Keep Your Hydraulic Equipment Running and Save on Repairs

Posted on: 2 August 2017

It is essential as a successful operator in the heavy construction industry to ensure that your machines keep running smoothly. Costly downtime not only upsets production schedules but also your repairs and maintenance budget. Detecting problems early on and adding life to hydraulic machinery is vital.

Follow this easy guide to save money, prevent downtime and keep your equipment running efficiently.

Prevention Is the Best Strategy

Prevention of issues before they occur is a key to the best maintenance programs. The most common problems and failures in hydraulic machinery arises from contaminants in the system.

To avoid contaminants entering your system

  • clean the area around the fill plugs, dipsticks and filters before removal for checking or changing
  • pour directly from fluid containers into the system and keep containers tightly sealed when stored.
  • verify that oil levels are sufficient and it is in good condition before each use. Insufficient oil can create significant damage to the pumps. Oil that is milky or foamy in appearance suggests that there may be a leak that is allowing air to enter the system.
  • check the hydraulic fluid temperature during operation to determine if there are pressure related or cooling system problems. The fluid should not be too hot to touch or have a burnt smell.

Monitor the Vital Signs of the Machinery

Visual inspection is a necessary routine and forms an essential  part of preventative maintenance program. The vital signs of a machine should be monitored by keeping its normal operating temperature and pressure range on record. This information is easily available and is usually displayed on the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) screen.

A visual inspection will need to focus on the following components to check for:

  • the condition of the rod-wiper seal
  • the surface condition of pipes, hoses and tubes
  • the development of any weeps or leaks around connectors, seals or component bodies
  • the surface of the cylinder rod for signs of dents, nicks or scores
  • the  position of the in filter clogging indicator
  • any abnormal noises such as clicking or knocking

The components of a hydraulic system work closely together. Thus, damage to one component often causes further damage to other parts. For example, a leaky cylinder seal causes oil to overheat and damage other cylinders or perhaps the pump.

Monitor the Tank Oil Pressure

This is a relatively simple task using an infrared thermometer. A consistent reading can be obtained even when the task is performed by different personnel. The straightforward technique involves drawing a small circle on the hydraulic tank with permanent marker labelled with the number 'one'. It needs to be below the minimum oil level and well away from the cooler return. Select a spot that is easy to reach on each leg of the transmission loop and marking these numbers 'two' and 'three'. Mark numbers 'four' and 'five' on the heat exchange inlet and outlet respectively, and then measure both temperatures to calculate the drop in temperature across the cooler.

It makes sense to take the readings across hot days, cold days and days in between to get some baseline data. This will then reveal if a machine is operating outside of normal parameters.

Should you encounter any problems, it is wise to contact a professional hydraulics company for repair work without delay. They can then ensure that all the necessary tolerances and specifications in your system are maintained.

The Importance of Recording

Much of the success of preventative maintenance tasks relies on whether the data is recorded systematically and then analysed appropriately to prevent possible issues in the future.

Naturally, an effective preventative maintenance program takes some time, effort and money to implement. However, it is certainly a cost effective investment which is more than recovered by savings in reduced downtime, fewer repairs and increased life of machinery.