Leaks are an unfortunate but regular issue with any hydraulic system. This can get in the way of the productive use of you and your machine’s productive capacity against deadlines and competing demands. Read on for tips on how to get back up and running quickly, safely, and affordably.
Repairing a leak in a hydraulic coupler is not as simple as replacing the fitting. Several safety precautions need to be taken into consideration and some other basic principles that need to be followed.
Before you embark on any hydraulic repair job, you need to be aware of the potential hazards and varied safety precautions you need to undertake.
First and foremost, NEVER use your hand.
Searching for a leak in any hydraulic system with your hand – (or, if it needs to be said, any body part…) – is a recipe for disaster. Almost all hydraulic systems use highly pressurized fluids that are likely to be extremely hot.
Even if you are wearing protective gloves, coming into contact with this hot and pressurized fluid is likely to cause an injection injury. Such burns may begin feeling like little more than a bee sting or small needle but could quickly become potentially life-threatening.
Use a piece of wood or cardboard instead to track down the source of a leak.
Don’t Ignore A Leak
Any seemingly insignificant leak is an indication of a bigger problem somewhere in the system. Ignore a leak and you increase the risk of a catastrophic failure with a much longer downtime in the future.
It is also important to remember that if fluid can get out, anything else can get in, risking a clog in the system. Contamination is one of the biggest issues that hydraulic systems face and should not be taken lightly.
Repairing hydraulic systems promptly is essential.
Be Aware Of Fire Hazards
Even the smallest pinhole leaks can fill a room with a cloud of highly flammable vapor. This mist and the smallest of flames – like a cigarette lighter – could cause a dangerous explosion.
Always avoid open flames or sparks anywhere near a potential hydraulic leak. Any welding equipment, cutting torches, or lit cigarettes need to be set aside until the leak is fixed.
Only use a torch if you need to see more clearly – never use a lighter as a source of light.
Considerations For Repair
When repairing a leak in a hydraulic coupler or any hydraulic equipment, it’s important to depressurize and avoid contaminants.
Depressurize The System
You must depressurize the system before you begin any work on the machinery. If you don’t, you could potentially cause an explosion that will expel hot hydraulic fluid everywhere.
Keep in mind that merely turning off the machine is not enough as any trapped fluid or back pressure will still be in the system. Taking the time to make sure that all pressure has been released is an excellent precaution to take.
You must protect the system from potential sources of contamination while you work.
Do the repair in a clean area and take the time to remove any grease, dirt, and dust before opening anything up. Do not let any parts drop on the floor as they will easily pick up debris no matter how hard you scrub!
Protect the hydraulic system further by thoroughly cleaning the connection ends of the coupler before reinstallation.
Keep in mind that any flakes of metal, any dirt, or cloth fibres that enter the hydraulic equipment are a contaminant and may cause damage.
How To Fix A Leaking Coupler
There are two main ways to fix a leaking hydraulic coupler. You can either take the coupler apart and clean it, or you can install a new O-Ring.
Cleaning Hydraulic Couplers
We recommend using either of two methods for cleaning hydraulic couplers – with a rag or with compressed air and penetrating oil. Do not use abrasive cleaners as the seals will disintegrate.
Use a rag, piece of paper towel, microfibre cloth, or something similar to wipe away any visible dirt or grime from the coupler. You can then insert the male end into the machine to recouple. Then you’re done!
If you have a lot of dirt and grime, or a bit of dirt at the tip of the coupler, we recommend using penetrating oil and compressed air.
Apply the penetrating oil to the soiled area and leave it a moment to do its thing. Penetrating oil will squeeze into the narrowest of spaces between threads, loosening up dirt and freeing any mechanical parts that have become stuck.
You then use compressed air to blow away the oil. The force of the air will mean the dirt, grime, and grease is taken away with the oil. With that complete, the hydraulic coupler should be nice and clean.
You can also use penetrating oil and then wipe it away with a rag if you don’t have access to compressed air. It’s best to use a non-fibrous cloth or rag for this, since anything introduced into the hydraulic system that is not hydraulic fluid will be a contaminant.
Installing A New O-Ring
Installing a new O-ring may be enough to stop the leak. Most O-rings will come with an installation kit, complete with instructions for correct installation.
To give you a general idea of the procedure, these are the steps that most brands of O-ring follow.
- Use a small hook-like tool to pop up the old O-ring. This is easy and can be done by using the hook to bring up the O-ring.
- Once the O-ring has been brought up, you can clean it for reinstallation, or discard it so a new one can be installed.
- Take either the clean and dry O-ring – or the new one – and place it in the center of the coupler.
- Push it down into the base of the coupler. Make sure that it’s as far down as it will go. You will be able to feel it pop into place.
- Make sure that the O-ring looks the same all of the way around the base of the coupler. If some of the O-ring is sticking up a little, use the tool to push it into place. Once it is all in you are good to go!
Hydraulic systems are a little precarious so it is essential that any repair work is done as soon as possible.
Make sure that you work safely and remain aware of the possibility of highly pressurized hydraulic fluid bursting out at all times!
Try to work as cleanly as possible and try to prevent any loose fibres from entering the system as a contaminant.
Replace the O-ring or give the component a good clean to fix a leaking hydraulic coupler
Following this simple and intuitive advice will have your machine purring nicely so you can work safely and productively without interruption all season long!