Extreme cold temperatures throughout the winter months can cause challenges to hydraulic hose lines in tractors and machinery.

“The temperature of a piece of machinery can fluctuate from -20 degrees Fahrenheit to 200 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes,” says Angie Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension farm and ranch safety coordinator. “The hydraulic hoses on tractors and implements used in the winter months must be in prime condition to withstand the extreme temperature changes we face in the northern Plains.”

Hydraulic systems are critical for tractors and machines to work properly and conduct tasks year-round.

These systems store fluid under high pressure, typically 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi), up to 3,000 psi.

A hydraulic hose failure could cause extreme machine malfunction, potentially causing severe harm to the operator. Other hydraulic hose hazards include burns, skin penetration, and component failure or collapse.

Unhooking an implement or making a repair on a hydraulic system can be dangerous if the operator has not released the hydraulic pressure from the hydraulic system. This means that if the implement or loader on the tractor is in the raised position, it contains trapped hydraulic fluid that is pressurized. As pressure increases, the operating temperature of modern hydraulic systems can become high enough to cause severe burns if an operator is sprayed with escaping hydraulic oil from a puncture in the line or the immediate release of high pressurized oil from a loose hydraulic fitting.

Safety tips:

Always relieve hydraulic pressure before loosening hydraulic fittings. This includes lowering the implement (or loader) to the ground and testing your pressure relief valves to ensure they are reducing pressure buildup, if applicable on your tractor.

Move the hydraulic control lever (found inside the tractor if hooked up to an implement) back and forth several times to help relieve hydraulic pressure.

Follow instructions in the operator’s manual. Specific procedures for servicing hydraulic systems provide safety guidelines to follow when performing maintenance or repair.

Read more: Handling Hydraulic Hoses Requires Extra Caution in Winter