Service Tips -- Hydraulic system maintenance

Lower total cost of ownership

Every step that helps lower the total cost of equipment ownership directly benefits the bottom line. Regular inspections and maintenance are a big part of that.

Surprisingly, however, hydraulic systems get overlooked during routine maintenance. A daily walk-around is a great way to catch small leaks and double-check the oil level. To fully protect the hydraulic system, focus on the system as a whole.

Not just any oil
One of the worst ways to approach lowering total of ownership is by purchasing the cheapest parts and supplies you can find. You may save money in the near term, but you’ll pay down the road. Manufacturers specify products based on each machine’s design.

For example, using poor-quality hydraulic oil, or a product other than what the OEM recommends, can eventually damage the hydraulic system. Equipment may need a different hydraulic oil depending on where or when it’s working. Viscosity matters with hydraulic oil, so the manufacturer may specify one oil for hot operating conditions and another viscosity for cold weather operations. Don’t assume that one wheel loader will require the same hydraulic oil as another brand.

Change the filter
Manufacturers specify a particular oil filter as well as intervals for replacing the filter. That varies by OEM and by machine. Failure to follow the recommended timeline or using the wrong filter can drive up total cost of ownership. A clogged filter restricts oil flow and it can allow contaminants to pass through.

This reduces job site performance and puts seals, spools and valves at risk of failure. Repairs will be expensive, as will be the downtime.

A holistic approach
Addressing equipment’s oil and filtration needs holistically can lower total cost of
ownership. This should include:

  • Fix small leaks before they get worse. Even a tiny leak wastes oil; multiplied by many tiny leaks, it can add up significantly. The system needs all of its oil to operate efficiently without damage. Anywhere oil can leak out, dust or other contaminants can sneak in. Low oil levels plus contaminants equals premature wear and tear.
  • Incorporate fluid sampling and analysis into your regular maintenance plan. This is a cost that offers a valuable return on investment because it can detect costly problems before they cause downtime.
  • Make sure the human factor works in your favor. Operators who control hydraulics smoothly and efficiently get optimum performance with the least amount of wear and tear.
  • Consider duty cycles when scheduling maintenance. How hard the machine is working and the frequency of repetitive cycles affects its need for servicing.
  • Keep your equipment clean. Grime conceals problems and filthy equipment doesn’t reflect well on the rental center, either. Keep attachments clean so they don’t contaminate the hydraulic systems.
  • Set a maintenance schedule. It will lower total cost of ownership and if there is a 
  • warranty claim, it’s easy to prove a proper maintenance schedule. 

This story comes from Tracey Road Equipment, a New York-based construction equipment dealer and rental center.