Avoid Common Mistakes That Drag Down Hydraulic Performance

Hydraulic systems depend on proper lubrication to perform their tasks reliably.

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Originally published on Chevron Lube Matters blog

By Jason Gerig

Hydraulics play many critical roles in construction equipment. Hydraulic systems depend on proper lubrication to perform their tasks reliably, but not all hydraulic fluids are alike.

When a hydraulic oil does not perform as intended a loss of fluid pressure and volumetric flow leads to decreased productivity. Field test results found that the use of a premium hydraulic oil contributed to improved efficiency gains as high as 7.5% and productivity as much as 10.4% compared to a conventional fluid. Electrical energy savings were also measured and showed efficiency increases as high as 4.2%. Clearly, the type of oil selected can have a significant impact on overall equipment reliability resulting in better machine performance.

Modern machines are designed and manufactured to perform at ever higher levels, which puts more demands on hydraulic oils. They must perform under higher system pressures, with smaller oil reservoirs and tighter clearances on servos and directional valves. A premium hydraulic oil will improve the performance of machines relative to conventional fluids by achieving a fine balance of additive chemistry, base oil, and fluid cleanliness to insure the highest performance. Properties such as excellent fluidity at low temperatures, outstanding corrosion and oxidation protection, superior viscosity control, ability to keep components clean and free of varnish, and fluid cleanliness that meets OEM specifications are all critical requirements a premium fluid would take into consideration.

Particle contamination is the leading cause of lubricant-related failures in equipment components. High particle count can contribute to foaming, varnish and the ability to demulsify water in the oil. With today’s hydraulic systems operating at higher pressures, higher temperatures and tighter tolerances, it is imperative to maintain oil cleanliness within OEM guidelines from the time of delivery throughout its service life to ensure peak performance.

Testing has been performed to determine the impact of using a hydraulic oil containing levels of contamination ISO Code (4406) 23/21/18 representing the condition of oil that is often used to fill and top-off oil reservoirs. Following the Eaton Vickers 35Q25 Pump Test protocol, it took approximately 50 hours for the system to reach an acceptable oil cleanliness level with the oil circulating through the onboard filter. Inspections of internal parts in the first test sequence showed signs of wear on the side plates and vanes. This type of accelerated wear is common when running outside the recommended ISO Code levels due to the higher level of abrasive particles in the oil. These results confirmed the importance of starting out with an oil that meets OEM cleanliness specifications to help avoid damage to critical components throughout the hydraulic system including servos, directional valves, hose, and pump parts.

To maximize the performance of a hydraulic oil system, it is important to select an oil blended with premium base oil and additive chemistry, and that meets the recommended ISO cleanliness specifications from the start.  Avoid the common mistakes of picking the lowest priced oil and ignoring fluid cleanliness specifications. The combination of “premium” and “clean” will have a positive impact on your operations and your bottom line.

Jason Gerig is currently the Americas ISOCLEAN Business Manager for Chevron Lubricants where he is implementing an industry leading business model for certified clean lubricants. He has 23 years of experience in the lubricants and fuel industry holding various positions in operations management, marketing, and sales with his primary passion focused on equipment reliability utilizing certified clean lubricants. He holds a B.S. degree in Business Marketing from the University of Wyoming and has been recognized by the Society of Tribologists and Lubricant Engineers as a Certified Lubricant Specialist and Oil Monitoring Analyst.