By Todd Lewis
If you're looking for hydraulic leakage in the form of a puddle on the floor, a leaky seal, or simply a hole in the machinery, you will miss important indications of a real leak, leading to some frustrating consequences. Hydraulic fluid leakage can result in decreased performance, unreliable results, premature component wear, and increased costs.
Finding the source of a leak, as well as its cause, will allow you to complete the hydraulic cylinder repair more quickly, reducing downtime and its associated costs. In this article, we'll discuss the types and causes of these leaks, as well as the potential negative effects.
So, what is a hydraulic leak? A hydraulic leak is just as it sounds — when the hydraulic fluid within a system is not where it's supposed to be. Leakage can be either external or internal; in an external leak, the fluid exits the system, usually by a hole or a small tear in the line.
An internal leak, on the other hand, is often intentional — moving hydraulic fluid to lower pressure areas to allow for maintenance or cleaning; internal leakage in a hydraulic cylinder becomes a problem when the amount of fluid leaking increases.
Now that you know how the leakage manifests, it's important to know both how to find a hydraulic leak and what has caused it. Depending on the cylinder type, the sources of leaks will vary, however, there are a few common causes to keep in mind.
An external leak is not as difficult to find, as a visual inspection will typically be sufficient. Adding a dye will make it even easier to find any leaking hydraulic fluid. An internal leak is more difficult and can be the result of wearing, poor design, inaccurate tolerances during manufacturing or repair, or even the use of incorrect components.
All industries that utilize hydraulic systems should be wary of hydraulic leakages, as they pose a danger to both the machinery and staff.
Leaking hydraulic fluid is known to cause an increase in oil use. A study done by Mobil Oil Corporation and its Hydraulic Fluid Index (HFI) concluded that the average facility uses four times as much oil as the machines within it can hold.
This heavy oil consumption caused by leakage is expensive for your facility and operations, and finding the source of the leaking oil can help save you time and money in the long run. Hydraulic leakage and oil consumption are also damaging to the environment and a waste of natural resources.
Another common danger of leakage is various hydraulic cylinder failures. Many assume that failures mean the machines stop working completely, but that is often not the case. In reality, a failure is more likely to present as poorer operation and efficiency of the equipment.
A hydraulic leak will negatively affect the performance efficiency of the system, resulting in a slower cycle time, and multiple leaks will have an even greater negative impact. This poor performance caused by leakage will lead to greater costs, as every project will take significantly longer to complete, requiring more personnel and operational time.
Hundreds of millions of gallons of hydraulic fluid are used worldwide every year. This fluid is known to end up in rivers, lakes, groundwater, and soil, causing harm to vegetation and aquatic and wildlife. Hydraulic oil leakage only exacerbates this issue, increasing the negative impact on the environment as more oil is being used.
As various industries that heavily rely on hydraulic systems, including forestry, mining, agricultural, and marine, contribute to environmental damage, it is their responsibility to watch the extent of their impact, and minimize them as much as possible — including locating and repairing hydraulic leaks.
Hydraulic cylinder leakage is often responsible for equipment malfunction and eventual failure. Statistically, 80% of equipment failures are a result of hydraulic fluid contamination. How does fluid become contaminated? It is actually because of external hydraulic leakage. If fluid can seep out, then dirt, dust, and water can all go in and contaminate the lubricant.
When these leaks and their resulting contamination occur, it accelerates wearing caused by abrasion, scoring, fatigue, and corrosion. This often leads to various components malfunctioning and potentially failing, which, in turn, leads to increased downtime and costs due to repairs, as well as wasted resources.
Another leakage effect is a potential risk to personnel safety, as operators and technicians have been known to slip and fall on leaking hydraulic fluid. Not only can this result in injuries to the staff, but it can also cost you much in the way of lost wages, interruptions to production, medical costs, staff compensation costs, and even costs associated with lawsuits.
Hydraulic leakage can also pose a risk to personnel in the form of fires, as there are often ignition sources in these facilities. Petroleum-based fluids, exposure to heat, and a high-pressured spray of leaking fluid create a perfect combination to produce a dangerous fire.
As mentioned in every effect above, the most inevitable impact of hydraulic fluid leakage is cost. There will always be expenses associated with hydraulic leaks, whether it's because more materials need to be used, such as oil, repairs are necessary due to reduced performance or malfunctioning parts, downtime increases because of repairs or malfunction, or personnel is injured and medical bills, compensation, and lost wages need to be paid.
There is also the risk of several other unforeseen consequences that will put you and your operations outside of the budget and in financial trouble.
It's not enough to know the ramifications of leaking hydraulic cylinders, you also have to know when the hydraulic fluid leaks occur. There are a few ways to improve the detection of a fluid leak in your hydraulic system, including.
These simple steps can help stop hydraulic fluid leaks earlier, limiting the negative impact of leaking hydraulic fluids on your entire system.
Hydraulic leaks are no laughing matter and something that should not be ignored. Whether you're concerned about the resulting costs, the risk to your staff, the expensive and frustrating downtime, or even the environmental unfriendliness, it is essential to keep a lookout for hydraulic leaks and repair them immediately to avoid these negative consequences.
If you need professional hydraulic leakage repair, contact our expert team at Cylinders, Inc. We are eager and ready to help get your operations back on track with quick and cost-effective hydraulic cylinder repair solutions, saving you time and money.
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