Troubleshooting Tips for Hydraulic Systems

Troubleshooting TipsWhen your hydraulic system starts to slow down or malfunction it is not always easy to identify the source of the problem at a glance. In fact, considering developing technologies and the complexities of the relationship between hardware and software, you might think it takes an engineer just to take a look. Before you can decide how to address the problem, it helps to figure out what the problem might be. That process can begin right on the floor. By utilizing various monitors, sensors, meters, system alerts and other indicators, and following a troubleshooting check list, you can identify the issue and decide the speediest method for getting production back on line.

How Is the System Failing?

Unless the machinery has completely stopped working, it will probably be doing something that can give some clues as to what is malfunctioning. Look for:

  • No movement
  • Wrong movement
  • Wrong speed
  • Wrong sequence
  • Wrong direction

Indications other than movement may include vibration, excessive or bizarre noise, leakage, and elevated heat.


There are many options for monitoring a system. The most critical to a hydraulic system are the pressure gauge, the flow meter, and the temperature gauge. These three indicators often combine into a single unit. Other beneficial indicators are:

  • Pressure transducer and recorder: This instrument is useful when you need greater accuracy than you might get with just a pressure guage.
  • Thermocouple: This can indicate when one part is hotter than another.
  • Noise meter: Strange or loud noise may mean trouble, but it can be hard to measure on an already noisy production floor.
  • Particle counter: This helps check fluid for contaminants.

The indicators can help determine if the problem is stemming from an issue with flow, pressure, negative pressure, direction, temperature, or contamination.

Three Stage Plan for Repair

Once you have taken measure of the situation, you can start to troubleshoot. The first stage is to narrow the trouble down to the impaired component, if possible. It may be that you can repair the problem on site. It is important to thoroughly shut down the machine before beginning any repair:

  • Lower or secure suspended loads
  • Exhaust pressure
  • Drain accumulators
  • Discharge both ends of intensifier
  • Isolate electrical control system and power supply

Stage two would involve removing the part for repair in your own shop. The third stage requires that the component be sent out to be fixed or replaced. When the situation is difficult to diagnose, or when it looks like the problem may be multi-layered, the best option may be to call in a professional. Bernell Hydraulics is available 24/7 to take your call. They they have the knowledge and experience to diagnose and repair a problem, or just get you what you need to get your business back up and running fast.

Posted on August 8, 2014
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