Hydraulic systems come in handy for powering different applications in industrial settings. Preventative maintenance is crucial as it focuses on routine detection and addressing any damages that lead to system failure. Ignoring the signs of hydraulic system damage can cause equipment failure and even more costly repairs. That is why it is wise to pay attention to these potential signs of a damaged hydraulic system.

Unusual noise

Aeration or cavitation can cause unusual noise in a hydraulic system when air pollutes the hydraulic fluid. The air in the hydraulic fluid causes a knocking or alarming noise as it compresses and decompresses when circulating through the system. Aeration also leads to degradation of the fluid, and you may notice other signs such as foaming of the fluid. Aeration also causes the loss of lubrication, burning of seals, and overheating, damaging the system’s parts.

Air enters the hydraulic system via the pump’s inlet, which is why you should always ensure the pump intake lines are in proper condition. The clampings and fittings should be tight. Note that flexible intake lines are likely to become loose with age, so be keen on replacing old ones. You should also ensure the fluid in the reservoir is at the correct level.

Cavitation happens when the fluid volume the hydraulic circuit needs exceeds the volume of fluid supplied. That leads to vapor cavities in the liquid, causing a knocking noise when compressed. Cavitation can lead to mechanical failure in extreme cases.

High fluid temperature

Anything that reduces the hydraulic system’s capacity to dissipate heat or increases its heat load leads to high fluid temperature. The fluid temperature is high when the viscosity goes below the optimum value required for the system’s components. If anything, fluid temperatures above 82degrees Celcius can accelerate the degradation of fluid and damage seals.

Therefore you should continuously monitor and maintain reservoir fluid at the proper levels. You should also ensure no obstructions to the airflow around the reservoir, for example, accumulation of dirt and debris. You can install a fluid temperature alarm in the system to prevent the damage caused by high fluid temperature.

Also, note the heat exchanger’s ability to dissipate heat is based on the flow rate of the hydraulic fluid and the cooling water or air circulating in the exchanger. That means you should also monitor the performance of the cooling circuits and replace them when need be.

Slowed operation

Slow performance is often the major indicator of a damaged hydraulic system. This problem occurs when there is internal or external leakage, resulting in the loss of flow and longer cycle times. Internal leakage can occur in the valves, actuators, or pump, while external leakage like a burst hose is evident and easy to find.

Internal leakage impacts heat flow leading to high fluid temperature and a slow operation. Therefore an infrared thermometer comes in handy for monitoring components with abnormal leakage in the hydraulic system.

In conclusion

You should proactively monitor fluid temperature, cycle times, and noise in your hydraulic system to identify conditions that lead to costly failures and damages.