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Hydraulic System Maintenance - How to Select the Right Oil Analysis Tests ben lee

The advantage of oil analysis is that it can be used to make informed hydraulic system maintenance decisions. Its downside is that you have to know what you’re doing when it comes to selecting the right test. If you don’t then you may as well just pour your money down the drain.

Tests aren’t too complicated to be undertaken by those without extensive oil testing experience. If they are broken down into simple to understand segments, then it’s possible to select the right one. There are three basic types of tests. These are:


·         Fluid properties (aging process)

·         Contamination (destructive particles)

·         Wear debris (presence and identification of particles)


The following tests can be used with varying amounts of success for each of the three types of oil analysis tests:


·         Particle counting

·         Moisture analysis

·         Patch test

·         Flash test

·         Viscosity analysis

·         Analytical ferrography

·         Fourier Transform InfraRed - FTIR

·         Ferrous density

·         Elemental analysis

·         Acid / base number


If you’re looking to find out whether your hydraulic system lubricant is healthy, we suggest using the acid / base number test in combination with the viscosity test.


Lubricants that are kept in storage have a shelf life and over an extended period of time will deteriorate in quality through biological growth, contamination and oxidation. They should be tested before using to ensure that they haven’t reached the point where they are completely useless.

You might want to take your own tests, or you may prefer to send them to a laboratory for oil analysis. Whatever the case, you need to ensure that you’re educated in this area so that you know what type of information you should be receiving back, what it means and what to do with it. The quality of your lubricant is going to determine how reliable your hydraulic system machinery is.

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