Issues_with_air contamination

We spend a lot of time worrying about water getting into our hydraulic systems but air can degrade performance and cause just as much damage.

The good news is that steps to prevent these problems are straightforward to implement. And finding the problem and addressing it early means lower repair costs and less overall damage to the system.

How Air Damages a Hydraulic System

First, air causes damage by increasing the viscosity of the fluid. When the lubricant is thicker, a hydraulic system must work harder to keep it flowing and parts of the system may be without lubrication. Over time, this can lead to mechanical failures as friction and overuse take their toll.

Second, air can increase the working temperature of the hydraulic oil or fluid, which leads to thermal breakdown. As the fluid breaks down, again parts of the system may not be properly lubricated and can experience too much friction.

How to Keep Air Out of Your Hydraulic System

Basic prevention is key. Check seals and gaskets frequently to ensure they are not cracked. Check and replace filters when needed, as contamination that reduces flow and releases particulates can damage those important seals and gaskets. Make sure the components you use aren’t letting in air where it isn’t desirable.

Also bleed out air using your release valve to ensure that any free air in the system doesn’t mix with the lubricant.

Finally, assess the appearance of hydraulic oil or fluid on a periodic basis.

How to Tell if There’s Air in Your System

If you are seeing poor performance or hearing unusually loud noisees from the system, air contamination might be the culprit.

The easiest way to find air contamination is to look at your hydraulic oil or fluid.

With water contamination, you’re looking for milky fluid that occurs when water and oil mix together and emulsify but with air, you will find more of a foamy appearance. Air bubbles in the fluid are what gives the oil or fluid the foamy appearance, and they can spell big trouble for your equipment. Visible foam may not always be an indicator that your fluid is contaminated by air, but it is a good sign that there is a problem brewing.

If your hydraulic system is contaminated by air, get it looked at right away by a hydraulic professional, like us. We may need to clean the system, assess what caused the contamination, and take steps to fix the issue, then replace the lubricant. Early diagnosis is important to preventing bigger maintenance and replacement costs in the future.

2 Responses

  1. Tobias Armstrong
    Apr 05, 2016 - 07:11 PM

    I had no idea that there were multiple types of contamination when you’re dealing with hydraulic systems. I figured that air was a big problem that would probably be difficult to repair. I’d never really thought about how difficult water damage would be to repair though. After reading this, water seems like it might even be the bigger issue. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. April Cook
    Jul 22, 2016 - 02:59 PM

    I was surprised to learn that air could cause just as much damage as water in hydraulic systems. I had not idea that air could raise the temperature and cause thermal damage. Does it change the temperature significantly, or is the system just really sensitive? Thanks for sharing this information!


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