I hope the following review helps to educate at least one person on the pitfalls of purchasing a Chinese-made product, such as an AGROTECK post driver, over one made in America. First, let me begin by providing some context and briefly explaining my background. I am neither a construction professional nor am I a representative for a public company of any type. I am a government employee who happens to have grown up on a small farm North East of Austin, Texas, where I still live. Until recently, we [my family and me] have always used a John Deere tractor for getting things done around the farm. Things like drilling postholes for fence posts, hauling bales of hay for the cattle, cleaning stalls, digging ditches, etc.

Fortunately, about a year and a half ago, my son and I were rebuilding about a half-mile fence consisting of dozens of t-posts and a few pieces of oil stem pipe. The poor condition of the fencing that led to a full rebuild was mostly because the thought of using the bucket of the John Deere to force a line of t-posts into the parched black clay was more than I could stand. So, I put it off until it could no longer be ignored. As we began this arduous task, my wife’s cousin, who is also a neighbor, noticed how we were struggling and offered to bring over his Bobcat Skid Steer and use a Danhauser T3 T-Post driver to drive the t-posts. Until this point, it never crossed my mind to use anything other than a traditional farm tractor for farm work. Looking back, this experience forever changed how I care for our property. So, I guess this is review is as much a lesson on ensuring you are working smarter, not harder, as it is on the importance of educating yourself on purchasing quality equipment.

When he explained how he does fence, one of us laid a t-post on the ground every eight feet while the other held the t-post as they were driven into the ground by the Skid Steer. In fact, the whole operation went so fast that the posts were going into the ground almost as fast as they could be laid out. From that moment, I was hooked. Since I don’t do any real farming, like dragging a plow for growing crops, I realized I don’t really need a tractor, so we sold it and purchased a Case Skid Steer. Also, there was much more fence to rebuild, and oil stem pipe was used this time. Although some pipes, such as corners and kickers, are usually concreted, which requires drilling a posthole and setting them in concrete, most others can be driven in with a post driver. So, after I saw what a little t-post driver could do, I decided to purchase a full-blown post-driver, which started me on the track of wasting time and money.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a construction professional, nor do I have anything to do with the construction field. As this is my first experience using equipment other than a basic farm tractor, my first mistake was thinking that the learning curve was simple. Boy, was I wrong. I quickly learned that while the Skid Steer far exceeds the capabilities of a farm tractor, you must do your homework on the machine's operation and the attachments you put on it. There are so many options for attachments made by so many different suppliers that it is easy to get caught up in the WHAT rather than worrying about the WHERE and the WHY.

The WHAT refers to the specific attachment used to get the job done, while the WHERE and the WHY refer to where you purchase your attachment and why you purchase from a particular supplier. Without taking the time to educate yourself on the different makes and models of skid steer attachments, it is easy to accept poor advice, such as registering for one of these online auction sites like I did and purchasing either a fake, counterfeit or deceptively similar looking item to a brand you are already familiar with. Unfortunately, I purchased what I thought was a Montana Post Driver but ultimately turned out to be an AGROTEK, which is something I had never heard of before.

After paying about $3K for the driver with shipping and handling, it was delivered a couple of weeks later. As it was offloaded, I inspected it and found that as promised, it came with a toolbox complete with a nitrogen gauge and several wrenches, but no owner’s manual. In fact, the only identification marking on the driver at all was a generic sticker with a Canadian phone number (first Red Flag).

Since I was excited to use my new post driver, I Ignored this first red flag, immediately slapped it on my skid steer, and started driving 2-7/8 inch oil stem. At first, it performed as advertised. I was extremely satisfied with my purchase and happy because I saved a little money in the process. I even bought a chisel attachment to replace the bell driver and break some concrete for my son-in-law, who was building a new garage. Except for a failure of the main hydraulic oil pump in my skid steer, the driver performed as expected, so I was not at all concerned with the quality of the driver. I didn’t learn until I took the skid steer to the dealer for repair that the sudden backflow of the hydraulic fluid created by the poorly engineered driver actually contributed to the failure of the main hydraulic valve. I was advised by my Case dealer that if I wanted to keep using the driver, to replace the 1⁄2 inch hydraulic hose lines supplying the driver with a 3⁄4 inch hose. They said this extra volume would absorb some of the reverberation created by the driver during each stroke of the driver bell (Second Red Flag).

Again, I chalked it up to bad luck. I replaced the lines and continued using the driver as before. After about six months of use, I started noticing minor issues with the driver’s performance. At first, it would briefly stop working, but only when I changed from driving one post to another (Third Red Flag). To deal with the issue, I removed the driver from the post, placed it on the ground for a moment, and then raised it to drive in the next post. For whatever reason, this seemed to work, and since it didn’t happen every time, it didn’t seem to be too much of an issue. However, it piqued my curiosity and drove me to start contacting hydraulic repair shops asking if they could either work on a driver of this type or lead me to a site where I could obtain a service manual and do the work myself. Much to my dismay, I quickly found out that not only was no one willing to work on the unit, but there was also no one who could give me a lead on how to obtain my own copy of either an owner’s manual or a service manual (BIG Fourth Red Flag!).

By this point, I knew something was amiss. Remember the sticker with the Canadian number listed on it, well, I called it, and it went as expected. The number was to a Chinese call center based in Canada. After a brief conversation, I received no information and hung up the phone more confused than when I first called. However, I needed to continue working, so I used the driver as before, while at the same time, continuing my quest for an owner’s or a service manual. Over the next few weeks, I spoke with several hydraulic repair shops from South Texas to Nebraska and was told by everyone that once this type of post-driver begins to fail, there is no way to bring it back to life because no one has the parts to repair them. One good thing did come out of the call, though; I finally learned the name of the manufacturer, AGROTEK, and that it was made in China, sold in the U.S., and made to mimic one of the better-known post drivers, the Montana post driver, which is also made in China.

After learning the driver’s true origin, I persisted in calling and emailing the AGROTEK company headquarters in China. I was finally connected with someone who agreed to email me a copy of a service manual. However, it took more than a month and several emails to actually receive it. When I did finally receive the service manual, I figured that since the driver is sold in the U.S., I would get a manual in English. I thought wrong. The manual was in Chinese, which I neither read nor write. So, I ran it through Google Translate, and of course, there were multiple holes in the explanations because some things just don’t translate. I tried my best to fill in the blanks on my own, but nothing made sense. As I continued to use the driver, its performance slowly deteriorated until finally, it quit working altogether, and hydraulic fluid started leaking out of the bottom of the power cell. Now, there is nothing more to do other than purchase a new driver.

If I had taken the time to do my research before purchasing this driver, I would have known that Montana post drivers, just like the AGROTEK drivers, are made in China and notoriously unreliable. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way, but at least I don’t need to depend on it to make a living. I hope anyone reading this story, who does depend on machinery to make their living, will learn from my mistake and do their homework before purchasing a Chinese-made construction implement. I know the price difference makes it tempting, but the little money you save on the front end will be more than doubled on the back end when you are stranded on a job site with a broken or underperforming implement, and you need to get the job done. Remember, there is no shipping of a broken implement back to China for repair. My advice would be to go with a dealer such as I DIG TEXAS, which manufactures and repairs its own drivers, or anyone with a physical location you can go to and someone you can speak with.

- Sean G.