If your business uses a hydraulic system, you’ll already know the importance of keeping it working efficiently. A faulty or damaged system leads to downtime, which is, of course, bad for business productivity. Whether you work in the industrial, marine or military industry, you’ll need to keep your hydraulic system in good working order so that your operations don’t unexpectedly grind to a halt, costing you precious time and money.
Hydraulic systems are notoriously complex. They consist of many vital operating components which all work together; if one becomes damaged or broken, further faults will spread throughout the system, leaving you with a poorly operating machine or even a complete system breakdown. Not only should hydraulic systems be properly designed and manufactured in the first place, but they also need regular maintenance throughout their lifetime to ensure they are safe and long-lasting.
At HP Hydraulics we know just how confusing hydraulics can be to the untrained eye, so below we share our expert advice on the different components that exist within your system, what the common problems are and finally, how an expert hydraulics repair company can keep your business operations running smoothly, safely and cost-effectively.
Components within a hydraulic system
Although there are many different applications for hydraulic systems – such as car braking systems, construction equipment and marine applications like capstans, cranes and winches – hydraulic systems tend to follow the same blueprint, comprised of the following components:
- Pump. Uses energy from the engine to pump the hydraulic fluid and create hydraulic flow and pressure. There are a number of different types of pumps which are used for different applications.
- Hoses and lines. Connects all of the components and transfers fluid between them. Because of the high pressure required, hydraulic hoses are very flexible and strongly reinforced.
- Cylinders and motors. Cylinders have a straight push-pull action and motors use energy from the hydraulic fluid to achieve the work and motion of a machine, like lifting, lowering, pushing, rotating, holding, etc. Cylinders and motors take the place of what would be an electric motor in other non-hydraulic machinery.
- Valves. Open and close in order to control the flow of fluid by restricting and redirecting it, and are present throughout the system. Valves act to stop the pressure building up within the hydraulic system.
- Cooling unit or heat exchanger. Cools the hydraulic fluid once it’s gone through the system in order to stop it overheating and, as a result, improve accuracy.
- Reservoir. Holds the hydraulic fluid and feeds the pump. It also transfers heat, allows contaminants to settle and provides airspace above the fluid to trap air bubbles.
- Filters. Prevent contaminants from entering the system which in turn assists the necessary continuous maintenance of hydraulic systems.
- Hydraulic fluid or oil. Provides energy transmission through the system, enabling work and motion to be accomplished by the cylinders. Also responsible for lubrication, heat transfer and contamination control.
Although hydraulic systems are famously reliable, with such a range of components there are a number of things which could potentially go wrong. In order to maintain your hydraulic system and keep business ticking along, you need to be able to recognise when this is happening.
Common problems with hydraulic systems
As a business owner who uses hydraulic systems, you’ll probably have encountered at least one of the problems we’re about to explain. In fact, because of the intimate internal makeup of hydraulic systems, it’s often the case that one causes another, creating a chain reaction, leading to hydraulic failure. Here are a few problems that could occur and why:
- Fluid contamination. The most common cause of hydraulic failure, with 80% of failures caused by it, contamination in the hydraulic fluid will circulate throughout the system and decrease the life of components. Contaminants are solid, liquid or gaseous and are caused by improper cleaning or the absence of a filter.
- Over-pressurisation. Pumps are designed to work at certain pressure levels, so when the pressure increases over its limit the pump will become over-pressurised and push against its internal components, decreasing its lifespan and eventually leading to permanent failure.
- Aeration. This is when air bubbles appear within the hydraulic fluid. When bubbles become compressed they are exposed to the pump’s pressure, resulting in an implosion, which removes metal debris and increases the temperature within the system.
- Pump aeration. Occurs when air becomes trapped in the fluid and then sucked into the pump through faulty inlet joints or shaft seals. During pump aeration, you’ll hear a loud noise with an increasing pitch, and you’ll see it too – the hydraulic fluid will be cloudy and milky.
- Cavitation. If the pump works too fast, the intake line is restricted or the fluid is abnormally viscous, the hydraulic fluid won’t completely fill the space in the pump; this is cavitation. It makes a similar sound to aeration, so can be difficult to identify.
- Excessive heat. Tends to be a result of other damaging factors, however, it can also trigger failures itself. If your internal hydraulic system is at a constant high temperature it can be very hard to detect, but unfortunately is very damaging.
If your hydraulic system is experiencing any of these problems, there may be some tell-tale signs like abnormal noise, high fluid temperature or slow or erratic operation. Keeping your eyes and ears peeled for these symptoms, as well as preventative maintenance by yourself or a hydraulic engineer, can go a long way.
Preventative maintenance and using a hydraulic repair service
Preventative maintenance is undoubtedly the best way to keep your hydraulic system running safely and smoothly, particularly as complete replacements are expensive. However, regularly maintaining your own hydraulic system can swallow up vital working time and, if done incorrectly, even greater problems can occur and result in costly consequences. On top of this, the range of uses of hydraulic systems means that the needs of a system can vary; there is no textbook way to look after all types of hydraulic system.
Hydraulic engineering specialists are experts in hydraulic repair and are the best people to look after your system. Not only can they expertly assess what the problem is and its cause, but they can also rectify the problem to your machine’s specific requirements. There are a number of restorative services that a hydraulics company will offer, below are just a few of the most important:
Hydraulic pump repair
The hydraulic pump is the beating heart of a hydraulic system and is the most expensive component to replace. At HP Hydraulics we often tend to pump failures where pumps are achieving half of their expected service life – you may think that this would require complete replacement, however, it is more cost-effective to get them repaired.
It’s good to get into a routine of checking your pump. Firstly, inspect it for obvious external damage. Also, listen out for abnormal noises – if you suspect cavitation, shut it down immediately. You should also check for contamination in the pump by inspecting the filter and checking the fluid level. If you think something’s wrong, turn to your local hydraulic specialist to decipher the problem.
Hydraulic cylinder repair
The hydraulic cylinder keeps your machine doing what it’s supposed to do – it’s the muscles of the operation – so a broken cylinder will drive business to a halt. The cylinder is closely connected to the pump, so if there is contamination in the pump it’ll eventually lead to a broken cylinder. So as well as checking your pump, routinely check your cylinder for damaged or leaky seals and dents or breaks in the rod (the component that moves inside the cylinder), which could all allow fluid or pressure to escape.
Because the cylinder is such a vital component to your business’ productivity, if a problem arises, you’ll want a quick turnaround. Like the pump, it’s more cost-effective to repair than replace. Hydraulic cylinders come in many different sizes in order to suit different applications, so ensure you use a trusted hydraulic specialist who recognises the type of hydraulic machine you have. If a cylinder does need replacement, a reliable hydraulic company will be able to replace individual cylinders designed specifically for your machine, so that you don’t have to replace the entire system.
Hydraulic oil sampling and flushing
As we’ve reiterated throughout, contaminated hydraulic fluid is the main cause for system failures and even if your system doesn’t fail immediately, contaminated hydraulic oil will cause operating deficiency. Although you can test hydraulic fluid yourself, it’s best to rely on the experts to routinely monitor it. Depending on the technology your hydraulics company uses, this can be done on-site.
Once your hydraulic oil has been sampled, it may be that your system needs flushing. This involves draining the system and flushing it through with filtered liquid. At HP Hydraulics, we use the next generation V2 – an award-winning and revolutionary particle monitor – to ensure that your hydraulic fluid has been thoroughly inspected for contamination.
Use HP Hydraulics for your hydraulic system maintenance, repair and replacement
At HP Hydraulics we specialise in the design, finishing, repairing and replacing of hydraulic systems and all of their components. With over 30 years of experience, we offer all of the services mentioned above and more. We operate within a range of industries and our versatile team can tend to hydraulic problems in many different machines.
We are based in Hampshire and have a wide geographical operating area. Our emergency call-out team are available 24/7 and can visit you on-site to ensure your business operations get going again. We understand how important minimal downtime is, so whether you need a new hydraulic system, replacement components, ongoing maintenance or emergency repair, contact HP Hydraulics today or browse our wide range of hydraulic services on our website.