Leaks are a regular problem with hydraulic systems, and hydraulic fittings are a common source of these leaks. Repairing hydraulic fitting leaks is not as simple as just replacing a fitting, however. There are some important safety precautions to be taken, cleanliness issues, and basic guidelines for dealing with suspected fitting leaks that are important to follow.
Do Not Use Your Hand!
One of the first things to remember when you suspect a hydraulic leak, whether you think its coming from a hose or a fitting, is this: never use your hand to look for a leak. The typical hydraulic hose assembly contains pressurized fluid that may be extremely hot.
When highly pressurized fluid comes into contact with your hand or arm, the result can be an injection injury – even if you are wearing protective gloves. What may initially feel like a small needle or a bee sting can quickly become a life-threatening injury. Use a piece of cardboard or wood instead of your hand to track down the source of a leak.
Avoid Fire When Repairing Hydraulic Fitting Leaks
What starts out as a tiny pin-hole leak can turn into a flammable, mist-like cloud of vapor. Something as small as the flame from a cigarette lighter can cause a dangerous explosion. For this reason, avoid open flames and sparks near a suspected leak. That includes welding equipment, lit cigarettes, and cutting torches. Use a flashlight around hydraulic systems when you need to see more clearly, never a lighter.
Depressurize the System During a Repair
Before repairing hydraulic fitting leaks, always depressurize the system first. Failure to depressurize can lead to a dangerous, explosive eruption of hot hydraulic fluid. This explosion can not only cause serious damage to the system but can severely injure the technician working on it.
Remember that just turning the machine off does not necessarily eliminate back pressure and trapped fluid. Always take the time to make sure the pressure has been released before working on a hydraulic system.
Never Ignore a Hydraulic Leak
No matter how small and insignificant a leak may seem, it should never be ignored. Small leaks are warning signs of a larger problem and can unexpectedly lead to much bigger failures and longer downtimes.
Also keep in mind that if fluid can leak out, contaminants can make their way in. Contamination is one of the most common causes of hydraulic system failure and should never be treated lightly. For this reason, repairing hydraulic fitting leaks in a timely manner is extremely important.
Speaking of contamination, it is important to protect the system from potential contaminants when you are making repairs. Do the repair work in a clean area, ensuring that it is free of dust, grease, and dirt before opening up the system. Avoid dropping parts on the floor where they can pick up dust and debris.
Protect the system from contamination once you have opened it by carefully cleaning the connecting ends of the fitting before you install it. Remember that shards or flakes of metal, dirt, and fibers from cleaning rags often enter hydraulic systems during routine maintenance, but the chances of this can be minimized by using non-shedding rags that have been carefully cleaned prior to use. The type of damage that contamination can cause is expensive and, if not caught soon enough, can be irreparable.
Verify the Fitting Is the Source of the Problem
Keep in mind that drips will occur at the lowest point of gravity. Just because you see fluid dripping from a fitting does not mean the problem is with that fitting – it could be coming from somewhere higher up. If you do assume it’s the fitting and replace it without checking the assembly for potential problems, you have not fixed the problem at all. You may well experience the need for even more extensive repairs and longer downtimes. Make sure that the fitting in question is the source of the problem before assuming that a replacement will fix the leak.
Use the Correct Hydraulic Fitting
It may be tempting to replace a worn fitting with a similar but incorrect fitting, especially if it will mean some significant downtime while you wait for the right fitting to arrive. This is not a wise course of action. It is best to install the correct fitting from the start rather than risk damage to your hydraulic system.
Use New O-rings on Hydraulic Fittings
Whether you are installing a new fitting or putting a reusable fitting back in place, always replace the O-ring. O-rings ensure a tight, leak-free seal. If you try to reuse an O-ring, there is a good chance that it will be cracked, and that will ruin the seal’s integrity even if you have a new fitting.
Fittings Can Be Overtightened
It might seem intuitive that the tighter you make a fitting, the better it will seal. It can be argued that some leaks are caused from a loosened nut, but overtightening is not a universal solution when repairing hydraulic fitting leaks. A nut that is tightened too much can reduce the life of the fitting and actually cause leaks. In fact, overtightened nuts are considered one of the top causes of fitting failure.
Experienced Hydraulic Repair Facility in Delaware County, PA
MAC Hydraulics can not only repair your hydraulic fittings but perform troubleshooting and routine maintenance on your hydraulic systems. We have a team of highly trained, experienced technicians that will work with you to minimize your equipment’s downtime and maximize its productivity. Our staff can develop a maintenance program customized to your equipment and your needs. Contact us today to find out what MAC Hydraulics can do for you!