There is no engine or automotive system on earth that will never not cost you money at some point. A hydraulic system is no different. You will, at some stage, need to carry out a hydraulic hose repair, fix a leak, or replace worn O-rings and other parts. It’s annoying and sometimes costly, of course, but it’s inevitable.
However, if you want to maintain your hydraulic system to the point where you can save money, then read on. Contamination is the cause of many hydraulic system failures but can be something you can avoid. The following information won’t stop you from experiencing the odd hydraulic hose repair or parts replacement, but it can reduce the risk of a catastrophic failure that costs you thousands.
Watch Out for Water
Water is a significant cause of hydraulic system contamination and can be damaging even if the water dissolves. Water can come from the rain into your external reservoirs, or it can seep through covers, access panels, worn seals, or breathers.
Water is also condensation from the air that’s present in your reservoir, or from a leaky cooler or heat exchanger. You may not be able to entirely prevent your hydraulic system from coming into contact with water, but being aware of it can mean you put steps in place to avoid it as much as possible.
Water in a hydraulic system can cause surface corrosion, metal fatigue, and problems with your bearings. If you want to save money, be aware of the effects of water and keep your machinery in a dry, sheltered area when it’s not in use.
Maintenance is an integral part of keeping your hydraulic system in tip-top shape, but it comes with its own set of concerns. As soon as you open up your hydraulic components, you are putting them at risk of particle contamination. Even something as tiny as a fluffy rag can do a lot of damage. Particles as thin as human hair can cause multiple failures and put your machine out of action for days.
It’s important to note that not all particle contamination is avoidable. Some of it stems from within the hydraulic system itself, and even from the manufacturing process. Some hydraulic fluids also contain matter which exceeds the recommended particle limit.
Like hydraulic hose repairs, you won’t be able to avoid all contamination, but you can prevent a lot. Use only a manufacturer recommended hydraulic fluid and perform maintenance in a clear area. Use a clean, fluff-free rag and even consider wearing lint-free clothing.
How to Test for Contamination
If you detect contamination – even if it’s a hunch – it’s imperative to confirm it. To do this, you need an approved hydraulic oil analysis kit, also known as fluid testing. This testing kit will measure any contaminant levels that you can’t see but may exist.
The test looks out for solid contamination, chemical reactions, and additive breakdowns. In the final report, you can determine the level of contamination and even from where it occurs.
What to Do If Your Hydraulic System is Contaminated
Downtime is never fun, especially as it costs industries such as forestry millions of dollars. However, once you’re aware of contamination, you need to act – and fast. The last thing you want is for an entire hydraulic system failure – something you could avoid with system maintenance.
The next step is more of a corrective approach rather than preventative. You will need to flush your entire system and start from scratch. This process might be one you do yourself, or that you call on the hydraulic experts for.
Start by draining all hydraulic fluid then cleaning out the tank. Replace all filters then add new manufacturer-recommended hydraulic fluid to cycle through the system. Drain it again, then add new fluid once more. Flushing your hydraulic system is costly, but it’s a drop in the ocean of the costs involved with an entirely new unit.
How Can I Prevent Hydraulic System Contamination?
As you will have realised by now, hydraulic system maintenance can save you a fortune. It’s all in education and making sure you’re operating your machine as safe as possible. Make time to check and replace your hydraulic filters often andeEnsure they are the correct model for your machine.
You can also go one step further by installing desiccant breathers. These can prevent moisture from contaminating your system, unlike caps which allow moisture to enter. What’s more, only ever perform maintenance in a clean environment. Roadside and worksite maintenance can be risky for contaminants.
Finally, always address leaks as soon as they occur. A small leak might not seem like a problem, but it can turn into a big one. If fluid can get out, then what can get in?
Every day when you arrive at your worksite, you’re there to work. You want to put in the hours, make the most of your time, then go home knowing you’ve earned your salary. A hydraulic hose repair, part replacement, and maintenance can throw a spanner in the works, but it’s all part of the process.
You need to dedicate time and money to maintenance to have full faith in your entire hydraulic system. Don’t skimp on maintenance, and your machine will reward you with reliability.