By John Joyce, Marketing Director, Brennan Industries Inc.
The best way to avoid potential problems with your hydraulics system is to take proper measures to prevent them. The easiest way to do that is by looking at the manufacturer’s recommendations, along with the working environment.
But it may not be that easy, which is why you need to put together a strong preventative maintenance plan. For instance, the most important thing to consider is stored hydraulic energy. If the pressure is not properly released from the pressurized hydraulic reservoir before replacing any hydraulic fittings, you could get a violent release of hydraulic energy. This can cause serious equipment damage or even bodily harm.
When using a hydraulic system, it’s also important to avoid leaks. Leaking pressurized hydraulic fluids may develop a mist that can explode upon contact with an object that causes ignition. So, a set list of precautions should be taken very seriously.
Creating a preventative maintenance plan
A hydraulics preventative maintenance plan will put you on a regular schedule. When putting one together, make sure you at least have the following in place:
- Step-by-step instructions
- A list of potential hazards and safety precautions
- Any environmental concerns
- Required tools and equipment
- A list of traceable parts
Making sure you have proper hydraulic fittings
Never reuse old fittings and hoses, even if they’re in good shape. An O-ring that has been through various cycles of pressure can get cracks or become dry and brittle when exposed to the atmosphere during maintenance.
A leak-free system is ideal, and that starts with the selection of your hydraulic fittings and hoses. The type of media and working atmosphere determine the material. Mismatched fittings can cause serious damage to the hose, tube or even the entire system. That’s why you must look at specific areas when replacing hydraulic components within your system, such as the application, media, pressure, reliability, size and temperature.
Checking for signs of hydraulic pump failure
Contamination can happen not only from leaks within the hydraulic hose, but it can also be caused by a faulty pump. Since a hydraulic pump is the heart of the machine, it can have a significant impact on downtime and repairs when one fails. That’s why identifying this issue sooner than later can save you the expense and lots of hassle.
Here are some potential symptoms of hydraulic pump failure:
- Hydraulic fluid leaks
- A weak hydraulic motor
- Inconsistent cylinder operation
- Loud noises, such as vibrating, knocks and bangs
- Any sudden drops in pressure
- Seals that frequently fail
- An unusually high temperature during pump operation
Keeping safety top of mind
Before maintenance of the system, make sure to properly depressurize it. This can be found by looking at the manufacturer’s recommendations. It will help you to minimize the risk of fluid bursts. It’s also recommended to include lockout and tagout (LOTO) procedures within your preventative maintenance plan.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refers to LOTO as the most relied upon safety procedure. It “refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
This requires, in part, that a designated individual turns off and disconnects the machinery or equipment from its energy source(s) before performing service or maintenance and that the authorized employee(s) either lock or tag the energy-isolating device(s) to prevent the release of hazardous energy and take steps to verify that the energy has been isolated effectively.”
These procedures are here to help since it can be hazardous to crack or loosen a connection without having proper instructions. A system must be properly depressurized according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. It can reduce the risk of bursts since turning off a system or machine will not lower the pressure in a cylinder or accumulator.
Following proper procedures during maintenance is crucial. By proactively having a strong preventative maintenance plan, you’ll be able to repair leaks, maintain the correct fluid levels and use proper filtration.
During the design of a hydraulic system, manufacturers integrate lockout devices to verify, control and isolate energy. Legislation and regulatory standards have ensured that manufacturers are conforming to safety precautions.
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