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International 280A Backhoe

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As many of you know I like to do detailed threads about machines I own or am involved with. Not only for the entertainment factor but also to share knowledge about specific machines that are rather uncommon these days in hopes it helps someone else who may own or be looking at one to own. This forum seems to be a good stop for those searching the internet for information on IH construction equipment. And lets face it we all love a good machinery story, especially one with photos!

A fellow Redpower member sent me a link to an auction recently for an IH 280A backhoe. Unfortunately it was in Illinois and too far for me to buy I really liked it and sent the link to a friend who lives closer. He fell in love and managed to get the machine bought at auction. Although I am far away, I am involved in him getting it bought, hauled home, and getting it going. He isn't big on internet stuff so I wanted to do a thread sharing his progress and knowledge we gather about the IH 280A backhoe.


The International 280A was the biggest of the 200 series(last generation) of IH backhoes. It was also one of the last new models introduced and built in Gulfport Mississippi only from 1979 to 1981 when IH discontinued backhoe production. The 280A replaced the 3600A backhoe and had a LOT of improved features over the rest of the 200 series. It is my belief (unconfirmed) that the 280A featured many things that the next IH backhoes would have had if the company hadn't been in such financial hardship at the time and discontinued the backhoe line. I hear people often poo poo the IH backhoes but I think these later ones were very competitive compared to their counterparts at the time.

The 280A was sized to compete with the John Deere 710A, and Ford 755 backhoes. It weighed in around 18,000 lbs or more depending on options. The 280A is powered by an International D-358 diesel engine(Neuss) and rated at 97 hp. It has a unique drivetrain to IH backhoes. Instead of being built on a Doncaster UK built "skid unit" like the smaller IH hoes the 280A uses a Clark 18000 3 speed power shift transmission turning a driveshaft back to a frame mounted Rockwell outboard planetary rear axle with external disc brakes. The 280A also featured a larger cab, floor mounted loader control, optional integral air conditioning, improved gauge cluster(similar to other IH equipment), swing cylinders rather than swing motors like the smaller backhoes have, enclosed engine compartment, improved cab, and more! Unfortunately 4x4 was not an option.




This particular machine looks to be a very clean original! So excited to go pick it up and hopefully we can get it running to load it. This machine has the optional 28" rear wheels, pavement outrigger pads, integral cab, two stick SAE hoe controls. This one appears to have has the exhaust modified at some point, and has newer Firestone tires. It seems as if the previous owner really cared for it well.


I will post more as we go along.


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Wow that is really clean, don't think I've ever seen that model, your friend is lucky to have you in their corner, good luck taking it to its new home!

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looks well kept ......Hopefully they did away with 200% of the $10 IH design.

Now you can go on a deep dive of Whom actually built it? and licensed the "branding"

Payline dresser should have been 100% in charge ,and farming out the last hurrah    clark/jcb with touch of ford?

Who would have sold it? here the 5 state (captive) ih/dresser stealers were in the process of dog paddle slow folding.

last IH td 7/8/100, 358 520/30  / cummins  td 7/8/100 530/40  were the last and basically the ONLY models that sold with minimal reputation carry over.

gone by '90 unless in a barn.

Mechanics told us then ,stay away from EVERY other model, no R & D $  < dresser  > no R & D or budget as they only wanted the now folding stealer network.

Case 580 BH was king , ford 555 was weekender ,deere 410 was top contender ,until 85 with cat 416 ,then govt royally screwed the b series.

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Today was the day! Did some coordinating with a friend with a big truck and trailer and made the trip to Illinois to bring the 280A to its new home. The weather was rainy and cold so we left early and were glad we did. We planned for the worst the best we could, brought along some diesel, fuel filters, a couple Group 31 batteries, hydraulic oil, engine oil, ether, and anything else we could think of. Parts book called for two group 31 batteries with threaded stud terminals. Could only really get one battery to fit, didn't have original key so we took along a new key from Case IH with the correct part number, but it did not fit. With some priming of the fuel system and a little ether the 280A chugged to life! After a minute of running it smoothed out and seems to run ok. Thankfully the right rear tire aired up easy with the onboard air from the semi truck. With the tight schedule and the nasty weather not many pictures or video were taken. The machine folded itself up and drove onto the RGN trailer under its own power! A huge relief!


After a few hour drive to northeast Indiana the 280A was unloaded at its new home. Hopefully in the next few days we can get more photos and do some servicing and check the machine over good.

We are very relieved that the move went well and far from the worst case scenario we were trying to plan for.

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As we got it moved inside and looked over the 280A we found a few notable things. This turned out to not have the air conditioning option. Found a couple hydraulic cylinders that will need repacked to include one of the swing cylinders. Unfortunately I have not had any success locating seal kits for these swing cylinders, we may have to just match up seals when it's apart. An odd note is that the engine itself is painted IH red not Federal Yellow. Leading me to question if it was the original. A long block from IH perhaps? A swap from an AG tractor such as a 786? All other IH backhoes I have seen had a yellow engine.


When we started the machine the starter seemed to have a weak spot in it. Upon further investigation he noticed the starter seemed loose on the engine but the 3 mounting bolts were tight. He removed the starter to find the screws holding the snout end of the starter to the rest of the starter were very loose. Rather than just tighten them up and reinstall the starter he opted to have it gone through by a local starter shop. Which turned out to have been a good idea because the field coil was found to be bad. Thus the weak spot made sense. Once returned he put some Lock-tite on the screws that had come loose before to prevent it from happening again. Being a Delco 35MT starter its not light! Nor easy to remove and install. Hopefully it will be getting reinstalled this week.


He has decided it would be wise to put new battery cables in the machine as well, so he started to pull some panels to trace the routing. In the process he pulled the fender covers. This exposed some wiring, HVAC ducting, and what looks to be house insulation, and Great-Stuff expanding foam? Not sure what someone was trying to accomplish there. I believe the cabin air filter is supposed to be in here but may be missing.



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How many hours on it? Unless it has a lot of time on it I'd have to wonder if the engine is original, and given the time and situation IH was in, just wasn't painted to save money. You really can't see it from outside.

Have you checked out the bathroom in the basement and the guest room upstairs in that cab?

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The hour meter only shows 5077 hours on it. The cost savings could be a possibility why its red. Although I noticed the injection pump shows VA6/10H 1350 CR191-1 whereas the book says its supposed to be a VA6/10H 1150 CR191-1. I think the 1150 vs 1350 is just a setting.

Haha! The downstairs is nice! That cab is pretty big compared to other IH backhoe cabs I have been in.

Original lubrication decal still in nice condition!


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  • 2 weeks later...

This week he got the starter reinstalled. Being such a heavy starter and an awkward spot it was not easy. When attaching the wiring it was clear that someone had done some wiring modifications. Now to figure out what wiring modifications were done, and why.

He went ahead and replaced the fuel filters. Two Fleetguard FF214 filters were installed and with help from the aftermarket electric fuel pump installed by the previous owner the filters were primed. He added some Lucas fuel treatment to the filters before installation to help lubricate the injection system.

While waiting on the filters to come in he started tearing into the interior to figure out why some stuff worked and some didn't. The wiring inside wasn't a lot better. At some point the hot wire into the cab had been bypassed and the original circuit breakers were pretty crusty. All the house insulation got ripped out and efforts were made with a shop vac to remove all the dust, rust, and dirt that had collected over the last 40+ years.



Some things in the cab work, and some don't. The lights don't work except one of the headlights. A pin on the turn signal switch was broken so that may explain why the turn signal and flashers don't work and a large eyelet was found that looked to never have been hooked to anything, we believe to be a ground. Some of the gauges work in the cluster, but the alternator had been switched to a single wire 10SI so that wiring is no longer correct. So one step at a time it'll come back to life.


He decided to go ahead with the oil change and bought a NAPA 1158 oil filter for the initial oil change and some Rotella 15w-40. To our surprise the machine started right up! no ether, no timing advance, just started beautifully! The rebuilt starter really cranked it over nicely even with only one battery. The machine was ran for about 15 minutes to warm up and then the oil drained. Definitely was some moisture in the oil. After years off sitting condensation would certainly accumulate, maybe it sat for some time before the exhaust got covered? Probably will do a second oil change after it has gotten some use to flush out any remaining moisture. The possibility does remain of a bad oil cooler, head gasket, or cylinder liner O-ring, but we won't know until its flushed out and refilled with known clean coolant and oil. Until then, fingers crossed!


The engine oil was left to drain for a few hours, then refilled with Rotella 15w-40 and the new NAPA 1158 oil filter was installed. The engine was then started and let run for a while. It started right up again with no assistance! And it does run very nice!

Once the Fleetguard filter order arrives he plans to change oil and filter for the transmission before putting it to work. The transmission calls for Hy-Tran so a 5 gallon bucket is on order. There is a strainer screen in the transmission as well that needs cleaned and inspected. I tried to find the gasket for the strainer but the IH part number couldn't be found. However when I looked up a Clark 18000 I was able to find and order one through Palmer Johnson Power Systems as a Dana(owns Clark transmission design now) part number 219373CH. Will verify this once we change transmission oil.


280A 160.jpg

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After a few days of settling he slowly drained the oil into another container to see what color the moisture at the bottom was. Thankfully no signs of coolant. I think it was just condensation and maybe some rain water contamination.

We put together a parts list. Ignition switch, coolant temp sensor, turn signal switch, 5 gallon bucket of Viscosity Ultraction for the transmission, thermostat and gasket, used ether bail, ether can, ether can seal, and more.

That darn ether can seal is over $20! Still looking for a reasonably priced ether bail. Same one that fits 66 and 86 series AG tractors, should be plenty around. The rubber seal the ether can seals against the upper part was missing. Doesn't seem to be an aftermarket one cheaper. But the solenoid clicks when you push the ether button! Unfortunately the small ether tube to the intake is broken. Probably splice it back together with a compression union or buy some copper tubing. Just in preparation for winter. So far since the fuel filter change it starts and runs amazing!


He removed the plug on the block to drain the coolant. The engine was filled with what looks to be the heavy duty pink stuff. But since it's all unknown he decided to drain and refill with known antifreeze and distilled water. Also change the thermostat and gasket, and the temp sensor since the gauge was pegged like it was shorted out. With the sensor lead removed the gauge sits at cold.


Temp sensor is out!


Now just waiting on parts, and filters. Once the coolant is filled and transmission oil and filter changed it will be time for a test run! Dig some holes! Lots more electrical work to do but little bit at a time.


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The coolant flush went well, even drained the heater core and lines.

The coolant temp sensor part number 121756C2 is a very common sensor and used on many IH applications from 1086 tractors to combines. Its not a cheap part at around $70 through Case IH. After much research we determined that it is a Stuart Warner part and can be bought much cheaper as a Stuart Warner 334R-D for around $25.


With new coolant temp sensor, thermostat and gasket installed the cooling system was refilled with good ol green antifreeze and distilled water 50/50 mix. It was noticed that one of the shut off valves for the heater core hoses was leaking. It stopped leaking when the packing was tightened up a bit with a wrench. This 90 degree valve has a 3/8 NPT thread into the engine and a 5/8" heater hose barb. The replacements are readily available as a Four Seasons 84703 for less than $15.


The machine unfortunately did not come with a key. He ordered a new one through Case IH before picking it up but it did not fit the switch. So a new ignition switch and key was ordered. Case IH has discontinued 71427C1 ignition switch but there is an aftermarket part IHS831 that replaces it. Now we have a working key and switch again! No more screwdriver tricks.


The original turn signal switch had a broken spade terminal on it so a new aftermarket one was ordered. After installing it we have most lights working again! Turn signals too! Someone has bypassed the front headlights to a separate switch so that will have to be undone yet.

Once the Fleetguard order arrives the 280A can get the transmission flushed and go outside for a good test run!

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