What Causes Oil Contamination & How To Fix It

| Maintenance, Oil Contamination

Hydraulic machines are unparalleled in their delivery of power. Liquids are the catalyst for momentum and disperse through a network of control valves, hoses, and tubes to provide motors and cylinders with high-power force. To get the most out of these machines, the oil used needs to be free from foreign particles.

Approximately 80% to 90% of failures in hydraulic systems are a result of contaminated oil. Keeping the system clean is a critical step in maintaining performance and increasing your system's longevity. Air & Hydraulic Equipment has repaired many pumps, valves, and hydraulic systems for customers throughout the years, and the vast majority of those repairs were a direct result of dirty or contaminated oil.

The cost of replacing failed hydraulic components quickly to resume production far exceeds the cost of maintaining your hydraulic fluids. Below, we've highlighted some of the top five ways your machine can become contaminated, and addressed the best ways to reduce the chances of damages.

Common Causes of Oil Contamination in Your Hydraulic System


1. Water Is Mixing With The Oil

Like any machinery, hydraulic systems run hot and create a lot of moisture. When there are leaky reservoirs, broken seals, and carelessness in the application of the system, proper drainage can be compromised, causing moisture to find its way into the machine. This water will break down the oil, and this will result in corrosion.


2. The Machine Is Overheating

The purpose of oil in any form of machine is to lubricate high-friction areas. Oil has a high smoke point which makes it compatible with metal that conducts a lot of heat. By keeping the oil temperatures down, you prevent the chances friction and corrosion. This is another reason why preventing oil contamination is essential.


3. Vapor Cavities Are Forming In The Oil

Air pockets can form bubbles inside the oil, usually as a result of gas or vapor inside the system. If this occurs, these bubbles or air pockets can oxidize and let in debris causing damage to the valves and pumps.


4. Not Thoroughly Cleaning The System

Introducing a new liquid can contaminate the system when the two fluids aren't compatible. The result is the formation of sludges, solids, and other harmful elements that will hinder the performance of the machinery.


5. Inadequately Transferring Fluid

Another way damaging particles can enter into a system is through the improper storage or transferences of fluid containers. Environmental contaminants can enter into the system through ingestion. To avoid these issues, be sure to use sealed reservoirs, vacuum breakers, or filters. Additionally, you will need to ensure that you are storing your open container correctly by following the handling procedures.


6. Using Additives In Your Hydraulic System

As we’ve highlighted, there are various opportunities for your hydraulic system to become contaminated. It's possible to invest in corrosion inhibitors to tackle the issue. However, these inhibitors can cause slime and introduce moisture. The best defense for a long-lasting hydraulic system is investing in a proper filter.


How To Keep Your Hydraulic System Clean

There are various ways particles can contaminate the oil, and to diminish the effects you can invest in a high-quality filter. The best options will tolerate high system pressure and are twice the system’s flow-rate. Regular filter changes help reduce the chances of particles entering into the system. However, this type of maintenance can be challenging. The application of AHE's "FC1 Portable Filter Cart" results in a lightweight and handy solution for maintenance departments. Customizable by design, the double spin on filter head makes it possible to create different combinations of filtering options for superior protection against contamination. The filter cart features:

  • Protection from water separation
  • Dispensing of new oil
  • System flushing
  • Oil analysis samples
  • System decontamination

To learn more about AHE's filter options, contact us today