Doug Laufenberg, John Deere product marketing manager, points out the highlights of the John Deere 304K compact wheel loaders unveiled along with the JD 204K recently at the Midwest Agricultural Industries Exposition in Bloomington, Ill.
Doug Laufenberg, John Deere product marketing manager, points out the highlights of the John Deere 304K compact wheel loaders unveiled along with the JD 204K recently at the Midwest Agricultural Industries Exposition in Bloomington, Ill.
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The next generation of compact wheel loaders designed based on feedback from landscape and agricultural customers was unveiled during the Midwest Agricultural Industries Exposition.

The John Deere 204K and 304K compact wheel loaders were designed specifically for lower-clearance application and include features to increase productivity, visibility, versatility and lower daily operating costs, according to Doug Laufenberg, John Deere product marketing manager, construction and forestry.

“The biggest driver for producing this machine was listening to our customers. We had a machine, and it wasn’t fitting their needs, so we asked what they needed,” he said.

“The good thing is there was more than one market segment that needed those same features, so we meet the needs of a couple of different segments with one machine.

“(Customers) wanted a simple machine. They didn’t want all the complexities. They didn’t want the electronics, so we took that to heart and we made it a lot simpler.”

A foot lower than other compact John Deere wheel loaders, the 204K and 304K feature rigid front and rear axles to meet the eight-foot height while lowering the center of gravity and increasing stability and the tipping load limit.

The two new models can easily reach and work in areas with restricted access such as door and trailer openings.

Both models come standard with an open operator station designed to withstand the elements, featuring weather-resistant gauges, extended rooftops, nonskid floor mats and optional vandal proofing.

The open-canopy model is perfect for applications where the operator has to frequently get on and off the machine or applications where the operator does not want to worry about breaking glass.

For year-round comfort, operators still will have the option of utilizing a heated and air-conditioned cab. The cabs are comfortably equipped and offer unobstructed views of attachments and the surrounding work area.

To enhance operation, the boom, bucket and forward-neutral-reverse switch are on the same ergonomic, low-effort lever for convenient one-hand control.

“The joystick that operates your boom and bucket control is a direct link to the control valve. It’s not electric hydraulic. It’s not pilot control. It’s a direct link, so there are less parts, less moving things to take care of,” Laufenberg said.

The 204K and 304K boast an Interim Tier 4 diesel engine and a two-speed transmission with a top speed of 12 mph to swiftly navigate the jobsite.

“Our other loaders have a dip lock that’s operator activated. Whereas this has limited slip dip lock axles on the machines, basically meaning the operator doesn’t have to do anything if he gets into slippery or wet conditions,” Laufenberg said.

“The machine will sense that and put the power where it needs to and pull itself through, and the operator doesn’t have to do anything but drive.”

Articulated steering assists in the ability to turn and offers operators flexibility when picking up or positioning loads. Fingertip control of the coupler, travel speed, park brake, lights and other machine functions are close and convenient to the operator.

An optional creeper control allows slow, incremental travel speeds while maintaining full hydraulic flow.

To keep operating costs at a minimum, a transverse-mounted engine allows for quick and convenient daily servicing.

The electrical system minimizes the number of wires, mechanical relays and unsealed connections for maximum durability and uptime. In addition, the machines’ vertical filters and environmental drains also are easily-accessible at ground-level.

“Those that change attachments often will enjoy a push-button actuated skid-steer style coupler,” Laufenberg said.

The coupler comes standard on the boom and enables operators to attach and release John Deere Worksite Pro attachments quickly, without tools or leaving the seat. The coupler can connect to numerous implements — from blades, buckets and pushers to scrap and brush-tine grapples and augers.