Hydraulic systems are an integral part of countless manufacturing and industrial processes, but these powerful and efficient hydraulic systems would be little more than a confusing system of useless pipes without the hydraulic fluid they contain. A ready supply of hydraulic fluid is vital for the smooth and efficient running of any hydraulic system, and keeping this fluid clean and free of contamination is equally vital.
Why is contaminated hydraulic fluid a bad thing?
The fluid contained within a hydraulic system isn't just there to transmit force to the cylinders; it also serves as a highly effective heat conductor to draw heat away from vital systems, and contains lubricating compounds that dramatically reduce friction around moving components. As such, hydraulic fluid is your hydraulic system's main line of defence against overheating, and when kept clean it can do this job very effectively.
However, any foreign bodies or substances that are allowed into your supply of hydraulic fluid can dramatically undermine its lubricating and heat conducting properties, creating isolated pockets of excess heat in contaminated areas that can quickly raise the operating temperature of a system to unsafe levels.
Something as innocuous as water or trapped air bubbles can cause severe overheating in many hydraulic systems. Solid particles of dirt and detritus in your hydraulic fluid can cause even more damage, badly abrading the interior surfaces of your system as they pass through it and further contributing to heat build-up. Needless to say, keeping any and all types of contamination away from your hydraulic fluid supplies is vitally important.
How can I protect my hydraulic fluid from contamination?
Keeping your hydraulic fluid uncontaminated need not be a complicated endeavour, and good working practises will generally ensure that your fluid supplies remain clean. However, you should keep the following guidelines in mind to prevent contaminants from being introduced into your hydraulic fluid accidentally:
- Check for leaks constantly: Leaks from pinholes and hairline cracks are a common source of unexplained fluid contamination, especially if these breaches suck in air rather than expel air or fluid. As such, you should inspect your system for signs of fluid or air leakage, and have any leaking components professionally repaired or replaced by hydraulic repair services.
- Store your fluid properly: In many cases of contamination the fluid was contaminated before it even reached the hydraulic system, and poor storage conditions can introduce a host of various contaminants into your fluid reserves. You should therefore keep your fluid in a suitably secure and sheltered area, such as a dedicated storage shed or indoor storage locker. Make sure the storage area is well ventilated and has stable ambient temperatures, as freezing and overheating can both cause fluid to degrade.
- Adjust your rod wipers: The rod wipes attached to the rods of your hydraulic system's cylinders are a vital tool for preventing fluid contamination, as they brush away any solid or liquid contaminants on the rod before it enters the cylinder. These wipers should therefore be well maintained, and properly adjusted to ensure that they clean the rod thoroughly without removing excessive amounts of fluid from the system.
- Maintain your filters: Your hydraulic system's fluid reservoir and pipes will also be fitted with filters capable of catching and removing solid particulate matter from your system's fluid supplies. These filters need to be cleaned on a regular basis to remain effective, and damaged filters should immediately be replaced.