Web Exclusive - Getting the most out of your hydraulic equipment — in extreme conditions

By Jennifer Lai,

Just as surfers wear wet suits year round throughout different water temperatures to protect them, so does your hydraulic system need year-round protection. Wet suits protect against hypothermia, even in warm water by trapping a thin layer of water between it and the skin. Similarly, the benefits that the wet suit provides the human body are similar to what a quality, all-season hydraulic fluid can provide to your hydraulic system.

Today's hydraulic systems are much smaller, run at more extreme temperatures, and work harder than ever before. On top of those challenges, many hydraulic systems, especially in mobile outdoor applications, have to operate through a wide temperature range.

Finding the right hydraulic fluid can make a big difference in ensuring peak performance throughout extreme temperatures and conditions as well as helping to reduce downtime and extend drain intervals. Fortunately, hydraulic fluids have come a long way in terms of performance.

Knowing what to look for is key to getting the right fluid for your system. A number of important factors come into play when choosing the right hydraulic fluid. The fluid should meet OEM specifications and adhere to best practices. You also want to ensure you have a strict maintenance and service protocol to keep your equipment running at its best.

Viscosity index is crucial
One important characteristic to look for in a hydraulic fluid is the Viscosity Index (VI) – an important indicator of the oil’s ability to resist changes in viscosity due to temperature variations. The higher the VI, the less the oil’s viscosity will be affected by temperature changes.

For hydraulic equipment that is subject to a wide range of operating temperatures, high VI fluids are essential to reduce internal pump leakage, eliminate sluggish operation, and increase overall operating efficiency. By maintaining optimal fluid viscosity at a wide range of operating temperatures, a fluid with high VI can increase pump efficiency in outdoor applications, lowering the diesel fuel consumption for the same amount of work while boosting equipment productivity, and decreasing the CO2 emissions.

Low temperatures require high fluidity
At extreme cold temperatures, you want your hydraulic fluid to have excellent fluidity, which relates to the right viscosity based on temperature. This allows the oil to flow more readily. If the oil is too thick at cold temperatures, it simply won't flow properly and start-up may take longer. For instance, in outdoor mobile equipment, it is not unusual to reduce warm-up time in the winter from 15 or 20 minutes to just three or four minutes with the right hydraulic fluid.

Research demonstrates the strong performance of Hydrex XV at low temperatures. Brookfield viscosity tests help to determine the viscosity of a fluid by use of a Brookfield Viscometer. This test measures the torque resistance on a spindle rotating in the fluid being tested at a certain low temperature. Less resistance (lower Brookfield result) can help reduce the risk of equipment wear and potential damage during cold temperature start-ups.

High temperatures require extra protection
An all-season hydraulic fluid can provide extra protection during periods of extreme high temperatures, which can help minimize wear on equipment and bring greater peace of mind when equipment is running under heavy loads and high pressures.

A typical hydraulic pump can convert up to 20% of its horsepower into heat, so most fluids may run at elevated temperatures which also present challenges to hydraulic fluids. At extreme high temperatures, you don't want your hydraulic fluid to become too thin. You need the optimal viscosity, meaning the ideal viscosity for the operating temperature, to optimize efficiency of the hydraulic pump.

Consolidating to one product year-long brings additional benefits. A premium all-season hydraulic fluid will help protect against equipment failure during the wide temperature swings of spring and fall. It also helps to eliminate the chance of equipment damage due to missed seasonal oil changes.

Operations and maintenance managers must assess every facet of their operation to keep equipment — and business — running at its best. Choosing an all-season hydraulic fluid that is formulated for peak performance through a wide temperature range will go a long way to help minimize downtime, enhance the bottom line, and protect your peace of mind.

Hydrex XV All-Season is a long-life, anti-wear hydraulic fluid hydraulic fluid that has been specifically formulated by Petro-Canada for year-round use in equipment that must perform in low and high temperature ranges. During cold weather conditions, it provides optimal viscosity in the hydraulic pump at temperatures as low as –40°C and as high as 79°C. It offers a long life and high wear protection, and also resists oxidative breakdown preventing harmful sludge build-up.

Jennifer Lai is category manager, Hydraulic Fluids at Petro-Canada Lubricants. For information,call (800) 268-5850, e-mail [email protected] or visit lubricants.petro-canada.ca