Is My Hydraulic Oil Contaminated?

The single greatest cause of hydraulic equipment not performing as it should is hydraulic oil contamination. In fact, three out of four hydraulic equipment failures are caused by contaminated hydraulic fluid. Contamination is a serious threat to your hydraulic system; it can cause the system to work much less efficiently or even cause system failure, so it is important to monitor your hydraulic oil closely.

There are a variety of ways that your hydraulic fluid can become compromised and different signs of contamination to watch out for. By preventing contamination or detecting it early on, you can save your system from serious damage, prevent the need for hydraulic repair service in Minnesota and also avoid costly fluid replacement and disposal fees. But how do you know if your hydraulic oil is contaminated? Below are a few signs of oil contamination to watch out for:

  • Clogged jets, nozzles and/or valve jamming
  • Icing (frozen water) that causes a system malfunction
  • Increased component wear and corrosion

Hydraulic fluid contamination can occur in a number of ways. Hydraulic fluid is made up of two basic parts—base stock (the oil itself) and the additives that help protect the oil. Contamination causes problems when contaminants interact with either the base stock or the additives. The most common causes of hydraulic fluid contamination can be broken down into three categories—physical properties, base-stock degradation and additive depletion:

  • Physical properties: If water or particulates (air particles such as dust, dirt and other contaminants) enter the hydraulic oil, they can form insoluble precipitates (particles that will be mixed in with the oil but can’t dissolve) or cause the oil to sludge or gel. Insoluble precipitates and sludges can cause undue stress on system components, causing wear or malfunction, or they can clog nozzles, jets and valves.
  • Degradation of base stock: Degradation refers to a chain of chemical reactions that break down the base of your hydraulic fluid. The most common example of degradation is when the hydraulic fluid becomes contaminated with water and metal particles. Oxygenation occurs, creating oxygenated compounds that settle out of the fluid as gums, resins or sludges. These compounds can then cause corrosion and surface wear of components.
  • Additive depletion: A variety of additives are added to hydraulic fluid to help protect it and maintain quality. Chemical reactions, or simply the physical removal of hydraulic fluid additives, can result in additive depletion. Water can lead to the precipitation of additives, or chemical reactions caused by interaction between contaminants and additives can result in additive depletion. The results are similar to those mentioned previously—component wear, clogs created by sludge or resins and ultimately system malfunction.

By watching for early signs of contamination, you can help prevent irreparable damage to your hydraulic systems. However, not all damage can be prevented or avoided. If you do find yourself in need of a hydraulic repair service in Minnesota, call M & M Hydraulic Company. We’ve been the top-rated hydraulic repair service in Minnesota for over 40 years. To schedule services, give us a call today!

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