Keep Things Running Smoothly With These 5 Tips To Maintain Your Hydraulic Equipment
Hydraulic equipment works hard. And often long hours. Nowhere is consistent, ongoing maintenance more essential, to keep machines and jobs running smoothly. Otherwise, things will go wrong. The resulting downtime can be devastating for production schedules as well as your repairs and maintenance budget.
Regular preventive maintenance is important for your customers’ hydraulic equipment, and also for your dealership’s rental fleet. With that in mind, here are six tips that will help you avoid problems that can take hydraulic equipment out of commission.
1. Monitor your equipment’s “vital signs”
You need to know the machine’s normal operating temperature as well as the system’s typical operating pressure range. If you don’t monitor this data, you cannot know when something is amiss – until it goes off the chart and you’re faced with costly repairs. And when that happens, you won’t be able to figure out why.
It’s not difficult to gather this information. Both operating temperature and pressure usually display on the default PLC screen. But there may be a lot of other data on the display, and these two factors are top priorities, so you don’t want to overlook them. So make a plan to regularly capture the information yourself.
2. Temperature-related measurements
- Invest in an infrared thermometer (heat gun), and learn how to use it. This is how you will read the temperature of your tank oil.
- On the hydraulic tank, draw a small circle using a permanent marker or paint stick, and mark it #1. This is where you will take the temperature reading. Make sure it is below the minimum oil level, away from the cooler return. Permanently marking the spot assures a consistent reading location no matter who is performing the maintenance.
- If you have a closed-circuit hydrostatic transmission, pick an easy-to-reach spot on each leg of the transmission loop and mark it in the same way. Call these marks #2 and #3. If you have an open-circuit hydraulic system, you won’t have to do this.
- Place similar circles on the heat exchanger inlet and outlet, marking them #4 and #5. (If you skipped the previous step, you can call these new marks #2 and #3, to keep the measurement steps in numerical order.) By measuring both temperatures, you can calculate the temperature drop across the cooler. Then you can use that number and the oil flow rate to determine the exchanger’s actual heat rejection rate.
3. Actual heat rejection is an important diagnostic tool
Let’s say your system is overheating. Is it due to increased heat load? Or is there a problem within your cooling circuit? Knowing the system’s actual heat rejection will help you find the cause. Here are two example scenarios:
- Your hydraulic system has 100 kilowatts of input power. The exchanger’s actual heat rejection is 30 kilowatts. This means your system is operating below 70% efficiency. This is probably due to increased heat load.
- Your hydraulic system has 100 kilowatts of input power. But the exchanger’s actual heat rejection is just 10 kilowatts. The system is operating at 90% efficiency, so the problem isn’t heat load. Either the cooling circuit has developed a problem, or the system simply doesn’t have adequate cooling capacity.
4. Measuring operating pressure
If your hydraulic equipment doesn’t already have a transducer or pressure gauge, install one. You’ll need a second device to record charge pressure if your system has a closed-circuit hydrostatic transmission.
5. Pulling it all together
Create a chart on which you can record:
- Ambient temperature
- Operating temperatures
- Operating pressure(s)
Establish a baseline by taking readings on the coldest and hottest days of the year, as well as a few days with average temperature. For ongoing maintenance, take readings at consistent intervals – say, each shift or each day. By plotting these measurements, you can detect anomalies early. And if something goes wrong with your hydraulic equipment, you can take immediate readings to compare with your “norms.” Either way, you’ll be better prepared to take action as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.