Hydraulic Thumb for Deere 260B, 270B, and 370B backhoes

Deere has introduced a Hydraulic Thumb for its small compact/subcompact tractor backhoes. While several folks have fabricated their own hydraulic thumbs, to my knowledge, this is the first complete kit available for subcompact and small compact backhoes.

Here is a link to the Hydraulic Thumb Kit and in case you are interested, here is a link to the somewhat similar Manual Thumb Kit

The same kit works on 3 backhoe models:

  • 260B for 1025R and 2025R 2018 model year and later
  • 270B for 2032R and 2038R 2017 model year and later
  • 370B for 3025E, 3032E, and 3038E 2018 model year and later

The installation varies slightly within the 3 models, but it is very similar.

Before we get into the details, I would suggest watching this video where I install and test the hydraulic thumb.

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Installation

Installation of the thumb is relatively easy. No complex tools are needed, nor do you need 7 hands or a college degree to figure it out. Just normal tools like end wrenches, screwdrivers, etc.

Step 1 – Attach the Thumb

There is no cutting, welding, boring, etc required for the installation. This thumb connects to the backhoe boom via the two ‘protruding’ fins near the ‘elbow’ of the backhoe arm. On the other end, it connects to the main bucket pivot pin. In fact, a longer pivot pin is provided as part of the kit to handle the additional width of the thumb.

In this step, you’ll attach the bottom of the thumb to the main pivot pin. I lowered the backhoe bucket to the ground, but made sure there was no pressure on it. This allowed me to remove the old pin, and replace with the thumb and new pin without moving the bucket at all. This saved a significant amount of lifting.

After putting the appropriate fittings on the cylinder, you will mount it to the top end of the boom arm using the the included brackets. These brackets ‘clamp’ around the boom providing additional strength and stability.

During this step, make sure you position the cylinder fittings correctly (unlike me in the video). Otherwise, you will be repeating this step!

Avoid connecting the bottom (rod end) of the cylinder to the thumb at this point. It was tempting for me, as I wanted to see how the finished product would look. However, it is much easier to connect the hoses if the bottom of the cylinder swings freely.

Step 2 – Attach Top Bracket/Diverter

The manual diverter is mounted on the outside of the ‘elbow’ of the boom, right at the top. During this step you will assemble the diverter fittings, and attach it to the boom. This step all went as planned for me. I did not encounter any issues.

Step 3 – Hydraulic Hose Installation

This is definitely the most complex step. Having said that, it is still not difficult. Just be patient.

First, the kit includes 4 hoses. 3 of which are identical, except for length. There is no way to identify which of those 3 hoses belongs in a given location. Please refer to my video for descriptions of this. I guessed correctly, so I would encourage you to follow the same approach.

The second similar challenge is with the T fittings, and ‘union’ fittings provided. At first, it seems difficult to understand which one is to be used in which step. The provided instructions are not very helpful, as they do not include anything to distinguish these parts. Having said that, once I started putting these fittings on, I found that only certain ones fit. So, by simple trial and error, I was able to quickly figure out which fittings to use in each location.

If a Deere representative is reading this, I would encourage you to review this documentation. Show pictures, or otherwise help the DIY installer understand which parts to use on a given step. There is a cross-reference chart, but it does not show any photos, only part numbers. The part numbers are not helpful to consumers.

While these issues were momentarily frustrating, I worked through them quickly, and our video should help you to gain an even quicker understanding. So, please don’t use these paragraphs as an excuse to pay someone else for this task! You can do it!!!

Be sure to use two wrenches, one on each side of the connection when tightening the hydraulic connectors. Be sure to check for leaks (as I showed in the video).

At this point, you should be ready to exercise your thumb!!

Operation

This thumb operates slightly differently than a thumb on a larger backhoe or excavator. While it is hydraulic, it does not have fully independent control. It is connected to the dump/curl bucket circuit. As you curl the bucket, the thumb extends. As you dump the bucket (actually after the bucket is all the way dumped), the thumb retracts.

The manual diverter valve allows you to disable the thumb entirely, or use it as described above. There is no separate ‘button’ or ‘lever’ to control the thumb.

I have used this thumb on one project, to pull one large ‘Red Tip’ bush stump. It worked well for me in this application. However, I have not had sufficient experience with it yet to provide a more informed review.

Summary

The first hydraulic thumb kit for a sub-compact (and small compact) backhoe attachment. Wow. Just a few years ago, folks were making fun of these little backhoes, saying they were useless. Apparently the secret is out! These little tractors and backhoes can accomplish tasks much larger than anyone ever dreamed.

I know this kit is expensive. However, it may be exactly what you need to improve your backhoe efficiency!

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