Why you should record all hydraulic oil top-offs

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 700 million gallons of petroleum products enter the environment each year - around half of which is through irresponsible and illegal disposal. But hydraulic industry experts estimate that when it comes to hydraulic oil, between 70 and 80 percent of that lost to the environment is through leaks, spills, line breakage, and adaptor failure.

One of our members, who is a maintenance planner for a large coal mine, recently told me his mine purchased 447,000 liters of hydraulic oil last year. It's hard to believe planned hydraulic oil changes accounted for much more than a third of this volume. So where is all the rest going? I bet the coal from this mine burns better than most. And it's safe to assume hydraulic oil leaks are not the least of their problems.

With this in mind, here's a question for you:

Do you know how much hydraulic oil each of your machines consumes each year?

The only way you can know this for sure - particularly if you have more than one hydraulic machine under your supervision, is if you measure and record all top-offs.

In my experience, most hydraulic equipment users don't do this. But when clients have done so at my urging, they are often shocked at how much hydraulic oil a particular machine is actually losing over a year.

Yeah, I know, it's one more thing to do. But it's almost impossible to control anything you don't measure. And as the late management guru Peter Drucker once said: "What gets measured, gets managed."

Of course, it's not just the cost of make-up oil you need to consider. There's the environmental cost, which like carbon emissions, is not yet fully factored into - in this case - the price of a gallon of hydraulic oil. Stay tuned for this one.

Then there's the cost associated with clean-up, proper disposal and the potential safety risks posed by a leaky machine. Plus, where hydraulic oil can get out, contamination can get in. And as you're reminded each time you buy a hydraulic filter element, it costs money to remove contaminants. And even more if you don't.

The downtime required to fix hydraulic leaks can be an issue. But this is often just used as an excuse for laziness. And these days, there are many innovative solutions available to eliminate problem leaks.

Perhaps now is a good time to reassess those annoying hydraulic oil leaks that "aren't worth fixing"?

Related articles:

Hydraulic fitting selection the key to leak-free hydraulic plumbing
How to troubleshoot hydraulic cylinder drift
Hydraulic filters that do more harm than good - Part 1

If you enjoyed this article, you'll love Brendan Casey's Inside Hydraulics newsletter. It gives you real-life, how-to-do-it, nuts-and-bolts, hydraulics know-how -- information you can use today. Here's what a few members have said about it:

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