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Keep hydraulic oil clean! Or Jim Alexander will find you

Posted: September 22, 2016 by Dave Nesseth

RALEIGH, NC – Jim Alexander may be the most passionate person on the planet when it comes to hydraulic oil. That’s why he gets so frustrated when he sees operators without a high quality filter or gauge. After all, he says, 70% of all hydraulic oil failures are due to lowdown dirty oil.

“Keep oil clean. With the gauge, green is good, yellow you better look after it, and if it gets to red then you need to replace it. I can’t tell you how many people I see in the trucking industry without a filter or a gauge,” said Alexander, who works in sales for Parker Hannifin Corp., based in Cleveland, Ohio. “Do you have Superman eyes? Can you see through that can?”

Alexander, who has some 26 years of experience in his field, spoke as part of a panel that explored hydraulic oil at the U.S. Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) fall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina this week.

One driver Alexander had worked with kept complaining that his pump was always conking out. The driver kept replacing the pump, and once again it would fail. He never checked the hydraulic wall, recalled Alexander. When Alexander examined the oil there were substantial flecks of metal in it.

“All those pumps he destroyed would end up in the bottom of the tank. Every time he’d put a new pump back in he’d suck all that junk back down into the input and he’d destroy another pump,” said Alexander.

Part of the issue comes down to drivers being trained properly.

“Just because a guy has a CDL doesn’t mean he knows how to operate a vocational truck,” said Alexander. “You’ve got to talk to your people.”

Part of that training is ensuring drivers understand how dangerous hydraulic oil can be. Alexander showed TMC delegates a disturbing image of flesh eaten away from a worker’s hand. The equipment needs adequate time to cool before it’s worked on. Hydraulic oil temperatures can surpass 93°C.

Other key measures for maintaining hydraulic oil include keeping shafts properly lubricated, said Alexander. He also recommends using wet spline technology versus grease technology. This provides a continuous bath of oil.

Heat and contamination are two other primary concerns when it comes to hydraulic system failures.

Finally, beware of cracked hoses. Alexander said they are the number one cause of hydraulic oil fires.

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