Review: SDLG LG938L wheel loader
Randolph Covich dons his hi-viz vest, climbs aboard an 11-tonne SDLG LG938L wheel loader and finds a decent, cost-effective machine.
A lot of you may already be familiar with the SDLG brand of cost-effective wheel loaders. It’s made by the Chinese company Shandong Lingong, which is 70 percent owned by Volvo and is obviously no flash-in-the-pan brand.
Established in 1972, its output exceeded 30,000 loaders last year — and that number doesn’t include the excavators, rollers, and other equipment SDLG rolls off the production line.
Its wheel loaders rank No.1 in sales volumes in both Chinese domestic and export markets. There are over 400 in operation in Australia alone.
Both Volvo and SDLG are represented in Australia by CJD Equipment.
One of the problems as I see it with purchasing a machine from unknown entrepreneurs is once the deal is done, who then looks after it? It’s all very well saying that a machine has been built with common parts, but there are many variations available and getting hold of the right one can be time consuming and costly, especially if something has to come in from overseas.
This is where I see a company like CJD Equipment filling a gap by having a nationwide network to service and supply correct components when required. This is a massive plus.
The loader pulled out for our test is an SDLG LG938L wheel loader. The numbering system explained: ‘9’ refers to the loader, ‘3’ to the machine’s lifting capacity (three tonnes) and ‘8’ is the model series.
The models we are receiving Down Under are referred to as ‘export’ editions; being different to those built for China’s domestic market, and other countries for that matter.
A walk around the machine will give you a hint of the upgraded specs, such as hydraulic hitch; Z-bar frame linkage; ROPS and FOPS; self-levelling bucket (the standard build for New Zealand has a 1.8m3 bucket); third valve for attachments; additional guarding and better in-cab comforts for the operator.
Oh and there’s also a two-year/2,000-hour warranty thrown in for good measure.
The power is provided by a Deutz six-litre, six-cylinder engine, although a look behind the engine covers reveals… well, nothing surprising. It’s all very straightforward.
So I allowed my eyes to wander to the areas that will eventually need attention: the fuel pump (because everyone runs out of fuel at some stage), the starter motor and the alternator.
These are components that will need replacing eventually and they are all located in positions that won’t require a 10-year-old kid with six-foot-long arms to reach. In fact everything is very accessible and there’s a nice amount of room around the engine.
Moving around to the rear of the machine, the grill swings open and allows access to the radiator and oil cooler. With the unlocking of a couple of clips, the rear core folds down to allow access to the second core; it’s a nicely thought-out design.
Again, simplicity is the key here.
The 4-speed forward, three-speed reverse Hangchi YD13 transmission needs to be manually moved through the gears and this is done by rotating the stick on the steering column.
The Gen Y’ers who are used to a machine that babies them along may need some additional tuition on this old-school feature. It is, however, very easy to use and is a bit like comparing a tiptronic transmission with a standard automatic.
This LG938L features a dry braking disc system. The reasoning behind this is purely financial and reduces the cost by a substantial amount. You can sure buy a lot of callipers and brake pads for the amount of a wet-brake system.
The advantage of the dry disc brakes on the SDLG loaders is that the pads can be changed in place without removing the wheels at a very low cost. Purchasers would have to consider their working conditions, of course.
On the job
For this test we have a pile of soil recently broken out of a stockpile to move around. This proves to be a good starting point to get a feel for the machine.
The LG938L digs in easily with the single joystick bucket control providing a positive response. However, after doing this for a while, it becomes obvious that the machine needs something that will give it more work.
Breaking soil out of the stockpile seems an obvious choice and I set the loader to work by chewing into the solid wall of consolidated soil.
The pile must have been placed there last summer as it is dryer than expected and breaks apart well once the bucket starts challenging it.
A couple of times I manage to put enough strain on the power delivery system to make the machine groan in protest, but I would expect this from any machine of a similar size, especially when it comes to breaking-out work.
Satisfied with the performance of the SDLG LG938L loader so far, I spot a soil screening plant being cranked up. This is a perfect opportunity to test the loader out on some real production work, but before getting started loading the plant, I prep the loading area by levelling out a bit of ground.
This gives me a good appreciation for the pillar-less front and rear windscreens.
That done, I get the machine to work and it isn’t too long before the plant is producing a nice screened soil, with the LG938L providing just the right amount of material to keep a continuous flow on the output conveyors.
One thing I do notice is that there is an amount of spillage over the top of the bucket. While not really a problem, this will soon chip the paint on the loader arms, especially if the machine is used on aggregate. Extending the top of the bucket by about 100mm would easily sort things out.
As far as operator comfort goes, I’m impressed with the amount of space in the cab, with noise levels kept to an acceptable level. The heat from the unusually warm day outside is kept at bay by the cooling system. It’s not a full air-con, but works effectively all the same.
The bottom line
Suffice to say I don’t have any umms or ahhs here. The SDLG LG938L wheel loader is a decent machine all round.
While the machines are primarily being marketed to businesses that don’t need one operating 24/7, such as batching plants, fertiliser stores and contracting companies, I think the LG938L could more than easily cope with harder work.
When you take the affordable price tag into account, the options just keep getting better.
Keep up to date on the industry by signing up to Trade Earthmover's free weekly newsletter. Be the first to know about new machines for sale.