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importance of proper functioning hydraulic systems

Seasonal Changes & Hydraulics: How Cold & Warm Temperature Affects Hydraulic Systems

Hydraulics play a big part in keeping businesses running and completing difficult tasks. Heavy machinery such as cranes, excavators, tractors, and dump trucks all use hydraulic systems. Without these efficient systems, building new homes and roads, growing crops, or disposing our garbage would revert back to days of old; completing tasks at a much slower pace. 

However, though these systems are a big help for specific industries, many of these jobs happen within environments that have fluctuating temperatures. Whether outside in the snow or inside on a hot summer day, these hydraulic systems must remain working in whatever environment they’re in.  

Hydraulic systems work by pressurizing a fluid and using the force generated to move an object, usually a piston. Because the fluid cannot be compressed, the pressure transfers energy into a piston to make it move the given mechanism. This pressure stays constant until it is manually shut off. One example of which is why forklift prongs stay raised up until the pressure is stopped.


Importance Of Smooth-Running Hydraulic Systems

It’s incredibly important to keep hydraulic systems moving smoothly, especially if your business depends on these types of heavy machinery. Avoiding downtime, which are periods where a machine is not working, is vital. Unplanned downtime can end up causing financial and safety issues such as having a decrease in production numbers, extending the project timeline and losing future contracts.

Keeping your hydraulic systems sufficiently lubricated can help mitigate this problem. Appropriate lubrication can reduce wear and extend the life of your machinery. Lubricants are also vital for moving potential contaminants away from vulnerable areas such as valves and filters. To help keep temperatures and internal stress on components down, ensure your lubricants pass through a cooling system, and keep this working perfectly.


Hydraulic System Reactions To Hot Temperature Environments

High external temperatures, or running a machine near a source of heat, can negatively affect the hydraulic system. Machines such as excavators often work in hot environments and are particularly susceptible to the dangers that high temperatures pose for hydraulic systems.

As mentioned earlier, without correct lubrication and cooling, high internal temperatures can damage hydraulic systems if they’re not adequately protected and serviced. This issue places greater stress on internal components and can lead to failure. Higher temperatures can also be caused by intense pressures working within the machinery, so making sure your lubricants are sufficiently cooled is vital.

High temperatures can also cause the fluids and lubricants in hydraulic systems to lose viscosity, which is essentially the thickness of the fluid. This can lead to problems such as oxidation and can also make lubricants less efficient at dealing with contaminants that could cause friction or damage. In the worst case scenario, lubricants can lose so much viscosity that they turn into vapors, which can be very damaging to the entire hydraulic system. 

If air or other gasses get into the hydraulic system’s lubricant, compression can occur. This can cause temperatures to rise to around 2000 F, which has the possibility of causing serious problems. Loss of pressure and insufficient ventilation can also damage the machinery, especially if it is being operated near a significant heat source. 

An increase in heat can also place strain on the seals of a machine, especially in hydraulic components. Temperatures that exceed 180 F can increase the degradation of many materials used for seals such as rubber and other polymers. The extreme fluctuations in temperature may cause these components to lose elasticity, resulting in leaks. 


Hydraulic System Reactions To Cold Temperature Environments

When working in high-altitude environments or in the middle of cold winters, machinery with hydraulic systems will oftentimes have adverse reactions. Depending on how cold the environment is along with how often the machine undergoes servicing, there can be detrimental effects on the hydraulic systems because of the cold temperature. 

Hydraulic systems make use of seals to keep components and lubricants from becoming contaminated. Usually, these are made from rubber or other elastic kinds of materials. However, cold temperatures can cause problems for seals. Any tears in the seals could be exacerbated by colder temperatures, and the component may become brittle if it gets too cold.

As with hot temperatures, the cold can also affect the lubricants and fluids of a hydraulic system. Instead of losing viscosity, the cold temperatures will actually increase the viscosity of these fluids. This can mean that the fluids will take longer to circulate through the system, which lowers their ability to protect against wear and tear. They may even congeal or freeze and cease to flow. 


Ensure Proper Viscosity Of Hydraulic System Lubricant

While performing regular maintenance on your machine, check to make sure that any fluids in the machine can still drip off a measuring stick. If the lubricant does not drip off the stick, it is much too viscous.

To reduce the chances of cold temperatures damaging your hydraulic machinery, make sure to start up the machine and idle the motor to allow the system to properly heat up. Excavators, tractors, and other heavy outdoor machinery can be susceptible to these risks in cold temperatures.


Professional Hydraulic System Installation & Maintenance

If you have any questions regarding your own hydraulic system or you’d like to have your machine serviced contact the professionals at Hydraulic Specialty Inc. Whether you’re needing help with an existing hydraulic system, needing custom hydraulic power units, need to shop for wet line kit parts, or order a custom part for your machine, you can trust our team of professionals to provide you with top-of-the-line service.