When Should Hydraulic Seals Be Replace On Heavy Equipment?

Hydraulic seals are among the most important components in many kinds of heavy machines. When dealing with them, there will always be questions about when it's time for replacements to be installed. Let's look at what operators and mechanics should know about this process.

Identifying a Problem

One of three things tends to signal there's a problem with a hydraulic seal. First, fluid may start escaping from the piston. Second, you may notice a decided loss of power or compression. Third, the entire cylinder may begin to heat up.

Notably, fluid doesn't always escape to outside visible areas. It's a good idea if you're seeing other signs of trouble to look for where fluid might have gone.

Wear and Tear

Another indicator of potential trouble is increased physical wear. You may see rods that look especially polished or dull. Sometimes you'll also notice paint breaking down because hydraulic fluid is eating into it.

It's worth look at the whole system to verify that the wear and tear aren't being caused by something else. A slightly bent rod can do a lot of damage, and you may only see wearing at the lip of the seal. Replacing the seal might help for a while, but the new seal is going to wear out faster than expected if there are other mechanical failures in the system. It's a good idea when disassembling components to look for other points of failure, such as worn bearings.

Spotting Damage to Seals

Hydraulic seals may show signs of damage before the system indicates trouble. If you see cracking and flaking, you might be dealing with a break down of the seal itself. This can arise from high operating temperatures, but it also may be due to environmental conditions, especially exposure to ozone and UV light. If cracking is accompanied by hardening, the issue is likely the operating temperature and you should look for problems beyond the seals.

Swelling is another sign of trouble. This usually happens when a foreign or wrong fluid is used in the system, and it may also be a sign of water building up.

Regardless of whatever related problems there might be, it's wise to do a full teardown once you see abnormal wear on hydraulic seals. All the seals and rings should be removed and inspected. Identify as many other potential problems and then proceed with the replacement of the seals once you're sure you've caught everything.