This article was originally published in The Business News on May 23, 2022

Just like a car needs periodic oil changes to keep it running smoothly, your hydraulic system needs regular maintenance to prevent serious problems. A hydraulic system uses fluid pressure, usually oil, to power cylinders and motors.  

Contamination in hydraulic fluid leads to more than 75% of hydraulic system failures. What causes contamination is simple: air, water and particulate. The solution to avoiding a system failure can be simple if you know how to properly care for your filtration system. Understanding key components of your system and bringing in experts at the right time will help to keep your fluid clean so you can maintain a healthy hydraulic system. 

Keep your fluid clean 

The first step in keeping your hydraulic system’s fluid clean is to understand the different types of filters available. A common filtering method used in large hydraulic systems is an in-line filter. In-line filters are installed in the main line of the hydraulic system, and they filter fluid as it’s circulating. As contaminated fluid passes through the in-line filter, the particulates are trapped on the filter’s surface.  

Another type of filter used in hydraulic systems is an offline filter. Offline filters are not installed in the main line of the system. Instead, they are used to clean fluid that has already been used and then stored in a reservoir. To use an offline filter, you must first shut down your system and drain the fluid into a container. Once all of the fluid has been drained, you can then remove any particulates from the surface of the reservoir and clean the reservoir itself.  

Depending on the type of filter and the level of contamination in your system, how often you need to change your filters may vary and you should seek professional advice if you are unsure of when to change the filter initially.  

Properly monitor your system 

In addition to contamination, common hydraulic system problems can include leaks or blockages. Monitoring your hydraulic system is critical to keeping it running effectively and catching small problems before they become big ones.  

One way to monitor your system is to regularly check the oil level and quality. The oil level should be checked weekly, and the quality should be checked monthly. You can also use simple devices like a pressure gauge to monitor your system. The pressure gauge will show you if there is a change in pressure, which could indicate an underlying problem with the system.  

Stay Current with Industry Standards 

There are several different fluid cleanliness codes that hydraulic system operators must follow. The most common is the International Standards Organization (ISO) code, which has a range of classes that designate the level of contamination in hydraulic fluid.  The lower the class number, the cleaner the fluid.   

It is important to know which code is applicable to your system, as different industries have different standards. For example, the aerospace industry has much stricter standards when it comes to the level of contamination that is acceptable for their machines than the construction industry.   

When it comes to your hydraulic system, it’s important to bring in experts when you need to.  

Caring for your hydraulic system doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. By understanding the basics of filtration and monitoring, and by tagging in experts when necessary, you can keep your system healthy and running smoothly.