Beginner Guide to Preventive Maintenance of Hydraulic Systems

Hydraulic systems are vital for the operation of certain equipment including backhoes, lifts, garbage trucks, excavators, and hydraulic brakes. In heavy equipment that use hydraulic systems, preventive maintenance is a simple yet overlooked aspect that could aid owners to reduce expenses associated with unscheduled maintenance, costly repairs, and replacement of parts. Here are some guidelines for preventive maintenance of hydraulic systems.

Choose the Right Hydraulic Fluid -- Even though traditional hydraulic fluid could give your equipment long service life, high-performance fluid will increase the productivity of the machine coupled with reduced fuel consumption. Gaps in motors, pumps, and valves can diminish the amount of fluid necessary for generating equipment motion. Similarly, fluid and mechanical friction can cause loss of hydraulic pressure. However, high-efficiency fluids enable the system to perform better and faster while using less energy compared to conventional hydraulic fluids. Also, machines using quality fluids operate at a low temperature preventing damage of components.

Corrosion Control -- Controlling corrosion is an essential preventive measure that can extend the life of a hydraulic system. Advancement in hydraulic technology has seen cylinders being coated with anti-corrosion material. The anti-corrosion technology helps hydraulic cylinders and other parts to withstand harsh operating environments while aiding owners in reducing costs of unscheduled repairs. Another cheaper alternative is to add rust inhibitors in the hydraulic fluid, which prevents corrosive elements from settling on metal parts.

Testing Fluids for Contamination -- Debris, dust and other contaminants can accidentally get into the system leading to reduced productivity. Most heavy machinery that is exposed to pollutants might be vulnerable to system failure if preventive measures are not instituted. Therefore, you should consider placing multiple filters in the hydraulic fluid system at specific intervals to collect debris throughout the line. Also, follow the owner's manual when testing fluids for foreign material.  However, a rule of thumb is to examine the fluids every time you install new hydraulic components and when new fluid is added. For practicality purposes, hydraulic test point fittings should be installed within the fluid line system for sampling the fluid while the machine is operating. You can also take liquid samples to specialised labs for chemical analysis. 

Filtration System -- Once particles enter the engine environment, you risk damaging the entire hydraulic system. However, most filters by manufacturers are incapable of deterring minute particles from getting into the fluid system. Therefore, a workaround to this problem is to install supplemental bypass filters that enhances fluid cleanliness.Alternatively, you can have a desiccant air breather installed to replace conventional breather caps. The desiccant has a silica gel that removes particulates from the air entering the system while preventing harmful moisture content into air vents.