Cutting Out Contamination

Contamination is estimated to create 80% of hydraulic equipment failures.
Brady Haugo
Hydraulic Engineering Supervisor
Rotary Union

Contamination is estimated to create 80% of hydraulic equipment failures. That claim may not hold up to intense scrutiny, but the essence of the statement, I believe, holds true. The vast majority of hydraulic equipment failures are caused by contamination. If you add excess heat into that contamination equation, that 80% looks even more convincing.

Is the 80% claim a usable nugget of information?

What can we do with this knowledge?

How can we apply such a broad claim and be able to use it in a specific application?

I don’t think we can use the claim effectively outside of proclaiming the importance of proper maintenance. The fluid power industry spans an incredibly complex assortment of applications and operating environments. Some applications require extreme amounts of protection from contamination, while other applications have less critical contamination concerns.        

Different applications have different levels of contamination severity. Rough terrain and forestry equipment have a larger risk (or severity) of contamination, followed by truck-mounted cranes with a medium risk, and man-lifts having the least risk of contamination. This overly simplified list is an example of how different applications may need more or less shielding from contamination. Understanding these differences are crucial when selecting the amount and type of seals.

Unlike a cylinder, where its normal movement helps shed debris away from critical areas where contaminants could enter the hydraulic system, hydraulic swivels can have a difficult time shielding itself from contamination. A hydraulic swivel typically just rotates, so when dirt and debris settle near its edges and space between the spool and housing, there are no external forces to help shed the dirt away.

We aim to provide the best, customized solutions to our customers so they receive a quality product that lasts. Often times, the engineering and sales staff here at United Equipment Accessories (UEA) are challenged on educating our customers about the concern of contamination, highlighting the importance and value of spending more upfront in the design phase to allow for more room to house a more robust sealing solution. When contamination accounts for such a high risk of failure, it’s a conversation we value highly and work hard to illustrate to our customers.

This isn’t to say we over engineer our components. We understand our customers may, for example, be looking for a Kia, so we will not sell them a Mercedes. However, we wouldn’t be doing our job and due diligence if we didn’t provide options for our customers to consider based on their needs, but also based on our expertise.




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