Correctly running and caring for hydraulic equipment is fraught with potential for error. The average hydraulic operator is often uninformed of certain omissions, and mistakes they might make can impede the performance and productivity of their hydraulic systems. Effective lubrication is a critical process to properly maintain equipment and, as a result, this is the key area where most mistakes occur.
In this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into using hydraulic equipment and supplying adequate lubrication to help users avoid common maintenance errors.
Understanding hydraulic fluids
Sometimes referred to as hydraulic oils, hydraulic fluids are a multipurpose solution utilised for a diverse selection of hydraulic applications. Due to their versatility, hydraulic fluids can perform multiple roles. They can act as a lubricant, coolant, sealant and as a medium for power and energy transfer within the mechanical systems.
Dedicated hydraulic systems and their components are employed across many industries. This makes hydraulic fluids suited for various agriculture, shipbuilding, mining, steel, food, aviation and construction sector applications.
The main job of hydraulic oils is to defend machinery against harm and extend its active service life. Hydraulic fluids can reduce unwanted friction, help save energy and reduce the wear and tear on the components of hydraulic equipment. Consequently, with the right fluids at work, the productivity, efficiency and profitability of hydraulic operations is increased substantially.
Changing hydraulic fluid before performing analysis
Understanding when hydraulic oil requires changing is vital to maintain operational efficiency.
Making an incorrect choice regarding change intervals can cost companies both time and money and is the most common operator mistake regarding hydraulic fluids. Changing oils prematurely wastes supplies and money, which can be considerable, as hydraulic fluids are typically a higher-cost lubricant. Additionally, changing oil too early can result in longer machine downtime and may even result in a higher risk of system contamination.
This error often stems from the incorrect idea that hydraulic oil must be changed regularly, like engine oil change intervals. However, this is not so. Well-maintained hydraulic fluids can last far longer than many other lubricants.
In fact, only two situations exist that require hydraulic fluid to warrant a change. These include base oil deterioration and additive depletion. Both circumstances typically occur under poor operating conditions like excessive heat, internal contamination and high water content.
To work out the state of hydraulic fluid in use, operators must conduct oil analysis. Fluids should only be changed if the analysis reveals their base oil has degraded and their additives have been consumed.
Employing the incorrect hydraulic fluid
There is a diverse range of hydraulic equipment in use today, and every system and its components has different requirements for lubrication. Furthermore, lubrication needed is also largely impacted by specific applications and environmental conditions. Additionally, as we touched upon earlier, hydraulic fluids perform several functions that impact both the performance and endurance of equipment. As a result, all hydraulic fluids are purposefully engineered to be employed in specific applications and to specific operating conditions.
Ordering the correct type of hydraulic oil with the right viscosity is critical for companies seeking to minimise expenses and maximise productivity. Making the wrong choice when ordering can cause chaos within the hydraulic system and, in worst-case scenarios, lead to premature failure of machinery, which represents a significant investment. As a result, operators are advised to carefully examine the hydraulic oil specifications of their system before deciding which hydraulic fluid type or types are required to keep equipment operating smoothly.
Maintaining hydraulic fluid filters
Finally, just like replacing hydraulic fluid ahead of time, not adhering to a schedule for hydraulic filter changes can also lead to unnecessary costs. Should filters be prematurely replaced before utilising their full capacity, such practices will cause wasteful expenditure. Companies will end up changing system filters more often than they should, resulting in a loss of money for no reason.
However, if the change interval is left too long, the hydraulic system can get clogged up. As a result, hydraulic fluid will no longer circulate and pass through the oil filter. Instead, the fluid will begin to bypass the clogged filter. As there is no filtration taking place, the hydraulic fluid will quickly become contaminated. The inevitable results of this poor practice will be reduced service life and efficiency of hydraulic fluid, along with damage to the hydraulic system. Ultimately, this will cost companies far more than simply changing their filters when required.
There is only one right time for filter changes, and that is when their capacity had depleted – but this must be done before the hydraulic fluid starts to bypass the filter. To determine the perfect changing time, operators must track any changes in hydraulic oil flow, along with possible drops in pressure. These two methods are recommended as the most accurate options available and can indicate the current state of hydraulic fluid filters precisely.