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Friday, 01 November 2013
Nov01

Hydraulic Fluid Cleanliness

5 Top Tips to Protect Your Systems

Nearly 80% of all problems in hydraulic systems can be traced back to contaminated fluid. Effective hydraulic fluid filtration, including proper monitoring and management of operating fluid condition and cleanliness, can make a dramatic improvement in the performance, longevity and efficient operation of your hydraulic systems. 

These tips are designed to provide a set of best practices and practical guidelines to help you manage filtration in your systems. 

New oil is not clean oil:

Although it is not a commonly known fact, oil from a typical 55 gallon drum can have an ISO rating of 23/21/18 or worse. This is rarely clean enough for a normal application. Standard practice should be to pre-filter new oil prior to filling the machine or the system reservoir; the recommended method is to cycle the new oil through a kidney loop prior to startup.

If new oil is not pre-filtered, and used as-is, it can lead to early failure of components and pumps, as well as premature filter clogging; this can cause the filtration system to go into bypass, and require additional maintenance, such as changing filters or elements.

Match oil cleanliness to your system’s requirements: 

Today’s hydraulic systems are designed with a variety of different components that often require a much cleaner oil system than one utilising gear pumps and standard control valves. Make sure you understand the requirements of your system and that the filtration applied is capable of maintaining that level. Always refer to the hydraulic supplier’s recommended cleanliness levels for their product to maximise life.

If the manufacturer’s target cleanliness level is not maintained, it can cause premature failure of components and reduce the effectiveness and control for which the system was designed. In addition, targeted oil cleanliness levels may be a prerequisite for equipment warranty; if significant failures or equipment damage is the result of oil cleanliness that has not met the manufacturer’s requirements, the warranty may
be voided.

Consider hydraulic systems designed with easily accessible filter systems:

A challenge to any maintenance program is how easy – or difficult – it is to access equipment that requires regular maintenance activity. Review the accessibility of the oil filtration system, and make adjustments in the system design to help ensure that regular maintenance of filters is not a complex or time-consuming operational issue.

Set up a maintenance schedule based on your operational requirements:

Every production environment, equipment design, and system usage is different – and that means different filtration maintenance. Service intervals are going to be determined by how dirty the environment is where the equipment is used, how frequently the system is operated, and the design of the filtration system.

No matter what the conditions, hydraulic filters need to be changed – and the interval defining when they need to be changed can be identified by regularly sampling hydraulic fluid conditions. It is highly recommended that you establish and maintain a fluid sampling plan; it is the best
way to monitor and to know when service is required. Maintenance indicators on filters are a good visual indication of clogged filters that require replacement.

Schedules standardise the practice: using rules of thumb to change filters can lead to either unnecessary filter exchanges, which adds to costs, or leaving a filter in place too long. Failure to change the filter often enough can lead to equipment failure, increased downtime, and costly repairs.

Clean the area around the filter before changing the filter:

Hydraulic environments are often dirty and contain harmful contaminants. Minimise the intrusion of these particles by cleaning the area around the filter connection.

Changing filters with large amounts of dirt and dust on and around them can allow ingress of potentially harmful contaminates into the system and dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the filter protecting precision hydraulic components. This is a step that is commonly overlooked by busy maintenance crews, but taking the time to clean the area before changing the filter eliminates contaminants at the source, before they can get into the fluid and filtration system.