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Simple Steps to Hydraulic System Maintenance

Lack of maintenance of hydraulic systems is the leading cause of component and system failure yet most maintenance personnel don’t understand proper maintenance techniques of such a system. The basic foundation to perform proper maintenance on a hydraulic system has two areas of focus. The first area is Preventive Maintenance, which is key to any successes achieved within your maintenance program whether in hydraulics or any other equipment. The second area is Corrective Maintenance; in many cases it can cause additional hydraulic component failure when it is not performed to standards. A good example would be a new hydraulic pump which is cold having hot oil applied to it and immediately starting up the pump. This will cause premature if not instantaneous failure. This actually happened to me late one night on a large overhead crane. In part 2 of this tip, we will discuss Corrective Maintenance of a hydraulic system.

Preventive Maintenance of a hydraulic system is very basic, simple and if followed properly, can eliminate most hydraulic component failure. First, a Preventive Maintenance program on a hydraulic system must be developed based on known failure modes such as a hydraulic valve sticking which is caused by contamination. In order to prevent or predict this failure mode a program must implement an effective oil analysis program and contamination control program.

Preventive Maintenance is a discipline and must be followed as such in order to obtain desirable results. We must view a PM program as performance oriented and not activity oriented. Many organizations have good PM procedures but do not require maintenance personnel to follow them or hold them accountable for the proper execution.

As in all Preventive Maintenance Programs, we must write effective procedures required for each PM Task. Steps or procedures must be written for each task and they must be accurate and understandable by all maintenance personnel from entry level to master crafts personnel.

Preventive Maintenance procedures must be a part of the PM Job Plan which includes:

  • Tools or special equipment required to perform the task
  • Parts or material required for performing the procedure with store room number
  • Safety precautions for this procedure
  • Environmental concerns or potential hazards
  • Step by Step Instructions

Remember: Each PM task must include steps, specifications, special tools, etc.

Preventive Maintenance is the core support that a hydraulic system must have in order to maximize component function, component life and reduce system failure. Preventive Maintenance procedures that are properly written and followed, will allow equipment to operate to its full potential and life cycle. Preventive Maintenance allows a maintenance department to control a hydraulic system rather than the system controlling the maintenance department. We must control a hydraulic system by pre-determining when we will perform maintenance on it and how much money we will spend on the maintenance for the system. Most companies don’t plan and don’t have good procedures so they really “allow” the hydraulic system to control the maintenance on them, and usually that is at a much higher cost than when it is planned.

This is part 1 of a 2 part session, if you have a question or comment send an email to Ricky Smith at

Ricky Smith

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