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Meet the relief valve. Contrary to how things might appear, it’s actually the unrecognised superhero of most hydraulic systems. Its heroic contribution is of great importance due to its ability to control the power that can be generated by the system.
Its role is to ensure that the pressure in the system will not go beyond its limit. This will result in less wear and tear of hydraulic components and will go a long way in assuring the safety of workers and operators.
The relief valve is in truth, a very simple component that cannot be matched by any other when it comes to ensuring the efficiency of the hydraulic system.
Prep yourself on more hydraulic system troubleshooting knowledge with our steps on how to handle issues with relief valves:
The first step with understanding what’s going on is to check the pressure with a pressure gauge inserted into the test port. Are you getting a reading that is in line with what the maximum pressure should be?
If so, you’ll next need to check where there is a system pressure problem with the flow. To do this, check the line to see if it’s been blocked. If not, then check whether the relief gauge is working properly as this could also be the underlying issue.
If you don’t find maximum pressure then check whether the machine is under load, it could be that there is too much load for the hydraulics system to cope with. Once you have done that, compare the reading of being under load to the measure of when there is no motion underway. If there is still an issue, you may need to adjust the relief valve.
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The purpose of check valves within Hydraulic Power Packs and Systems is to allow fluid to pass in one direction but to prevent it from travelling the other direction, or doing what is known as a reverse flow. The device is usually added to a pipe to prevent oil from flowing backwards. When necessary the valve will close so that all backward movement of fluid is stopped.
The hydraulic check valve has two ports. One is the inlet for the hydraulic fluid to enter and the other is an outlet. They will both operate in combination with the motor, cylinders and hydraulic pump. The valve controls the flow of fluid for the correct operation of equipment.
Hydraulic valves are available in a number of different designs. They may look like a poppet, a disc or one of the ball or plunger types. This will depend on where and how they are being used as to what style and size is used.
Most often you’ll find hydraulic check valves used in application such as braking systems, construction tools, lifting systems and other hydraulic systems. They are installed in systems where the backup of fluid could cause serious issues.
For example, if oil flowed backwards through a pipe, it could empty a hydraulic system back into the equipment reservoir. Even when the machine is turned off the hydraulic valve can prevent fluid from flowing through the system, keeping it full ready for the next time it is operated.
Dual Pilot Operated Check valves (abbreviated P.O.C), are check valves that can be opened by an external pilot pressure. Flow is blocked in one direction as per a standard in line check valve, but it can be opened when sufficient pressure from a pilot line is applied to the third port. The pressure required at the pilot port is normally only 1/3 of the pressure locked within the cylinder. This is determined by the Pilot Ratio (3:1 and 4.5:1) are normally available. They are regularly used with double acting cylinders to lock the system when pressure is switched off, either intentionally or by accident or failure. They can be fitted directly between ports on a ram or incorporated into a power manifold block or module. It is preferable to mount them directly to a ram with “hard” pipework as this increases the integrity of the device. If the pilot check is only required or desired on one side of a cylinder then it can be on the A or B sides, referred to pilot check on A or B.
Regular applications for pilot check valves are rear loading ramps on commercial vehicles. Balers and compactors where the load needs to be held while baling occurs. Security access bollards and blockers to stop the creeping down when the system is at rest. It is important top note that POC are not best suited to applications that have a load that that will over run when they are reversed.
Flow control valves regulate the flow of a fluid and take many forms:
Fixed orifice: Basically a hole in a tube or an insert that fits into the hydraulic line, restricting the amount of fluid that can pass through it for a given pressure.
Adjustable orifice: The size of the effective orifice is adjustable. Common forms are inline and barrel type where the body of the valve is twisted, needle valves for fine adjustment on low flow systems. When set the adjustment can be locked. These are regularly used on lifts or tipper applications where the load is uniform.
Pressure compensating: When a load such as a cantilever passes through an arc the system pressure can vary. This causes the speed of the cylinder to change leading to potentially undesired results. To overcome this pressure compensating valve account for changes in pressure and delivers broadly uniform flow to the hydraulic actuator. In a scissor lift a high pressure is required at the initial raise and decreases as the mechanical advantage increases. The reverse is true when lowering under gravity so a compensating flow control is suited here.
Reverse flow check: On a single acting power pack the pump and motor combination are optimized to give the desired lift speed of the hydraulic cylinder. The flow control valve has an integral bypass line that allows full flow in the out direction, through a built-in check valve. When lowering the full flow oil path is checked and forced to go through the flow restriction allowing controlled descent of the cylinder.
This consists of two valves in one block. When operating a double acting ram the extend and retract speeds will differ, due to the different fluid volumes. From our control valve full flow is permitted through in one direction whereas the other side is flow controlled and/or vice versa, in this way the different valve settings will optimize the actuator speeds. A common example of this valve configuration would be a rear door on a horsebox where the door will need to close much more slowly to prevent shock and noise.
A relief valve is an important control device in virtually every hydraulic system. They protect the overall system from generating a pressure that could cause mechanical failure. It is a mechanical valve that requires no external input other the applied pressure. When this excess pressure is relieved it re-seats to allow normal operation to resume. The most common type comprises a spring and plunger pushing onto a seat. If the pressure exceeds that of the spring force the oil is spilled to a volume usually the oil reservoir. The springs have adjustment ranges for example 20-100 bar and the valves can be housed in cartridge, module or designed directly into an aluminum or steel hydraulic manifold.
A hydraulic circuit may have multiple relief valves, one at the power pack end to protect the pump, another may be fitted onto a control valve circuit to relieve an induced load caused by external mechanical forces. If a hydraulic cylinder requires different relief valve settings on it full bore or annulus side then a dual relief valve module can be set to handle these needs. On the annulus side the area the oil is acting upon is smaller requiring higher pressures to exert the same force as the full bore side hence two relief valve settings are needed. One example of this is a hydropower generation sluice gate operation where something jammed in the gate such as log stops it closing.
Some terms associated with relief valve operation:
Overshoot: The pressure reading when a relief valve operates to bypass fluid. (It can be two times the actual setting.)
Hysteresis: The difference in pressure when a relief valve starts spilling some flow (cracking pressure) and when full flow is passing.
Stability: pressure fluctuation as the relief valve is bypassing at its set pressure.
Reseat pressure: The pressure a relief valve closes at after it has been operating.
Counterbalance valves are fundamentally a relief valve that is fitted in an application to generate back pressure in a system. They are normally used for ‘counterbalancing’ a load to stop it from running away during lowering. The valve is usually set at 30 percent higher than the pressure induced by the load.
Figure 1 Counterbalance valve circuit.
A built in check valve allows flow in the reverse direction (i.e. to by-pass the counterbalance valve when lifting the load). It should be noted that both sides of the valve will be subjected to full pressure, this is not possible on all relief valve designs. In Figure 1 the counterbalance valve has an integral check valve. When counterbalancing the return path must have a low back pressure to tank, as this will be additive to the valve setting.
A recent blog looked at the choice of hydraulic valves offered by Hydraproducts, all of which are CETOP valves (meaning they are interchangeable with the valves used in most hydraulic equipment), but focused mainly on solenoid valves and their function. Today we will look at relief valves and the importance of their function, as well as why those working with hydraulic equipment need to understand how they work and what they are used for.
The pressure relief valve is present in hydraulic equipment to serve the basic yet vital function of limiting and relieving pressure in the system when it is too high – without this function pressure would build up and cause irreparable damage to the equipment, leading to costly replacements and also the potential for serious injury to anyone in the vicinity of the equipment, should the pressure blows. Unfortunately, this knowledge is as much as many operatives have unless they are trained or have a background in hydraulic engineering. Every time the machinery experiences a pressure issue, especially the loss of pressure, the instinctive action to take is to adjust the pressure relief valve and although this may temporarily address the issue, it is not actually fixing the root cause of the pressure issues.
When the pressure valve is tampered with by several people over the course of a week or so, and each person thinks they are “fixing” the pressure issue by adjusting the relief valve, it is easy for the valve to be restricted to a dangerous level without anyone realising, until the pressure issues continue and eventually an engineer is called in. By this time there could have been substantial damage to the equipment that cannot be seen until the machinery is opened up, not to mention the risk of explosion. Any loss of pressure in hydraulic machinery should be reported to the person responsible for the maintenance of hydraulic equipment, not just “fixed” by an operator adjusting the relief valve.
Armed with the knowledge that the pressure relief valves have probably been adjusted by someone with no training, the hydraulic engineer can check the settings and also the adjustability of the relief valve to see whether this has happened. The relief valve should then be checked to ensure it is still in working order, and replaced if it is not. Once the pressure relief valve has been looked at, it will become apparent whether this is masking a bigger problem elsewhere in the hydraulic machinery that needs addressing; most likely this will be a leak or seal issue that has been causing the drop in pressure that led to the pressure relief valve being tampered with. On returning the hydraulic machinery to working function it is then important to take the further preventative measure of educating operators about the pressure relief valve and why it should not be frequently adjusted in order to address pressure loss issues.
Hydraulic systems sometimes have a manual relief valve integrated into the design. This valve relieves built up pressure and is usually deployed when the mechanical system fails at some point and stops the pressure being relieved automatically according to the normal operation of the equipment. Essentially it is a safety feature that does not rely on a mechanical or electronic process but on human interaction which over-rides the system, returning the machinery back to an idle position. In cases where there is no manual relief valve (for example, sub-sea mining where equipment operates autonomously), a relief valve will still be in place but can be operated remotely.
The singer Katy Perry recently demonstrated the importance of a manual relief valve, when she became stranded on a stage prop during a show. Known for her elaborate performances and costumes, the enormous model of Saturn on which Perry got stuck, was just one of several large scale moving stage sets that are part of her Witness tour, which includes a giant mechanical hand which grabs her and pulls her under the stage. At the time of the incident Perry had finished a song and was expecting the planet prop to be lowered back down to the stage so she could disembark, but a malfunction meant that instead she was left stranded for a couple of minutes while stage hands rushed about to manually lower the equipment. While she waited Perry entertained the crowd, eventually diving into the audience when the prop was low enough.
Although highly embarrassing for Katy Perry, she was not in any danger during the ordeal but in medical applications where hydraulics are used to raise, lower and turn equipment there may be situations in which the patient's safety is compromised by being stuck in a position that is not compatible with their condition. A manual relief valve allows for the equipment to be returned to the normal position quickly and without further involvement from staff. Dentist chairs operate on the same principle. If someone was to suffer a medical emergency while at the dentist, the emergency services would need to chair to be quickly returned to the right position in order to treat or move the patient.
Manual relief valves in hydraulic systems are not always used for personal safety; the build up of pressure in a hydraulic system generates heat which can damage the internal components of the machinery, including the hydraulic motor, the cylinders and the seals between parts of the system. If equipment malfunctions and the pressure cannot be released then the cost of repairing the machinery could have serious implications for the business in terms of outlay and in downtime, which doubles the loss of productivity and revenue. Being able to release the pressure in a system with one single over-ride valve means that the potential damage can be limited to a point where it may not have caused any serious problems and will not take too long to repair. On-site engineers can work on the machinery straight away, without having to first work out how to release built up pressure and this makes it much safer for them to operate on the hydraulic machinery as there is no risk of that pent-up energy suddenly being released in an unsafe manner.
If your hydraulic equipment does not have a manual relief valve there may well be a good reason for that – if the system has built in failure contingencies or is a simple system that is not prone to malfunction then there may be no need. However, a manual relief valve can be retrofitted in many systems and should be a consideration for any machinery where there is a risk to personal safety or to the integrity of the equipment.
Made of a number of precision machined components, hydraulic equipment and systems require care and maintenance to get the best of them and in order to give them what they need for long lasting and trouble-free operation.
We’ve covered troubleshooting before, and if you want to know more in further detail then check out our blog posts on:
Troubleshoot Hydraulics: Basic Knowledge
Troubleshooting Hydraulic Relief Valves
This checklist is for those who have not had extensive experience with troubleshooting hydraulics and it might suit your interns or newbies in the workshop.
Let’s get started.
First off, it’s essential to keep all of the hydraulic system clean. This includes the hydraulic fluid. Oil and oil filters need to be changed at regular intervals. You could say that dirt and grime is your and your equipment’s worst enemy and it’s your role to keep it at bay and prevent it from messing up your machinery and its peripherals.
Here is a checklist of what is at the root of most trouble:
1. The fluid or oil being used is not of the correct viscosity.
2. There is not enough fluid or oil in the system
3. There is a leak
4. There is dirt, moisture or there is another foreign body in the system
5. There is air in the system
6. Structural failure.
7. Adjustments have been made but they are wrong
Here are some shortcuts to answers that you can refer to when getting started with hydraulic troubleshooting:
Your Pump is Operating Incorrectly and not delivering fluid or oil. It could be down to any of these reasons:
· The fluid is too low in the reservoir. You may need to check its level and refill if necessary.
· If there is a hole in your intake pipe allowing air to pass through, you may hear a noise or experience erratic results. This will need to be repaired. Alternatively there could be a blockage in your filter. In which case, you will need to clean it.
· The oil is too thick and the viscosity is too heavy. Check the specs suggested by the manufacturer.
· The pump shaft is rotating in the wrong direction. Reverse it otherwise you will cause irreparable damage as there won’t be enough lubricant.
· Dirt in the pump – clean it.
Your System is Not Developing Pressure
The most likely causes for this type of situation are:
· The pump is not delivering fluid (see info above – with remedies listed)
· The relief valve is malfunctioning either through leakage, incorrect settings or because the valve spring is broken. You may need to check the settings according to the manufacturer, check the valve seat to look for either dirt or scoring or even replace the spring and then adjust it as suitable.
· The valves may be allowing the oil to be recirculated through the system. Check the directional valve to ascertain what the situation is with it.
· There is leakage internally in the valves or the cylinders. Check these components and their condition.
Pump is making noise
· The intake line or the filter is not allowing fluid to pass. Clean these and assure there are no kinks or anything to stop them being fully open.
· There are air leaks either in the intake pipe at the joints, at the pump shaft packing or through the inlet pipe opening. You can check the joints for leaks by pouring on oil. Also check the shaft by pouring oil onto it and check that the inlet pipes are below the oil level in the reservoir to ensure that suction is strong enough.
· If you are seeing air bubbles, you may need to use an oil with a foam depressant.
· Check the reservoir air vent to see if it’s plugged, if so clean it.
· You may find that the pump is running too fast, in which case you will need to refer to the manufacturer’s specifications.
· The oil is at the wrong viscosity. Again, check the manufacturer’s specifications for details.
· Check whether the filter is of the correct size, as this could also be a problem. Refer to manufacturer’s specs for details.
· Check for work or broken components and parts, and replace as necessary.
If you’re experiencing an external oil leak around the pump, you may need to look for:
· Worn shaft packing which needs replacing
· Head packing damaged, again replace it.
· Loose or broken parts, which may need to be tightened or replaced.
Excessive wear can be caused by and remedied as follows:
· Abrasive material or dirt in oil being circulated. Clean and/or replace the filter and change the oil.
· If the viscosity of the oil is too low, check what is recommended by the manufacturers.
· Pressure could be too high for maximum rating of the pump. In which case you may need to check the settings of the relief valve or regulator valve.
· The drive is not aligned correctly. Check this and correct as appropriately.
· Air is in the system. This will need to be removed.
Broken pump parts can come about from:
· Pressures are above the maximum pump rating check the relief or regulator valve settings.
· Seizure from lack of oil in the system. Check the level of the reservoir, the oil filter and the suction line.
· Dirt or material in the pump – clean it and check the filter.
· The head is screwed on too tight – check the specifications as listed by the manufacturer.
Follow our blog for more handy hydraulic system troubleshooting checklists.
Sequence valves have an important role to play in hydraulic systems. They control flue flow to both the primary and the secondary circuits. They also control the sequence that particular events occur and maintain the pressure of the primary line. It’s important to remember that the pressure of the sequence valve should never be below 200 psi of the system relief valve setting.
When it comes to sequence valve troubleshooting, you’ll need to add pressure gauges to both the primary and secondary ports of the valve. Most valves have a gauge port installed in the unit. You’ll use the readings of the pressure gauge to understand what is occurring in the sequence valve.
If there are contaminants in the hydraulic fluid it can have a negative effect on the sequence valve. It can block internal pilot fluid passage and moving parts can wear down faster.
There are a number of ways that the sequence valve can malfunction:
You may experience premature valve shifting. This can occur when the fluid is not flowing at a high enough pressure. You’ll need to check the sequence valve to confirm if there is a blockage of the drain hole in the main spool. This would allow pressure to build in the spool cavity and therefore shift the spool at the incorrect time. Also check whether the spool is stuck open because it has been damaged or it has contaminants stuck on it.
If you are getting too much pressure in your valve, it’s time to check the sequence valve itself. Check whether the pilot control piston is getting stuck. This could be down to contaminants or even scoring. It could also be that the fluid passage of the pilot has collected contaminants and therefore the pressure is too low to shift the spool.
Any fluctuations in pressure could be down to contaminants or the improper sized drain line.
If you have any experience in the area of sequence valve troubleshooting, feel free to comment below.
In this article we want to explain the ins and outs of hydraulic powerpacks. A vital piece of equipment that is used with so many machines we see every day.
In a nutshell, hydraulic powerpacks are self contained units that are used instead of a built in power supply for hydraulic machinery. Hydraulic power uses fluid to transmit power from one location to another in order to run a machine. It really is as simple as that.
So what do they look like?
In order to recognise and better understand hydraulic powerpacks, it is a good idea to get to know the key components. Hydraulic powerpacks come in many different shapes and sizes, some are very large and stationary whereas others are much smaller and more compact. In fact, some hydraulic powerpacks are so compact that they can easily be transported in a small van or even an estate car.
The only real way to identify hydraulic powerpacks is through its main components. No matter the size of the unit, all power packs will have the following; a hydraulic reservoir, regulators, a pump, motor, pressure supply lines and relief lines.
What do these components do?
It may be obvious to some but in this post we wanted to explain every hydraulic power pack component as simply as possible. So here goes.
First up is the hydraulic reservoir which quite simply holds the fluid. Reservoirs will come in different sizes.
Then we have the regulators. Regulators are vital as they control and maintain the amount of pressure that the hydraulic powerpack delivers.
Thirdly we have the pressure supply lines and relief lines. The supply line simply supplies fluid under pressure to the pump and the relief lines relieve pressure between the pump and the valves. The relief lines also control the direction of flow through the system.
Finally we have the pump and a motor. We will begin with the simpler component of the two, the motor. The motor is simply there to power the pump. Easy as that. Now the pump generally performs two actions. Firstly, it operates as a vacuum at the pump inlet and through atmospheric pressure forces fluid from the reservoir into the inlet line and then to the pump. It then delivers the fluid to the pump outlet and pumps it into the hydraulic system. We did warn you that the second part would be slightly more confusing.
So what is the function of hydraulic powerpacks?
Hydraulic powerpacks deliver power through a control valve which in turn runs the machine it is connected to. Hydraulic powerpacks come with a variety of valve connections. This means that you can power a variety of machines by using the appropriate valves.
Hydraulic powerpacks are relied upon by a range of different machines that use hydraulic power to do its work. If a machine is required to carry out heavy or systematic lifting then its likely it would need help from a hydraulic powerpack.
To make it easier for you to understand, we have included a list of trades that regularly rely on our powerpacks. On a building site you will see machines like bulldozers and excavators, which both need hydraulic powerpacks. But, it is not just on building sites that you will find these types of machines. Fishermen and mechanics both need hydraulic powerpacks too. If we did not have them then how would fishermen lift their nets or how would mechanics lift our cars?
When picking a hydraulic powerpack there are a variety of pumps and options to pick from and it is important to pick the right pack to meet your machines needs. It is also important to consider a pack that will help maximise productivity and minimise cost.
Many people will overlook the necessity of hydraulic powerpacks, but they really are vital to ensuring our society runs efficiently.
Do you need to maintain hydraulic powerpacks?
Yes you do and this is hugely important! Hydraulic powerpacks require regular maintenance to ensure they are working properly and safely and to help extend their life. Maintaining hydraulic powerpacks is relatively simple and includes checking the tubing, this can be for any noticeable problems such as dents or cracks. It is also vital to regularly change the hydraulic fluid and look at the reservoir to check for any corrosion or rust in hydraulic power packs.
What hydraulic powerpacks do we provide?
Generally we provide four different types of hydraulic powerpacks. You can pick from a standard powerpack, a mini powerpack, a micro powerpack or a bespoke powerpack.
The standard hydraulic powerpack uses a standard range of modular components and is ideal for the most demanding industrial applications. The mini powerpack is ideal for applications requiring up to 5.5kW. The micro hydraulic powerpacks were originally produced for mobility applications, so are great for when space is limited. Finally, if none of these seem to fit your needs then we offer bespoke hydraulic powerpacks ensuring your application gets the hydraulic powerpack it requires.
Finally, who is the genius behind hydraulic powerpacks?
The man behind hydraulics was Laissez Pascal. A French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher who lived in the mid seventeenth century. Pascal made observations about fluid and pressure which led to Pascal’s law. Pascal's law states that when there is an increase in pressure at any point in a confined fluid, there is an equal increase at every other point in the container. Hydraulic powerpacks have been designed based on Pascal's law of physics, drawing their power from ratios of area and pressure.
So, interested in our Power Packs? Come on over to the main website and see what we can do for your Hydraulic Power Pack Needs .
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