Understanding Contamination of Hydraulic Systems and Fluids for Optimal Machine Efficiency

Hydraulic systems have found a range of applications in modern societies, making life easy and manageable in industrial and commercial settings. Essentially, hydraulic machines rely on levers, pistons, actuators, filters, reservoirs and hydraulic fluids to perform their functions. The hydraulic fluid is one of the most important components in a hydraulic system, and it must stay free of contamination for a hydraulic machine to function efficiently. Here is a thorough look at contamination of hydraulic fluids to help you gain insight:

What Is Contamination of Hydraulic Fluid?

Simply, contamination refers to the introduction of foreign materials or impurities in a hydraulic fluid. Contaminants affecting the purity of hydraulic fluids may be in the form of liquids or solid particles, which can find their way into the fluid through components in contact with the fluid. Such parts include pistons, valves and reservoirs among others. One of the most notorious contaminants is water. It reacts differently with water-based and oil-based hydraulic fluids depending on the chemical additives used in the fluid.

Introducing water or moist air in a hydraulic system may form an immiscible gruel with water sinking to the bottom or floating on top of the hydraulic fluid. On the other hand, solid contaminants react with the hydraulic fluid chemically or ruin the system through accumulation.

What Are the Effects of Contamination in a Hydraulic System?

When using a hydraulic system, you can classify the effects of contamination into three. The first effect is degradation, which covers things like changes in the rate of flow at the hydraulic pump, rapid wear on cylinder barrels and valve leakages. Secondly, there are transient effects characterised by intermittent (occasional) failure of the hydraulic system to transfer force as required by the operator. The last category of effects are catastrophic and marked by a total breakdown of the hydraulic system.

What Can You Do to Prevent Contamination?

Contamination can be prevented before it occurs. First, avoid mixing hydraulic fluids by yourself even if there is supposed promise in improving the performance of your machine.  Pay attention to choosing the right fluid for your hydraulic system according to the recommendations of the manufacturer. For instance, don't use hydraulic brake fluid in place of a hydraulic pump's fluid. Even if your system can handle more than fluid, always drain the system, clean it thoroughly and then introduce the new hydraulic fluid. In addition, carry out regular maintenance to prevent leakages throughout the system.