is one area where it really is worth involving a specialist to check and service the knotters each year, to ensure peak performance and reliability ahead of the season.”


A hydraulic powered axial fan sits in front of the knotter deck and blasts air through the components to keep debris away from the intricacies of tying string.




Inspect the string tensioners too, to prevent trouble with tension.


Knotters are activated by a cam-drive on the left side and excess wear will cause the drive to slip, leading to interference between the plunger and needles.


Pickup tine: £5.10

Flywheel shearbolt 10-pack: £28.50

Bill hook: £99.75

Stripper arm: £121

Knotter head assembly: £1170

Bale trip arm: £366.52

Needle: £398

Waffle plate: £203



The 2190’s plunger sits on four bearings; two either side, outside the chamber. Pop the bearing caps off to access the grease nipples at the start of each season and inspect the condition of the bearings.


With the plunger locked, inspect the bale chamber for damage, paying particular attention to the fixed hay dogs on the bottom face of the chamber.


Mr Pavey says: “When they wear thin, the lower hay dogs become weak and can bend, closing the gap the needles travel through. This can affect needle retraction and increases the chance of interference with the plunger.


“Check the linkages and connections of the bale density rams and cast an eye over the hydraulic system,” he says.


The 2100-series uses an open-centre hydraulic system with a fixed displacement gear pump. And Mr Pavey warns there is no relief on the hydraulic pump, so do not be tempted to dead-end one.




“While density control is automatic, once set, the filter and its head can struggle with flow and pressure from the gear pump. It is why many balers will have been fitted with a filter bypass kit. This relieves pressure on the filter assembly and helps lower the oil temperature.


Mr Pavey says: “With a leaf-blower and a coverall, it is easy to open up the guards and blow-down the baler every night, making the following day’s greasing a pain-free, and relatively tidy task. This also provides an opportunity to cast an eye over components.”

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