An unexpected hydraulic oil leak can cause unwanted downtime and costly repairs. Therefore, it is important to undertake regular maintenance to make sure leaks are found and repaired quickly to prevent severe repercussions…
Leakage in a hydraulic system can result in unreliability, increased energy consumption, increased maintenance costs and overall reduced cost-effectiveness – which can all take a significant toll on your profits. Unfortunately, leaks aren’t always easy to spot – often not until after operation has been negatively affected.
However, some hydraulic systems have leaks that have been planned. Manufacturing these type of system is deliberate, as it allows an Original Equipment Manufacturer to record the maximum amount of leakage during normal operation. Deliberate leakage allows a fluid to travel from a highly pressurised zone to a lower pressurised zone to clean and cool specific areas of a component. The fluid is unable to exit, leaving no obvious sign of its existence.
Most leaks are a direct result of wear along the surfaces of hydraulic equipment. However, they can also occur through poor design, inappropriate equipment choice and poor quality control during the manufacturing process. The first obvious signs of leakage could be decreased performance, unreliability and increased working temperatures.
If the viscosity of hydraulic oil is low or the temperature is too high, this may increase the chance of leaking. Untimely wear of surfaces and fluid properties in a component can be a consequence of this. Many original equipment manufacturers recommend a maximum viscosity in order for their equipment to operate fully. Choosing the correct oil and sustaining a sensible temperature to retain this viscosity is usually achieved by the end user.
A hydraulic oil leak can be found in one of two ways:
Infrared thermometers: these are useful for taking unobtrusive measurements of equipment temperature. Abnormal temperatures in relief valves are examples of anomalies that could go undetected, due to the hydraulic system’s cooling or distribution of heat throughout the equipment.
Ultrasonic detection: another recognised method of measurement may be ultrasonic detection. Ultrasonic detection localises the internal leakage, however it doesn’t confirm how much the component is leaking. To gain a better understanding of the hydraulic oil leak, the best measurement would be taken from a flow meter or similar equipment.
It is easier to distinguish a hydraulic oil leak if it is external. Leaks like these should be fixed swiftly, as they could eventually lead to expensive downtime on a production line. In many cases replacing fluid can be a lot less cost-effective than buying brand new oil; safety and environmental issues also need to be considered, however.
In order to make it easier to detect an external hydraulic oil leak, dyes that are sensitive to black light are good ways of determining the location of external leaks. This dye is designed to be compatible with both the hydraulic fluid being used and the component surfaces thmselves without contaminating the oil. When mixed with the oil, the dye creates a bright green/yellow glow when exposed to the black light. This enables you to see where the leak in coming from in the hydraulic system.
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