The first line of defense for equipment fluid systems is the filters. "Liquid filters are an important and integral part of equipment's critical life support system," says Brent Birch, engineering lab manager, Champion Laboratories' Luber-Finer brand. "Abrasive contaminants, oil degradation compounds and combustion by-products (for engines) must be removed from the oil to control wear and provide for a cost-effective operation."
Unfortunately, too often filters are unable to perform effectively due to lack of attention or missteps during the service process. "Most of the experienced technicians doing fluid servicing do it as part of a bigger project, and see filter changes as a necessary evil," says Paul Bandoly, manager of technical services/customer training, WIX Filters. "Or else it's being performed by the lowest guy on the totem pole."
Consequently, best practices may be overlooked, leading to problems down the road. "It's not going to sideline you within hours of use," Bandoly acknowledges. But the eventual results can be costly. "The best [scenario] is that you reduce equipment service life and serviceability. The worst is catastrophic failure of your equipment."
Start with the right replacement
One of the most common mistakes is using the wrong replacement filter. "The appearance of two filters doesn't look any different, but the capabilities can be significantly different," Bandoly points out.
In the face of budgetary constraints, it can be tempting to purchase a cheaper product that appears to have the same properties. Yet, it's important to consider overall operating costs. "Always consider the total true cost of operation over the vehicle lifetime and not just the initial filter price," advises Birch. "There are many substandard filters available that are of low cost. Unfortunately, they often are very poor performers and will not protect your equipment from accelerated wear."
That's why it's so important to follow manufacturer recommendations. "Choose filters determined by the manufacturer to be based on a direct cross from the Original Equipment Manufacturers' part number and not by size or general appearance," says Randy Thompson, field service application engineer at Donaldson. Also consider the warranty policy and service support should a problem occur.
Bandoly suggests consulting with your filter supplier on a periodic basis. "Part number recommendations change; part numbers are superseded," he points out. "At least once a year, get together with your filter supplier and validate that you're using the right part number for your equipment."
"Involve your filter and oil supplier as much as possible," adds Birch, "to achieve peak performance with your particular application."
Storage and handling
Dusty, dirty fluid filters are a contamination issue waiting to happen. "I'll go out to construction sites and see parts containers with a layer of dust so thick you could plant peanuts in it," Bandoly comments.
He notes that boxes are often opened to look at the parts or to place filters on a shelf. Any contaminants that accumulate on the filter can easily enter the fluid system during installation. "Keep boxes sealed and keep filters wrapped until they're ready for use," Bandoly advises. "Keep them stored in a clean area."
Filters should remain in their original packaging until just before they are installed on the machine. "Avoid leaving filters uncovered and exposed to contaminants during service," says Thompson.
Once taken out of the packaging, check filter condition. "Always inspect filters for any damage or missing components prior to installation," says Thompson. "Never install filters that are damaged or dented."
Filters in poor physical condition can fail prematurely. "Filters with dents and damage may not resist the pressure impulse and vibration loads as designed," Birch notes.
Premature failure can result. "If you use a spin-on filter that's damaged or dented," says Bandoly, "you're setting yourself up for a fatigue fracture."