Understanding Oil Contamination in Hydraulics

Hydraulic power has changed the way industries are able to push, pull, lift, and transport objects of all sizes. In spite of the complexities of application, the overall design elements are fairly simple. These systems are also very sensitive to contamination, which can destroy their efficiency and longevity.

Water Contamination

The most common problem associated with hydraulic system failures is bad or contaminated oil. Although a good filtration system is used to keep contaminants out of the oil, know what finds its way into the oil is the best way to establish effective defenses. Water and moisture are often the fundamental causes of oil contamination, and the original sources are often blamed on condensation. The goal of the high pressure hydraulic shaft seals, hoses, and reservoirs it to hold the hydraulic fluid and transport it throughout the system without allowing external molecules of dirt, air, or water into the pathways. If there are leaks in the seals or maintenance was carelessly performed with steam cleaners or pressure washers, water can get into the system. Water vapor can also occur if the system is being operated in humid environments and the air that was taken in is cooled and condensed.

Water in the oil will break down any additive package that helps support operation functions. It can also create an acid that eats away at the metal surfaces, causing oxidation. Even there is just a tenth of a percent of water in the base volume of oil, it can reduce the longevity of the bearings to half of its average operation projections. Water in the system also supports the growth of mold or microbes with the system is left idle for a length of time. This creates slimy and foul-smelling biomass that is corrosive and requires a thorough system draining and flushing to restore proper internal conditions.

Keeping up with maintenance on your hydraulic system isn’t difficult if you know the primary concerns of contamination. Schedule a regular inspection to check the oil and prevent long-term damage.