Well, we made it through another year. I’m not sure what else we could have done, since doomsday theories never seem to pan out. This means your hydraulic machines are still humming away as you go through your work day to achieve the status quo.
To keep your machines—whether they be tractors, excavators or even log-splitters—humming away, I’m going to provide you with 5 easy tips you can perform yearly to ensure you’re running like a top until 2016:
1. Test your filter’s clogging indicator. I won’t tell you to arbitrarily change your filters based on calendar markings, because all of your filters have clogging indicators to tell you when to change your filter, right? If your clogging indicator is a pressure gauge, you can cycle flow through the system while the oil is cold. If the needle on the indicator moves even only a little, it’s clear it works. If your needle is stuck in a non-zero position even while the machine is off, it needs to be replaced. Please note, this method works only for pressure gauge indicators, as electronic or pop-up indicators will only trip when a preset pressure is reached, which may not be possible to achieve unless the filter is almost clogged.
2. Have your oil sampled and tested. I’m a believer that oil should only be changed when absolutely needed, which is very infrequently if it is taken care of. By sampling the oil and sending it to a lab to be tested for ISO Code, water saturation and total acid number, you can monitor the oil’s condition to decide if it needs to be changed. The good news, is that particles and water can be removed from oil, but total acid number can tell you if the oil is oxidized, which is one of the signs oil should be changed.
3. Inspect hoses, tubes and pipes. If any of these components are worn, corroded, frayed or broken, an annual inspection will reveal imminent failure, which could be catastrophic if it occurs in the field or on public roads. Even if a hose or tube is only slightly worn through vibration or rubbing, an inspection will reveal this, allowing you to fix it down with clamping, or add abrasion-resistant wrap to prevent further wear.
4. Check for leaks. Slow leaks account for most of the oil lost from hydraulic systems, and the damage caused is both economic and environmental. Ensure the machine is clean before you start, as it will be difficult to observe leaks when your machine looks like it was just deep fried. Start by running the machine until the oil is warm, which allows it to thin out enough to pass through damage seals or loose connections. Look at all fittings and connections, around hydraulic motors and on the shafts of cylinders, keeping an eye out for drips or excessive sheen. Plumbing and fittings should be changed where needed, and cylinders and motors rebuilt with fresh seals as required.
5. Inspect all the accessory components, and replace as required. Often times, pressure gauges, filler/breathers, flow control valves, ball valves, clamps and quick-couplers are overlooked. Their non-operation may not be noticed until they’re absolutely needed, which will obviously be too late. How many times has a implement been hooked up to a tractor only to find the Pioneer couplers are seized? That missing handle on a suction line ball valve is never missed until the day comes you have to change your pump—and instead of just shutting the valve, you have to drain the whole reservoir.
These annual tips can be added to your regular maintenance routine, which will see your fleet running strong into 2016!