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10-Minute Hydraulic Inspection Plan

03/10/2014 @ 11:13am

Tim Deans holds what is left of a hydraulic hose. He is making a point: The exploded section of hose (shown at right) illustrates what happens when a hydraulic system is taken for granted, the engineer with Gates Corporation says. “Hydraulic hose, for example, is built with a four-to-one safety factor. It is built to operate even if severely deteriorated, like when its cover is gone and the underlying wire braid is rusting. That’s why hose is often taken for granted. It keeps working even when it needs to be replaced.”

When such a hose blows in the field, hours or even an entire day could be lost making repairs. But imagine something worse. What if that hose supplies the transport wheels’ cylinders on a piece of tillage implement running between fields? “Or worse yet, what if it fails with you standing next to it?” Deans queries.

Avoiding such disasters is really quite simple, Deans suggests. “Grab a pad, pen, and paint marker and walk every piece of equipment prior to the season. Inspect all the components on their hydraulic systems to look for problems,” he advises. “Better to find and fix a problem in the shop than in the middle of a field.”

A thorough inspection of most implements shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Begin by always releasing the pressure in any system. And then starting at the hitch, work your way back to the component (cylinder, orbit motor, etc.) being supplied. 

Mark needed repairs such as a crushed hose or cracked fitting with the paint marker. “Use the pad and pen to write down developing problems not needing immediate repair. You can check those items the following winter in the shop,” Deans explains.

Abraded, cracked, and crushed hose
The arteries of any system, hoses are often the most abused and overlooked component on implements. During your inspection, examine the length of all hoses looking for wetness “which can indicate a puncture into the hose,” Deans explains. “You will also want to look for abraded, cracked, crushed, or punctured hoses, all of which call for replacement.”

Cracking of the cover – either by weather or high operating temperatures – indicates the hose cover is jeopardized. “These three hoses are all suspect,” says Deans, referring to the hoses shown in image 1. “Starting from the right, I would characterize them as fair, worse, and terrible.”

The fair hose (on the right) shows the beginning of weather checking, where the sun has started to leach out plasticizer compounds in the rubber cover, making it brittle.  “Unless it is leaking, it won’t need replacing. Certainly reexamine it next year,” Deans says.

High operating temperatures can also lead to leaching. “You would see this in an area where the hose was crushed or pinched,” he says. “That restriction increases the heat in that area, which leads to the cover cracking. An increase of just 18°F. above the maximum rated operating temperature can decrease hose life by half.”

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