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A reliable sign that hydraulic equipment is about to break ben lee

If every hydraulics engineer had a crystal ball, there would be a huge decrease in unplanned downtime due to system failures because every single little problem would be addressed before it turned into a serious one.  Most of us don't have the power to see in to the future, so how can we predict problems in hydraulic equipment?


One very easy way to stay on top of potential problems is to regularly monitor the temperature of the machinery and therefore the hydraulic fluid within.  Heat is naturally generated by any machinery as it works, but too much heat is indicative of a larger problem and a warning of damage to come.  Excess heat in a hydraulic system usually indicates air in the system or the fluid itself, which heats up under pressure.  This in turn degrades the oil, leading to poor lubrication and the subsequent damage of moving parts, which presents as noise.  By recording heat baselines, it is possible to see when a problem starts and allows operators and engineers to identify and rectify issues before they cause damage.


Temperature recordings of the hydraulic fluid should be done at the same time each day and at the same location, to ensure an accurate dataset is created.  Although there may be some seasonal changes in temperature, for example the first reading of the day may be a lot lower in the winter than in the summer, regularly recording this data shows these seasonal patterns and what to expect, and may even be used to inform the choice of a change in hydraulic fluid to function more effectively in different seasonal temperatures.


Comparing the most recent hydraulic fluid temperature recordings to those of the previous days will show when the machinery is operating at a temperature that can cause problems further down the line.  Excess heat causes hydraulic fluid to lose its viscosity, causing a lack of lubrication in the machinery and leading to unnecessary wear and tear.  Hot hydraulic fluid can also degrade seals and hoses, causing leaks, which further exacerbate the problems of heat in the oil by allowing air in and fluid out.


Measuring and recording the temperature of hydraulic fluid may not pinpoint the site of the problem, but it does provide a reliable indicator that something is wrong, long before the effects of heated hydraulic fluid present with loud noises from within the chambers or a noticeable leak is discovered.  Being able to act on this information and organise an inspection of the hydraulic machinery means that problems can be addressed before they become costly, and lead to longer downtimes and reduced productivity.


Laser thermometers are the most reliable piece of equipment for measuring temperature.  They are inexpensive and easy to use, and the use of the laser means that a measurement can be taken in exactly the same position day in - day out, whether that spot is a label on the machinery or a sticker placed on it to create that location.  Temperature checks are not onerous to carry out and can be done by untrained staff, as long as the data is being read by an engineer.  A few minutes a day could save hours of repair work.

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