Hydraulic fluid performs an essential function by providing lubrication between moving machinery parts. As a result, hydraulic fluid plays an important role in keeping your machinery running and reducing costly downtime. When hydraulic fluid becomes contaminated, its ability to keep your machines running smoothly is compromised.
This is especially true given the environments that hydraulic powered machinery typically finds itself operating in. Environments such as exist in the construction, marine or agriculture industries subject machinery to both heat and dirt which can lead to contamination of your hydraulic fluid.
To minimize the potential for hydraulic fluid contamination, manufacturers of hydraulic fluid incorporate additives into their fluid designed to provide protection to the core hydraulic fluid. These additives are sourced from third party chemical/petroleum manufacturers and added to the hydraulic fluid based upon the nature of the application that the machinery will be operating in.
Detection of Hydraulic Fluid Contamination
The primary defense against fluid contamination lies in the establishment of a well-structured contamination control program. There are two main steps that go into developing a contamination control program, including:
- The use of appropriate filters within the hydraulic system.
- Testing the hydraulic fluid on a regularly scheduled basis.
Testing the hydraulic for contaminants is done by establishing testing points with specialized fittings at predetermined points along the hydraulic line. The test fittings are designed to prevent contamination entering into the line, as a result of backflow, during the testing process. An important aspect of the contamination testing process is that by utilizing the specially designed valves, it is not necessary to shut down normal operations.
Monitoring and Analysis of Hydraulic Fluid
Monitoring the condition of the fluid in the hydraulic system is accomplished through the use of diagnostic tools. These tools provide details on the condition of the hydraulic fluid related to variables such as:
- Ferrographic debris – tests for types of metals present
- Gravimetric – tests for total particle mass
- Particle distribution – tests the number of particles broken down by size
- Proton-induced X-ray – tests for the types of elements present
- Water content – tests for water volume
The process of monitoring hydraulic fluid for contaminants is simplified with the use of mobile testing equipment. Indeed, many companies have acquired their own testing equipment making the testing of even non-essential hydraulic systems common.
So why is monitoring and analysis important? It comes down to cost. It has been estimated that hydraulic fluid contamination can reduce the useful life of equipment by up to 75%. This represents a huge cost in terms of early machinery replacement, which can be avoided by the monitoring and analysis of the hydraulic fluid.
Taking charge of ensuring the quality of your hydraulic fluid pays off in terms on longer machine life, reduced downtime, lower maintenance costs and increased ROI. Whether you manage the quality of your hydraulic fluid in-house, or you rely upon a hydraulics system expert to do so on your behalf, the effort will pay off.