Even the best, most-meticulously maintained hydraulic components won’t run forever. And when they need attention, seeking out a competent hydraulic repair shop becomes a high priority. Estimates are that more than 3,000 hydraulic repair and service companies operate in the U.S., but capabilities vary widely.
We sought out two well-respected repair and rebuild firms for some advice on what users should look for in a good service partner. Both agree a state-of-the-art facility should look much like a Mercedes service center—esthetically pleasing with clean workshops housing the latest technology, and personnel with the skills to diagnose problems and ensure repaired units meet OEM specifications.
“We feel it’s all about quality,” said Steve Matthew, president of hydraulic component remanufacturer Wooster Hydrostatics. “If you’re going to boil it down to just a few things, it’s the technical capabilities of the organization, the training, and the system used to do the repairs.”
His company relies on ISO 9001 guidelines as the basis for any rebuild. “We take a systematic approach to how we repair every unit so the results are repeatable with the highest quality. That’s our goal, to make the component as good as new, and we warranty as new,” said Matthew.
“Equally important is the ability of the organization to understand the customer’s technical issues and problems, and help them balance the economics of urgency and pricing versus that of a new component,” he added. That demands top-notch staff and knowledgeable repair and test technicians. Thus, continuous, ongoing training is essential, said Matthew. The business demands people with the technical know-how to diagnose problems, make the repairs and ensure the highest quality.
“Virtually every technician has had at least a basic hydraulics course,” and most have had higher-level instruction at the nearby Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.
Backed by skilled technicians, the best hydraulic repair shop companies have manufacturing and testing capabilities that are as good as or better than the OEMs themselves, said Brian Berry, President of Engineering Technology Services, a remanufacturer of high-end pumps and valves. That’s necessary simply because hydraulics has gotten more complex. One issue is that newer equipment operates at higher pressures. “That can only be managed by piston pumps and motors, and piston designs are more complex than lower-pressure gear and vane pumps,” he explained.
And newer, more complex components routinely have integrated electronic, digital and CANbus controls, which strains limits of the pool of available qualified technicians. “Perhaps 1% of today’s technicians can handle all aspects of inspection, testing and calibration,” said Berry. “Most don’t have the know-how.” Pure mechanical aptitude, while still important, just isn’t enough, given the sophistication of today’s controls and software, he added. And as a consequence, ETS runs its own hydraulic school to keep technicians current on components like technologically advanced pumps and servovalves and closed-loop electronic circuitry.
Testing is also critical to ensure repairs are done right the first time and to as-new specifications. Unfortunately, components with higher operating pressures and sophisticated controls tax the capabilities of test equipment at many hydraulic repair shop facilities, said Berry. Small shops will make repairs and perhaps run basic tests, but they are not capable of performing full-function tests. ETS has invested millions of dollars in a dozen test stands for qualifying dynamic open and closed-loop systems and, when needed, charting parameters like frequency response, hysteresis, flow efficiency and mechanical leakage.
Not surprisingly, the price of a repair or rebuilt component can vary widely depending on the expertise behind it, for several reasons, said ETS’s Pat Dearmond. Costs include the expertise for diagnosing the failure, recommending the proper repair, deciding whether to rework or replace a part, and whether to use genuine or aftermarket parts. (Both ETS and Wooster use only original OEM replacement parts.) This speaks to the overall competency of the company (ISO certified) and testing equipment. Some repair houses do not even have access to the manufacturer’s dynamic specifications for new components. “Without that information, you cannot measure your test results to determine the quality of a remanufactured or repaired unit,” he said.
The quality of the repair shouldn’t be driven solely by price, either, stressed Matthew. “Companies that shop by price alone are usually disappointed by the outcome, as the repair may not hold up. People who choose price over quality usually come back to us in the future,” Matthew said.
At the end of the day a repaired component has to work properly the first time. It’s costly to remove and replace a component on a machine, let alone having to do it more than once. “Quality is something we live every day, that’s really where we hang our hat,” he said.
Engineering Technology Services
Kyler Brown says
My maintenance guy informed me that we need to find a hydraulic repair shop. Since I’ve never had to look for anything like this before, I really appreciated this post. I agree with your points about finding a service with a quality, state of the art facility, as well as being able to help customers technical issues and problems in a unique way. Thanks for sharing this post, as this was definitely helpful for me.
Tobias Armstrong says
I like that you point out how even the best hydraulic systems are going to need to be repaired at some point. Being able to locate a good repair shop seems like it would be in the best interest of anyone who works in the business. I think the fact there are repair facilities that can test an manufacture things better than OEMs is great, and it probably means your equipment is going to run well for a long time. Thanks for sharing!
James Bergman says
I agree that you should make sure whatever shop you take your hydraulics to should have knowledgeable and well trained technicians. Hydraulics are essential for some of my work, so I want to make sure the repairs are done right. This also means that the company repairing my hydraulics should be able to test them to make sure there are no problems.
Sam Sorenson says
I agree that looking for quality is important. More expensive does not mean better service.
Derek Mcdoogle says
My cousin like to make different things in his garage and has some really big hydraulic equipment that is having some problems. You stated that estimates are that more than 3,000 hydraulic repair and service companies operate in the U.S. Do most of these shops specialize in certain type of equipment or can they service any kind? Finding a reputable hydraulic repair shop might be his best option.
Luke Smith says
Thanks for pointing out that any service shop should be aesthetically pleasing and clean. I imagine that the way a repair shop looks would reflect the attention to detail the employees there would give to your vehicle. It would also make sense to me to look into their specialties, like whether or not they service foreign cars if you drive one.