Keep drums under wraps
Fluid stored in drums should be kept "under roof", if possible, to shield it from the environment.
"If the drums have to be stored outdoors, they should be stored on their sides with the bungs facing the ground at the lowest point," advises Ted Naman, technical coordinator, ConocoPhillips Industrial Lubricants and Greases. "The drums should be shielded from the weather and covered with tarps to protect them from the elements."
Drum covers are also an option. "The key here is you don't want contamination buildup in the form of dirt or water on the top of those drums because the [bung] hole really doesn't seal anything out," says Urbano. "Water sitting on top of that drum is going to go past the threads on that plug and leak into the barrel if you don't have some means to keep it out. If nothing else, turn the barrel so the bung plugs are parallel to the ground. Place a 2" x 4" under one end so rainwater will run away from and off the plugs and the top of the barrel."
Water can also accumulate inside drums stored outside, particularly during "transitional" times of year. "If we have a 60 degrees F day and a 30 degrees F night, that's going to give you condensation buildup in those drums, and that's a big problem," says Urbano. "Before you tap into a barrel and use that oil, it would be a good idea to pull an S.O.S. [oil] sample to check the oil's condition. It's a relatively inexpensive and quick test that will tell you whether there's any water buildup or contamination."
No mixing allowed
According to Naman, a common problem with hydraulic fluid is contamination with water, motor oil, transmission fluid and other lubricants or chemicals, including solvents or cleaning solutions. Such liquids can chemically interact with the hydraulic fluid, reducing its performance or its viscosity. "This has a direct impact on the life of the hydraulic system," he adds.
When transferring product from a drum or tank to a piece of equipment, OEMs and oil suppliers alike strongly recommend using clean, liquid-tight containers dedicated to a specific fluid. "If they're not dedicated, you could end up contaminating your hydraulic oil with motor oil or other things," says Len Badal, global enterprise manager, Chevron Products Co. "When you mix the two products, the performance properties of the hydraulic fluid will degrade and possibly affect equipment performance."
Badal advises dedicating the containers, as well as hoses and/or piping. "If you can't do that, then the next step is to do a complete flush of that container or equipment, transfer pump or transfer line," he states. "We would typically recommend the customer spend the extra money and dedicate."
Sutherland also promotes proper labeling and/or disposal of empty hydraulic drums. "If you're using a hydraulic drum for your waste oil, and you have not identified that as a waste oil drum, somebody may think it's the right stuff and dump it [into the machine]," he cites. "That can be a mixture of everything you have on the jobsite."
In addition, take care when introducing new fluids into a storage tank or hydraulic system. Not all hydraulic fluids meet the same specifications or have the same chemical properties.
"If you have a machine that is using a zinc-free product, and you decide to top off the reservoir with a zinc-based product, you have created a new lubricant," says Navarro. "The new product is untested, with totally different signatures, different viscosities, different corrosion and anti-wear properties."
This can eventually cause negative reactions in equipment. "Machines are very sensitive to the changes," says Navarro, "and they let us know through oil analysis readings."
Before making a fluid switch, Sutherland recommends checking compatibility. "If you do want to do a running change, you should perform a compatibility analysis or at least a check," he states. "That will solve most people's problems."
Filter before you fill
Filtration is your last line of defense against injecting damaging contaminants into the hydraulic system.