Hydraulic systems are the backbone of various equipment in many industries. In manufacturing, they drive the equipment that makes everything from car parts to appliances and components for oil and gas extraction. Properly maintaining hydraulic fittings, hoses, valves, pumps and cylinders is essential to ensure reduced downtime and equipment service life.
Hydraulic leaks and system contamination are among the most frequent causes of costly equipment failure. They can lead to inefficient machine performance, expensive downtime and increased maintenance costs. Conducting scheduled preventative maintenance is crucial for preventing contamination and leaks in your hydraulic systems.
Many large manufacturers in industries from automotive and aerospace to power generation have complete or rotating plant shutdowns or turnarounds at set times of the year. Many of these are planned during the end of year holidays or summer months when employees take vacations. During these shutdowns equipment is taken offline to inspect machines and conduct preventive maintenance, and one of the most critical areas to maintain is the hydraulic systems.
Inspection of fluids for contamination, hydraulic hoses and fittings for leaks, the seals on pumps and clogged filters are some of the critical areas to cover in hydraulic system maintenance. Make sure to take these steps and follow the manufacturers recommended procedures for ensuring smooth hydraulic operation:
- Hydraulic oil maintenance
- Sample and inspect the hydraulic fluid
- Change or clean filters
- Inspect cylinder rods
- Check hydraulic lines
- Monitor fluid levels
- Replace seals and O-rings
- Examine the electric drive motor
- Monitor system temperature
- Listen for pump noises
- Inspect the inside of the reservoir
- Inspect hoses, pipes and fitting connections
- Conduct hydraulic valve maintenance
- Check breather caps, breather filters and fill screens
One of the most dangerous conditions and symptoms of hydraulic issues is leaking fluid. It can diminish system performance, premature component wear, damage to the equipment, environmental contamination, complete system failure and increased costs.
Maintaining system temperature is also critical to performance and avoiding damage to equipment. Many components have built-in thermometers that communicate with the control unit to signal fluid temperature to be held at safe levels.
In addition, another dangerous circumstance leading to system failure is contaminated or clogged filters. Just like a clogged oil filter in your car leads to poor performance, engine sputters, and low oil pressure that can damage the engine, clogged hydraulic filters can allow contaminants to flow through the system causing machine components to seize up.
Other critical points of inspection are hydraulic fittings, hoses and pipes. Fittings can become loose, and their O-rings can become brittle or deteriorate. Fluid line hoses can crack, have pinhole leaks or burst. And Pipes can become loose or cracked. And all of these components can be crushed. You can safeguard hoses and their fitting connections with hose protection sleeves and other products.
Fluid lines and connections are easy to examine when they’re visually accessible. However, if they’re buried in the equipment, some disassembly may be required to access them. This may seem like extra work, but it will be a lot more work and increase costs if hose or fittings fail because they weren’t inspected and maintained. If hydraulic hoses become brittle due to age, are kinked or if the outer cover is frayed, fluid could leak and/or flow may be restricted, which will ultimately cause a loss in pressure and system failure.
Hydraulic fluid leaks and contamination can be catastrophic to your equipment. Ensuring components are inspected and maintained on a preventative schedule is vital to service life, smooth operation, and a stable ROI for your entire business.
- Cole-Parmer Instrument Company, LLC
- Cylinders, Inc.
- H&R Construction Parts and Equipment, Inc.
- Machinery Lubrication
- RS Components
- TWP Inc.
- York Precision Machining & Hydraulics LLC