Groundhog day is just over a week away. Groundhog day is a cross-quarter day, meaning it falls equidistant between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. It doesn't matter if a shadow is cast or absent; there will always be six more weeks of winter.
Six more weeks of official winter plus many more of our cold spring provides plenty of opportunities for cold and snow. With that in mind, your hydraulic machinery (especially those operating outdoors) must be maintained to handle the conditions with ease. Here's my top three list of maintenance checks to get you through the winter:
1. Check your hydraulic fluid for water contamination. Water contamination can exist as either free water (literally pooled somewhere) or saturated in the oil, like humidity in the air. Checking for highly saturated water within your hydraulic fluid will prevent all the dangers that come with water and stop that water from freezing in places it will damage. Saturated water may reduce lubricity and accelerate oxidation, but frozen water may damage seals or metal components.
Run your machine warm, then take a sample of your oil in a clean, small bottle. Find your local oil analysis lab and let them know you want a comprehensive test typical for hydraulic systems. A week or so later, the lab will send you a report showing you water saturation, contamination and many other qualities critical for a healthy hydraulic system.
2. Inspect hoses for cracks and leaks. Even synthetic rubbers like buna nitrile show signs of aging, especially when the hoses are exposed to the Canadian climate's extremes. Hydraulic hose has a finite lifespan reduced by sun exposure, temperature extremes or ambient chemical exposure.
As the hydraulic hose ages, it loses its elasticity. The extreme changes in hose temperature during periods of work and rest expand and contract the hose. These cycles will crack the hose over time, eventually leading to leaks or failures.
3. Inventory your spares. The spring months are coming faster than you think, and with it comes the warm weather to work on preventive maintenance schedules. All the components and supplies needed for your regular machine service should be on hand to prevent excessive downtime. Filters, seals kits, fluid and accumulator repair kits on hand will help do quick work.
Aside from regular maintenance, it helps to keep critical spares on the shelf or breakdowns. Spare pumps, motors, valves and other critical components may fail without warning. Suppose your local hydraulic shop doesn't stock these items. In that case, you'd be shocked to learn you may be down for weeks or months, depending on the popularity and complexity of the machine's parts.