Everyone uses hydraulic systems!
As your car crashes through your new garage door, it is the wrong time to think about maintaining the hydraulic hose on your brake system. We all use hydraulic systems. We have to decide if we want to maintain it or replace it? Most people don’t know they have a hydraulic system nor how they should maintain it. Hydraulics are used in brake systems to stop your car, elevators, barber chairs, industrial and farm equipment, amusement rides, office chairs, and many other areas. Most of us count on others to ensure the hydraulic systems we use are properly maintained. If someone does not maintain your hydraulic system, you will get to repair/replace it. You may also replace the garage door, the car, you’re kid’s new bicycle, and the back wall of the garage!
Hydraulics is simply using a fluid to transfer pressure through a pipe system to apply mechanical force. Even air is considered a fluid in this type of application. That old bicycle tire pump uses hydraulic principles to push a fluid (air) through the hose on the pump to apply force (air pressure) that will inflate your child’s bicycle tire. Any leak in the system will lead to a lot more work or complete failure. When inflating your child’s bicycle tire becomes a cardio workout, you will understand the importance of maintaining even the simply hydraulic systems in your life.
A failed hydraulic hose is not always as mundane as a few extra minutes to inflate a bicycle tire. Every year people are injured and even die due to hydraulic system failures. Many of these could be prevented with proper maintenance. Warehouse Supply can help with your hydraulic hose maintenance program. Or, if you don’t have one…we can help replace the hoses that failed.
I do not intend this to be a complete checklist for your hydraulic maintenance program. I hope to give you some key things to consider as part of that program.
When should you inspect your hydraulic system?
While some manufactures will outline the interval for inspecting the system, there are other considerations to keep in mind.
- How critical is the hydraulic system? The greater the potential costs for failure will dictate how often they should be inspected. A failure of the hydraulic hose on a man lift could cause severe injury or even death. The hydraulic hose on your farm implement will fail at 6 pm on Friday when bad weather is coming next week, and the shops are all closed until Monday.
- Are there parts of the system that are likely to fail? Do you know from experience that a particular component will fail every few years? When did you last replaced it? Is there a hydraulic hose that is constantly flexed as it is used? Hydraulic hoses that rub against other components or hoses? Our experience can quickly guide us to the most likely points of failure.
- Age of the hydraulic system? Like most things, the age of your hydraulic system could be key in the inspection process. As your hydraulic system ages, components in the system can deteriorate. Weather and the elements can cause deterioration of components. Rodents and other animals may have decided to use the hydraulic hoses to sharpen their teeth. The quality of the components and many other things can affect the system. As the age of the hydraulic system increases, so should the frequency of inspections.
What should you look for?
There are some easy things to look for and some that require a bit more work. I highly recommend you start with the owner’s operation and maintenance manual. This should cover all the critical and most common points to consider. Even then, they may miss some points. The simple answer is to try to inspect every point throughout the hydraulic system for possible problems.
- Fittings/connections with an abundance of dirt accumulation. Small leaks in hydraulic fittings attract dust and dirt. This material absorbs the hydraulic fluids and attracts even more dust/debris. When you see a build-up of dirt/debris around a hydraulic fitting, it is a sign of a leak that should be addressed. A small leak at a fitting can often be corrected by tightening the fitting. Left unattended, it can lead to a complete failure and replacement of the entire hose or fitting.
- Cracks on the hydraulic hose or fittings. Hydraulic hoses are designed with an inner rubber liner surrounded by a wire mesh covered in another rubber sleeve. All three components contribute to the integrity of the hydraulic hose. Surface cracks on the exterior liner of a hydraulic hose do not mean there will be a leak. It is a sign of failure on one of the components and should be addressed. Cracked hydraulic fittings are another place that may not show signs of failure, but can fail suddenly. Carefully inspect your hydraulic hose fittings for signs of cracks and replace them.
- Check the hot spots! Do you have a hose that runs close to an exhaust system, a hot manifold, or other heat-generating points? Did you burn the weeds around an implement? High heat can lead to premature failure of a hydraulic hose. Look for charred hydraulic lines. Rerouting lines or adding shielding can help reduce the damage from the heat source.
- Missing clamps or guards. Look for any missing clamps, support straps, and guards. These items are added to support and/or protect hydraulic system components. They are typically designed to prevent hoses from rubbing and to protect them from damage.
While many hydraulic systems operate at fairly low pressure, many more operate with thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Pressure, when suddenly and uncontrollably released can have dramatic results. Equipment that is turned off does not mean there is no hydraulic pressure in the system. Hydraulic systems can maintain high pressures…even when the system is shut down. When you suddenly release hydraulic fluids from a small leak or hole in the hydraulic system, the fluid is atomized into a fine mist. With some hydraulic fluids, this creates a highly combustible situation. Additionally, while there has been a lot of work to make hydraulic fluids safer for people, animals, and the environment, they are not perfect. Hydraulic fluids can cause skin and eye problems, can be toxic to people and animals and can have a significant environmental impact.
If you are not trained or experienced in working with hydraulic systems, please find a professional to help you maintain your system. At Warehouse Supply we can help with new hydraulic hoses and many other components. Stop in and see how we can help or contact us.
Closing thoughts: 2020! What a year…for all the wrong reasons. I am reminded of a quote from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And 2020 has kept on punching! My plans for 2020 seem to change by the day…or even hour! Tyson went on to explain that he did not mean you shouldn’t have a plan, but rather to be prepared to deal with whatever comes at you. Good advice fur us anytime, and critical right now.