As an operator of heavy construction equipment, you continually strive to avoid the costly downtime that occurs when a machine needs repairs. The high pressures and temperatures associated with the hydraulic components on almost every piece of equipment means that preventative maintenance is essential.
Here is a quick guide to some simple hydraulics maintenance procedures that will save you money and keep your equipment in great working order.
Analyze the Oil
Several times a year it is good policy to check the condition of the hydraulic fluid by taking a sample from a clean source on the machine. Take a test sample into a bottle from a test point on an operating machine. For example, a sample from the middle of a reservoir or return line and not from the more stagnant drain ports will give a clear indication of the oil's condition.
Analyzing the oil is an effective preventative maintenance tool to monitor the contamination levels of your hydraulic fluid and to track the water and additives content. It also indicates the remaining life of the oil. Good hydraulic oil is vital for efficient operation and fuel consumption.
Keeping track of typical conditions will enable you to spot any anomalous results and allow time for taking preventative action when needed or correct problems promptly.
Regular filter changes are another excellent preventative measure. Factors such as machine duty cycles, component wear and intrusion rate all play a role in the length of life of the filter.
Fortunately, many hydraulic assemblies have indicators via a light or pop-up switch that signal that the element is close to the end of its life. If your system does not have any indicators, then more frequent filter changes are the safest way of preventing blockages.
Make sure that there are spare parts on hand ready for a quick replacement in the event of a breakdown. This is quite often the most overlooked aspect of machine maintenance.
Up-to-date and accurate inventories of each machine where cylinders, valves and pump levels can be quickly cross-referenced to current levels of inventory saves delay. Ordering and waiting for hydraulic components can be a lengthy process and result in expensive downtime.
Keep a close eye on your inventory requirements with timely ordering of essential parts and scrap any obsolete components to avoid confusion.
Update Schematic Drawings
Having current hydraulic schematic drawings is just as important as having up-to-date inventory. An outdated or incorrect drawing makes troubleshooting very difficult, particularly with large and complicated machines.
As machines are quite frequently upgraded or modified, particularly in regard to their safety aspects, the schematics need to be changed to reflect the changes. If changes aren't made, then technicians may waste time trying to sort out the difference and find components in non-existent circuits.
Keep Machines Dirt Free
It seems that most hydraulic machinery, regardless of its industrial duties, attracts dirt like a magnet.
While dirt, on the outside, may seem harmless enough, it must not be allowed to enter the system. When the exterior of the machine is saturated with grime, contaminants can be easily introduced into the inner components.
The performing of simple procedures like hose replacement or filter changes, or opening a breather cap to the reservoir, all allow opportunity for the infiltration of undesirable particles.
A regular wash and clean of the machinery will be all that's needed to prevent any accidental pollution of the hydraulics.
By following a simple preventative maintenance program your hydraulic equipment will have increased life expectancy. Your costs will be reduced because of fewer breakdowns or necessary repairs and your operation will be efficient with machines in complete operating condition at all times.