Earthmoving Industry Insight, Reviews

Review: Yuchai YC18SR mini excavator

The Australian mini excavator market is bulging with choice for combo owner/operators. Ron Horner checks out the well-priced Yuchai YC18SR, which looks like a good choice to put into the mix.

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Way back in the late 1970s, Banbury Engineering (KATO) imported the very first mini excavators into Australia, the Nissan N3s.

Sadly, Banbury had trouble finding a market for them and dropped the Nissans, but stuck with the concept and in 1979 began importing the Kato 180G, a 4-tonne, fully hydraulic excavator with enclosed cabin and blade, capable of handling a 200-sized Krupp Hydraulic Rockbreaker and fitted with an off-set boom.

I was so impressed I bought the first of two Kato 180Gs to be brought into the country.

Suddenly, the mini excavator market in Australia was on its way and has never looked back.

A decade later, Chinese machinery maker Yuchai spotted a gap in the field of small excavators and launched its first mini-hydraulic machine. The company set up a production base, becoming the first manufacturer of mini hydraulic excavators in China.

After two short years, in 1991, the first of the Yuchai mini excavator range to come off the production line was exported to Germany.

The company was started 40 years earlier; in July 1951, the firm’s predecessor, the  ‘Yulin Quantang Industrial Association’ was founded by the Chinese government for agricultural and handicraft production, soon adding farm tools, car repairs, machining of mechanical parts, production of threshing and cutting machines and eventually, making small power machinery.

In 2010, a new base was opened and Yuchai Heavy Machinery Industry was formed. Later the same year the 50,000th Yuchai Mini Excavator was produced and the company moved into making rotary drilling machines.

Today, Yuchai Heavy Industry has the potential to produce 20,000 pieces of construction machinery annually and in 2011 was named among the top 50 construction machinery manufacturers in the world.



Ron Horner gets down and dirty with the Yuchai YC18SR mini excavator.



Fast-forward to 2016 and the new Yuchai YC18SR excavator — the subject of this test.

This little excavator competes in the two-tonne range and is easily transported with a small trailer. It is zero-swing, powered by a 20hp Perkins diesel and comes with an open cab with a canopy or a sealed cab. The hydraulic system is powered by a Japanese-made high-flow piston pump and main valve, which provides an auxiliary flow rate of 30 LPM.

The tracks can be expanded to 1.35m wide for stability or retracted to the minimum of 1.06m. The machine is fitted with two-speed track drive motors (1.7 or 3.0 km/h), rubber tracks, 0.05 cubic metre bucket, bi-directional piping and is well-suited to rock-hammer and auger work.

The YC18SR also comes with a manual spring quick hitch, a dozer blade as standard and an off-settable boom.

There are many plusses to the YC18SR and with the retractable tracks it is easily hauled on a suitable box trailer.

Entering narrow spaces with low headroom is child’s play, as the canopy is easily removed.

You won’t have to build an expensive shed for your Yuchai either, as it fits perfectly inside a 20-foot container even while it’s on the trailer. An acreage-sized ride-on mower has bigger dimensions.

Our demonstration machine had a small hydraulic rockbreaker and auger, which came in handy on the demonstration site.


In the cab

The conventional control pattern in the small but simple cab/canopy works well but the simplistic dash is just a bit too simple. Besides a fuel gauge, temp oil pressure gauges should be compulsory but were not fitted to this little machine.

Forward vision for the operator is good as there’s nothing to impede the view and, despite my reservations, the short blade control lever between the operator’s seat and the RHS armrest works efficiently enough.

The cable-operated throttle is smooth and simple and sits beside the conventional control lever on the right-hand-side of the cabin.

Light and warning switches are on the left-hand-side side of the control arm, as are the controls for the bi-directional hydraulic piping and off-set boom operation are located on the floor beside the travel levers.



The conventional control pattern in the Yuchai YC18SR’s small but simple cab/canopy works well.


On the job

Our demo site was on a domestic house block in rural South East Queensland. The work required the machine to tidy up and to get under a high-set house to trim the natural ground level for a planned concrete floor.

Once the material was scraped bare to the correct level it was bucketed and pushed with the little push blade fitted to the machine. Once in place the tracks could be widened for better working stability.

The footings of the house were already concreted and it required some excavation experience to clean around the reo already in place without causing too much damage. Once this was completed, the builder’s plastic was placed, taped and tightened prior to the steel reinforcement mesh being bar-chaired into place and height.

It was expected that when the concrete trucks made it to site, the little Yuchai would be put to the test again by reversing the bucket and helping shift concrete from the waiting agitators to the hard-to-reach areas under the building.

By pushing the limits and thinking outside the square a bit, an operator is able to speed up the job and save strenuous and costly labour easily, safely and productively.

The hydraulics are smooth when in digging mode and the two-speed travel motors ensure mobility across the ground is kept to a minimum when traversing the site. High speed travel has some trouble coping with turning but this isn’t confined to the Yuchai.

Again, probably designed to minimise overall length of the machine, the push blade is too close to the cab and not designed to push in bulk. However, the excavator is capable of pushing a surprising amount of material in the hands of a competent operator.

Again, not confined to the Yuchai is a design issue with the length of the dipper arm, bucket linkages and the length of the blade from the track frame.

When the time came to pick up the last of the loose material to tidy I found that the dipper arm was too short and the bucket linkage travel was restricted so much that close-in clean-up work was not possible.

One would expect that you could squash the last remaining material into the blade to clean up but the blade, although it protrudes enough for pushing, is located too close to the track frame to do this.


The bottom line

Now this is only a 2-tonne machine so don’t go in expecting to create the miracles of a 30-tonner … it is just not going to happen. But for what it is and the price structure of this machine it is well worth a good look if you just happen to be in the market for a new machine of this calibre, size and price.

Yuchai’s Queensland distributor, Adrian Wilkinson, suggests that with the Yuchai and the Multi-One mini-loader-come-telehandler we reviewed here, anyone wishing to enter the market could find a use for both machines as a combo.

Believe me, I don’t think that it is a silly idea. Quite the opposite.

I think that both these machines could prove to be quite a suitable alternative to the conventional skid steer/mini excavator combo.

Having had the opportunity to demonstrate the Multi-One, I think it is quite something else and could prove to be real game-changer.

Yuchai Construction Equipment Australia could be on a winner with the combo idea. Skid steers aren’t always the perfect tool for the job and the Yuchai/Multi-One combo opens up another avenue for loader/excavator owner-operators to consider.

All things considered, Yuchai could well be the dark horse of the mini loader/excavator industry this year.

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