Is your hydraulic pump getting excessively hot during normal operation? Pumps do generate heat when running, however they are designed with specific heat parameters in mind. Overheating is an abnormal condition that leads to destructive issues such as thinning of hydraulic fluid, which leads to reduced lubrication, metal-on-metal contact of moving parts. And accelerated pump wear and failure.
Therefore it is never a good idea to ignore a pump that is exceeding its heat parameters under normal load. There are a number of factors that contribute to an excess buildup of heat and in this article, we’ll explain some of these issues.
CAUSES OF HYDRAULIC PUMP OVERHEATING
- INCORRECT HYDRAULIC FLUID VISCOSITY
Hydraulic fluid viscosity refers to the thickness or “resistance to pouring” of your hydraulic fluid. This is very important to the correct operation of your pump. The fluid not only transmits the power that moves your drives and actuators. It also lubricates internal components and removes heat from the system. Hydraulic fluid is designed to operate at a specific temperature range. As it heats, it becomes thinner and eventually it will lose the ability to lubricate moving parts. The increased friction may cause the pump to heat up, and naturally increased wear will be taking place when this is happening. On the other hand, hydraulic fluid that is too thick flows less efficiently within the system, which also results in heat buildup.
- CONTAMINATED HYDRAULIC FLUID
Fluid that is contaminated with dirt, debris, water and other impurities may cause heat build up in a few ways. Blocked fluid filters, pipes and strainers place undue load on the pump or even lead to pressure drops on the back side of filters that cause cavitation.
- OIL STARVATION
Low fluid levels can result in a condition in which not enough flow is reaching the critical hydraulic components and moving parts. This is known as oil starvation and just like running your car without oil, it will increase metal-on-metal friction and lead to increased heat and wear. Oil starvation can also be caused by clogged hydraulic filters, incorrect fluid reservoir design.
Cavitation is the rapid formation and implosion of air cavities in the hydraulic fluid. When these air cavities collapse under pressure, they generate a lot of heat. In fact, temperatures can reach up to 2700 degrees C at the point of implosion! Not only does cavitation compromise the lubrication properties of the oil, the excessive heat that is generated is extremely damaging to the hydraulic pump and the system as a whole. Attacking hoses and seals and causing metal components to expand and wear.
This happens when air makes its way into the system via air leaks at points like pump seals, and pipe fittings. And what happens next in a hydraulic system? Compression! Air generates heat when compressed, which naturally leads to an increase in temperature if left untreated. In extreme circumstances it can also lead to ‘hydraulic dieseling’ whereby compressed air bubbles actually explode in the same process that powers diesel engines. This is not good and leads to degradation of the fluid and damage to system components through loss of lubrication and burning of seals.
- NORMAL WEAR
As pumps wear, the internal leakage or “slippage” increases. Essentially, fluid is able to make its way past tight fitting components, which reduces the efficiency of the pump, but in addition, as this occurs, fluid moves from a high pressure to a low pressure without doing any mechanical work, since according to the laws of physics energy cannot be destroyed, it is instead converted into heat.
Troubleshoot pump problems and avoid unplanned pump maintenance.
A build-up of excessive heat is a symptom of hydraulic pump problems, but it is far from the only signal that there may be something wrong. There are other important warning signs that you should pay attention to. These include unusual noises, pressure problems and flow problems. Each of these symptoms provide clues about any potential pump problems that need to be addressed - so it’s important to familiarise yourself with all of these issues. To help, we’ve created a downloadable troubleshooting guide containing more information about each of these issues. So that you can keep your system up and running and avoid unplanned downtime. Download it here.