Mule on tracks

March 3, 2014

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On Saturday Kijiji showed a photo of a 2013 Kawasaki Mule 410 Trans equipped with tracks at Weagant Farm Supply in Brockville. I resolved to have a look. Monday dawned -22C and clear. What better day to test how a Mule starts than a sub zero morning? With any luck I’d get to drive the tracked one in snow, as well. I’d read that vehicles need power steering to turn successfully with tracks mounted. The Mule 410 Trans has electric steering assist standard. That’s a thousand-dollar option on other brands.

I kidded John MacDonald about creating a “halo” Mule to improve sales: people like me would come in to see how well the thing handles deep snow, then buy a Mule on regular wheels with the mental insurance policy that they can get tracks for it if another heavy winter like this one comes along again.

With our fists we pounded the ice off the front seat. From the ground on the right side John reached over and turned the key. A quiet purr began somewhere around the rear axle. That was starting. No fuss at all with the EFI system. I stepped aboard.

The Mule backed down off its snowbank perch with only a little roughness in the driveline. This vibration went away quickly after a full turn of the tracks. Must have been a bit of ice trapped somewhere. John drove us to a nearby snow-covered lot. Progress down the shoulder of the road was quiet and slow.

The tracks reduce the drive ratio by 2:1. The 20 hp engine works best on tracks if left in low range, producing another reduction in final drive ratio. In winter mode the Mule is definitely a slow and steady machine.

But it floats over deep snow like a good pair of snowshoes.

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I found some drifts to explore. The Mule slowly pushed through without hesitation. I ran it up a steep, icy bank. Same engine sound, no problem. Then it backed down easily when I realized that there was a precipice at the edge of a chain link fence on the far side of the snow pile. I couldn’t find any snow which could change the Kawasaki engine’s tone. It sounded as though it would idle along, regardless of load, for as long as I wanted to push through snow.

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On my way out of the field I tried unsuccessfully to high-centre the Mule on a snowbank. Too much ground clearance with the tracks installed. That was a relief. My back is still a little tender from another belly-hang with a Ranger where I should have used a tow rope, but chose to push instead.

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From what I have read online and observed, a Mule with a few hundred hours on it shows every prospect of many years of faithful service. If you need a workhorse which seats four or more people and starts very well more than you need high-speed performance, one of these Mules back off lease might be a good choice.

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