When it comes to heavy equipment, reliable hydraulic system performance is critical to productivity and profitability. A proper understanding of the hydraulic fluid, and its role in the efficient performance of the hydraulic systems of equipment used in off-highway, construction and utility work is the basis of optimizing the contractor’s maintenance dollar, say hydraulics experts.

“The main issue we see over and over in our business is lack of cleanliness around hydraulics,” said Ivan Lavy, owner of Lavy Enterprises, an equipment repair, maintenance and custom design specialist in New Carlisle, Ohio.

Properly maintained and clean hydraulic fluid will keep components working for years, and sometimes for the life of the machine, he stressed. “Failure is nearly always because of contamination.”

Extending Equipment and Fluid Life
Paul Michael will be tackling the topic of “Hydraulic Fluid Properties, Efficiency, and Contamination Control” during next March’s IFPE 2020 in Las Vegas, Nev. Manager of Tribology Research at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Michael identified the three sources of contamination in a hydraulic system. One is built-in, meaning it occurs when the machine is assembled or repaired. The second source is ingestion from the external environment and the third is internally-generated contaminants.

In his IFPE presentation, Michael will address the fundamentals of hydraulic fluids, how they function and their composition. Some of the more advanced technologies and fluids include synthetic fluids, fire-resistant hydraulic fluids and biodegradable fluids. In addition to outlining information on the nature of these fluids and how to validate their performance through standard testing, he’ll also discuss contamination control, how to assess contamination level in terms of particle count. He will present case studies that look at the debris that’s found in the hydraulic oil filters, in order to identify the root cause of machine problems.

Michael also will address some advanced technologies, including the use of multi-grade hydraulic fluids and advanced surface-active chemistries, which can improve the low-speed efficiency of hydraulic motors and reduce leakage flows throughout the hydraulic system. This is important in controlling energy usage and maximizing the productivity of the equipment, he said.

“Getting the maximum benefit out of a high-quality hydraulic fluid that has a great deal of longevity potential requires an understanding of contamination control and filtration,” Michael explained during a pre-IFPE interview with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “It’s also necessary to understand the sources of contamination in hydraulic systems, as well as their impacts on a system.”

Read more: Better Living Through Cleanliness — Healthy Hydraulics Systems Key to Life of Heavy Equipment