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Hydraulic Contamination Issues in Newer Machines


Did you know that cycle time on a machine can increase by about 20% before the operator notices it? And one of the major causes of increased cycle times is hydraulic contamination. Contamination affects more than just your attachments, though -- it will impact the performance of your hydraulic final drive motors. In this Shop Talk Blog post, we are going to discuss how newer machines are more sensitive to hydraulic contamination and what measures you can take to protect your final drives.


Why Contamination is a Growing Problem

Older machines may not be impacted by hydraulic contamination as much as newer machines because they were designed to run at lower pressures and the parts had greater clearances.  However, as the technology for manufacturing parts and components evolved so did the capabilities of hydraulic equipment.

Modern machines have higher breakout forces, run at higher pressures, have parts with much tighter clearances, and require much cleaner hydraulic fluid in order to function properly. Particles as small as 5 microns in diameter can cause problems for a modern hydraulic motor, as well as pumps and other hydraulic components on your machine.

Sensitivity to Contamination

We see the repercussions of contamination quite a bit with Gerotor and radial piston motors. They have a very low tolerance for contamination, which means that the hydraulic motors will be significantly impacted by contamination that wouldn’t have affected older machines.

While your father’s skid steer loader may have run just fine on the questionable hydraulic fluid, modern machine may be damaged by that same fluid. Tiny particles will eventually result in premature wear and the efficiency loss that invariably follows. Given enough time, contamination can total a final drive or pump. The image you see below is the result of contamination that was left untreated.  This component cannot be restored and will have to be replaced.




Types of Contamination

We mentioned earlier that particles as small as 5 microns can damage your machine. The smallest particle that the naked eye can see is about 40 microns, so just because your hydraulic fluid looks clean doesn't mean that it is. These particles can be dirt, paint, metallic wear particles, bits of degraded seals, dust, sand, grit, cloth fibers, and rust particles. In short, anything that isn’t supposed to be in your hydraulic system is contamination. Non-particulate contamination includes things like air, water, and grease. Your equipment even generates contamination as it is being used.

All of these types of contamination can damage your hydraulic system.

Even New Fluid Can Be Contaminated


What many machine owners don’t realize is that the hydraulic fluid they put into their machine -- even if it is straight out of the manufacturer’s container -- may already have contamination in it that you can’t see without a microscope. That’s why it is important to be careful about purchasing cheap hydraulic fluid.  While the cheap fluid you can buy by the bucket at the local Tractor Supply might have been fine for your uncle's old tractor, it can damage your brand new skid steer loader.

Issues with contamination are also why it’s important to make sure that you store hydraulic fluid in a clean container that is properly sealed and not exposed to the elements. A rusty hydraulic fluid container can introduce a horrific amount of contamination into your system.  Hydraulic fluid containers should also be tightly sealed and not exposed to extreme changes in temperature.


Remember that newer machines are not as resistant to the effects of hydraulic contamination as older machines. Contamination can not only damage components like final drives and pumps but can severely impact performance and efficiency. That’s another reason why you should only use good quality hydraulic fluid in your machines.

Here are some additional posts you might find helpful ...

Texas Final Drive is your partner in providing new or remanufactured final drive hydraulic motors from a single mini-excavator to a fleet of heavy equipment. Call today so we can find the right final drive or hydraulic component for you, or check out our online store to find your O.E.M. manufacturer brand motor now. 

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Topics: Contamination, Hydraulic Contamination

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