Common Causes of Hydraulic System Failure

A hydraulic system uses fluid power to generate force. It works by transmitting pressure through oil or water, which amplifies the energy applied to the fluid. Hydraulic system failure can be a major problem for industries that rely on heavy machinery. It can lead to high hydraulic repair costs, production downtime, and safety issues.

The five main causes of hydraulic system failure are:

1. Contamination of Hydraulic Fluid

Even small amounts of dirt, water, or air can wreak havoc with a hydraulic system. With hydraulic systems working under high pressure, contaminants can damage surfaces and clog orifices. Contaminants can cause corrosion of the system's metal surfaces, accelerating wear and tear.

If contaminants are not removed, the hydraulic fluid can become overheated. This may cause leaks and damage to the pump system. Regularly inspect and maintain the hydraulic fluid, replacing any contaminated fluid with clean fluid.

2. Inadequate Lubrication

Without ample lubrication, the system's components rub together without proper cushioning. This friction can lead to excessive wear and tear on the equipment, causing the system to break down.

Inadequate lubrication can also cause the system to run hotter than usual, causing further damage to the hydraulic equipment. Proper maintenance checks and visual inspections can help catch any lubrication issues.

3. Temperature Issues 

Hydraulic systems rely on specific temperature ranges to function properly. Deviation from these ranges can cause serious problems. If the system gets too hot, it can cause the hydraulic fluid to thin. Fluid thinning may lead to excessive wear and tear on the system's components. If the system gets too cold, the hydraulic fluid can become thick.

Thickening can prevent fluid from flowing properly through the system. Monitor the system's temperature closely to avoid overheating or very low temperatures. Adjust the system's cooling or heating mechanisms. You can also shut the system down until the temperature returns to a safe range.

4. O-ring Failure

The O-ring creates a seal between two components in a hydraulic system. If it fails, it can allow hydraulic fluid to escape. This can lead to a loss of pressure and reduced performance. Low pressure may cause stalling or shutting down of the system, loss of control, and even damage to the equipment.

If the escaped hydraulic fluid is flammable, it can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. To avoid O-ring failure, conduct routine maintenance and inspection. Use high-quality O-rings to minimize wear and tear.

5. Clogged Filters

Non-filtered materials such as dirt, rust, or water can clog the filter. When the filter is obstructed, it limits the oil flow and increases pressure. High pressure can damage other components in the system, causing leaks, overheating, and even complete failure. A clogged filter can lead to a shutdown, lost productivity, and safety hazards. This can increase hydraulic repair costs.

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While hydraulic systems can be reliable and efficient, they require proper maintenance and repair to keep running optimally. Contamination, inadequate lubrication, temperature issues, O-ring failure, and clogged filters can cause a hydraulic system failure. Recognizing the signs of hydraulic system breakdown and taking proactive steps to address them can enhance performance.

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