Power is transferred from one end to the other in hydraulic vehicles and machines with the help of hydraulic oil. It is a non-compressible fluid. The primary function of this oil is to transmit power. Other important functions include –
- Protection of hydraulic machine components
- Medium for heat transfer
- Sealing medium
- Fire resistance
- Radiation resistance
Hydraulic oil can be synthetic or mineral-based. Synthetic oil is man-made and hydraulic oil is obtained from crude oil. This oil is used in the hydraulic systems as it cannot be compressed.
External force is applied from a piston within the cylinder. Pressure on the piston pushes the oil through the hydraulic system. This produces force resulting in the movement or action of the vehicle or machine. In forklift trucks, the power generated by the hydraulic system is used to lift heavy goods. Hydraulic oil is used in tractors, agricultural vehicles, and machines to operate the hydraulic systems and brakes.
It is important to change the hydraulic oil in your vehicle at regular intervals. Although, everyone has a different answer to when.
Power steering fluid, brake fluid, etc. are hydraulic fluids that need regular attention. Mostly, they are mineral oil and silicone-based. Brake oil works on the hydraulic brake system which in turn stops the vehicle when brakes are applied. Therefore, it is very important that the oil is checked regularly. If the brake oil is at a lower level than what should be, the flow is not proper, oil is contaminated by moisture, or any other issues, your braking power is thwarted. Similarly, power steering pump can stop working.
It is important to change brake oil every two years. For track vehicles, the duration comes down to three months. However, you can check the copper content in the oil to make sure if the change is required early. It can be done with the help of test strips. If it reads around 200 ppm, it is time for you to change the brake oil.
Power steering fluid needs a change every three years or if the vehicle crosses 30,000 miles. However, do not overlook the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Hydraulic oil loses its effectiveness with time. If moisture is absorbed by the oil, it can lead to disintegration in the hydraulic system. Other issues such as brakes failure can also occur. In such situations, during an emergency, it becomes difficult to stop the vehicle.
Typically, 4-5 years is the time when you should change the hydraulic oil in the vehicle, however, we cannot define a particular time duration for the life of hydraulic oil used. Mostly, the type of vehicle, climate, driving conditions, maintenance, and other factors influence the time. The manufacturers also recommend the change time which should be considered. Many of them suggest regular maintenance, while others add a lifetime tag to the oil which can go on for a very long time. However, there is no harm to check the hydraulic oil with regular maintenance process.
Vehicles can give signs that you need to change the hydraulic oil immediately. These could be low levels of the oil than the standard mark, oil doesn’t seem to be transparent or clear, oil turns reddish-brown, burnt odor in the oil, etc. However, it is always recommended not to wait for these signs. With regular oil check, keep an eye on the oil used in the hydraulic systems as well.
To conclude, hydraulic oil can be changed based on its condition and not time-specification. Every vehicle or a machine that uses hydraulic systems come with a different mechanism. Manufacturers’ manuals also suggest different time-line related to hydraulic oil and usually, it works well. 2-4 years is a good time for the usage of hydraulic oil. However, it is important to keep a check on this when you go for regular vehicle maintenance tasks. It would help in avoiding unwanted accidents.
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