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J. Inst. Eng. India Ser.

C (JulySeptember 2012) 93(3):269274


DOI 10.1007/s40032-012-0032-2

BRIEF COMMUNICATION

Failure Prevention of Hydraulic System Based on Oil


Contamination
M. Singh G. S. Lathkar S. K. Basu

Received: 27 October 2011 / Accepted: 1 June 2012 / Published online: 28 July 2012
The Institution of Engineers (India) 2012

Abstract Oil contamination is the major source of failure


and wear of hydraulic system components. As per literature
survey, approximately 70 % of hydraulic system failures
are caused by oil contamination. Hence, to operate the
hydraulic system reliably, the hydraulic oil should be of
perfect condition. This requires a proper Contamination
Management System which involves monitoring of various parameters like oil viscosity, oil temperature, contamination level etc. A study has been carried out on
vehicle mounted hydraulically operated system used for
articulation of heavy article, after making the platform
levelled with outrigger cylinders. It is observed that by
proper monitoring of contamination level, there is considerably increase in reliability, economy in operation and
long service life. This also prevents the frequent failure of
hydraulic system.
Keywords Oil contamination  RPN  FMEA 
Failure prevention

Introduction
The development of advance technologies to meet todays
requirement for compactness needs sophisticated high
pressure system. For reliable and efficient operation, a high
quality and clean oil is required. Oil contamination is the
major source of failure and wear of Hydraulic system
components. As per literature survey approximately 70 %
of hydraulic system failures are caused by oil contamination [1]. Detailed study reveals that major causes of failure
of pumps, valves, actuators are due to contamination. The
contamination once developed/ingressed in the system,
while circulating in the system, damage the surface of
component or stop the movement of valve spool/other
moving parts resulting in failure of the system.
This paper introduces contamination and its sources of,
damage caused by contamination, types of failure, standards for measurements of oil contamination, examples of
hydraulic system failure due to oil contamination and the
failure preventions of hydraulic systems.
Results are reported for Off Line Filtration System
and also worked out a component rating with regard to
contamination. At the end, the techniques to prevent contaminants are given.

Contamination
M. Singh (&), FIE
VRDE (DRDO), Ahmednagar 414006, India
e-mail: manmohanjs@gmail.com
G. S. Lathkar, FIE
MGMs College of Engineering, Nanded 431605, India
S. K. Basu, FIE
Production Engineering Department, College of Engineering,
Pune 411005, India

A contaminant is any material foreign to a hydraulic fluid that


has a deterious effect on the fluid performance in a system.
Contamination in a hydraulic system may consist of solid,
liquid or grease or combination of these. Solid insoluble contaminants grit, dust metal particle pose the greatest problems
since they are most prevalent and the most damaging. Study in
this paper is limited to solid particle contamination only.

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J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. C (JulySeptember 2012) 93(3):269274

Sources of Contamination
The sources of contamination [2] are given below:

Ingressed
contamination

Built-in
contamination

(i) Reservoir vent (i) Hydraulic fluid


port
degradation

Internally generated
contamination

amount of silt in the fluid. Similarly number of particles


above 15 l is a indication presence of larger particles
which contribute greatly to possible catastrophic components failure.
Normally three standards i.e. NAS 1638, SAE AS 4059
& ISO 4406-1999 [35] are being used for measuring the
permissible level of cleanliness.

(i) Due to wear and


abrasion by the particles

(ii) Cylinders and (ii) From


seals
components

Fluid Cleanliness

(iii) During
maintenance

(iii) Pipe sealants

(iv) Topping off


with new oil

(iv) Chips/debris of
components

Table 1 shows important hydraulic components and their


recommended cleanliness level [6] for their satisfactory
functioning.

(v) Through
atmosphere

Fluid Analysis Test


Damage Caused by Contamination
Contaminants particles come in all shapes and sizes and are
made up of a wide variety of material. The majority are
abrasive, so when they interact with surfaces they plough
and cut fragments from critical surfaces in the components.
This abrasive wear and surface fatigue creates for about
90 % of degradation failures.

Types of Failures Due to Oil Contamination


Failures arising from contamination falls into three
categories:
(a)

Catastrophic failureit occurs when a large particle


enters a pump or valve resulting in reducing/stopping
the oil flow. If a particle caused a vane to jam in a
rotor slot, the pump or motor could seize.
(b) Intermittent failurecan be caused by contamination
on the seat of a poppet valve/spool valve which
prevents it from resealing properly.
(c) Degradation failurecan be caused by wear, corrosion and contamination erosion. These problems
produce increased internal leakages in the system
components which reduces its efficiency or accuracy.

Measurement of Oil Contamination


The contamination code is made by using the results of
particle count analysis to assign a pair of range number that
represents the cleanness level of the fluid. In this three
particle sizes greater than 2, 5 and 15 l are selected. The
smaller size 25 l gives an accurate assessment of the

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The following tests give useful information about the


condition of the fluid.
i.

ViscosityA change in the viscosity 10 % from


original specification is considered excessive.
ii. Water contentAcceptable level at saturation temperature is 300 ppm (0.03 %)
iii. Neutralization nos.A check is to be performed to
determine if the additives have deteriorated or oxidation is excessive.
iv. Particle countA cleanliness level should be
assigned to describe the contamination tolerance for
major component of hydraulic system. Table 1 gives
details.
The distribution of contaminants particles size in a fluid
can be analyzed by different methods e.g. spectrometry,
gravimetric and ferrography, etc. Each of these methods
used some particular property or combinations of properties to distinguish one size particle from one another.
In the field of oil contamination, spectroscopic oil
analysis programme (SOAP), dual reading ferrograph and
analysis of ferrograms, specially in heated condition, are
used to identify the alloying elements in the contaminants.
Table 1 Fluid cleanliness required for typical hydraulic components
Components

ISO code

NAS code

Servo control valves

16/14/11

Proportional valves
Vane and piston pumps/motors

17/15/12
18/16/13

6
7

Directional and pressure control valves

18/16/13

Gear pumps/motors

19/17/14

Flow control valves, cylinders

20/18/15

New unused fluids

20/18/15

Following two methods are proven useful for prevention of


hydraulic system failure due to high contamination level.
On-Line Oil Filtration
It is carried out to separate solid particles generated due to
contamination and thus maintains as low a contamination
level as possible in hydraulic system. Proper filtration gives

Seals to be changed
144
6
3
Leakage through seals

To control and monitor


oil contamination
216
4
9
6
Pilot operated valve not
functioning
Articulation of article not
possible
No/irregular oil
supply

Ok
90
9
2
No power supply

To control and monitor


oil contamination
216
4
9
High contamination level 6
of oil

Ok
84
6
2
Rupture of filter element

To control and monitor


oil contamination
240

72
4

5
8

2
Mech. failure of bearing

Clogging of filter due to


contaminant of oil

240
5
8

Causes of failure

High contamination level 6


of oil

To articulate the
article

Failure Prevention of Hydraulic Systems Due to Oil


Contamination

Tilt cylinders for


articulation

IV

No/slow movement of Tilt


cylinders

Pilot operated valve not


functioning

To supply oil to tilt Oil supply


cylinders
irregular/
stopped

Tilt cylinders for


articulation

Proportional
direction control
valve

High contamination level of III


oil

Slow movement of tilt


cylinders

Proportional direction
control valve

II

To filter oil/remove Oil supply


contaminants
irregular/
stopped

Clogging of filter due to


contaminant of oil

Pressure line filter

Pressure line filter

Hydraulic system will not


operate/slow operation

High contamination level of I


oil

Effect of failure

Pump

Failure mode

Rank of
critical item

Components/systems Function

Causes of failure

Table 2 Details of hydraulic components failures due to high oil contamination

Units

Occurrence
of failure

A detailed study was carried out on the hydraulic system


which is used for articulation of vehicle mounted heavy
article. For this the RPN (Risk Priority Number), which is a
multiplication of Occurrence (O), Severity (S) and Detection (D) was worked out based on experiments conducted
and past experience in the field. The guidance scale for
OSD was taken as 110 and confidence level of 90 %.
With this the threshold value of pursing failures is an RPN
equal to or greater than 100 as guided by Stamatis [9]. The
details assessment of RPN values of the major components
of the system studied by the authors are listed in Table 2.
Normally threshold value, in FMEA with RPN analysis,
is found out by the mean of RPN values of all components in
the system. But since these RPN data are extremely asymmetric in distribution, the median value is taken instead of
Mean. The median value comes to 180, which is the thresholding value. Above this value of RPN all the units or
components are critical. Critical components on the basis of
this formulation can be arranged in rank as under:

Source of hydraulic Not delivering


power
oil properly

Example of Hydraulic System Failure Due to Oil


Contamination Using FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect
Analysis) Method

Pump

Severity Detection RPN Corrective action

Considerable amount of research work has done by Basu


et al. [7, 8] in dealing with failure analysis and condition
monitoring in industrial problems.

Ok

271

To control and monitor


oil contamination

J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. C (JulySeptember 2012) 93(3):269274

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J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. C (JulySeptember 2012) 93(3):269274

trouble free, low maintenance operation thought service


life for the hydraulic system and its components. Tom [10]
proposed important parameters e.g. sizing of filter, filter
rating and filter media for efficient oil filtration.

This proved very useful, particularly when system is not


being used frequently and left un-operated for some time. It
is able to maintain the oil at constant contamination level
before starting the system. It has following advantages:

a.

(i) Relatively easy to retrofit on the existing system.


(ii) Filter can be serviced without shutting down the main
system.
(iii) Relatively low initial cost.

Sizing of filtersParameters to be considered for


proper sizing of filter are:
(i) Flow rate
(ii) Main operating pressure
(iii) Cleanliness class required by the component
(iv) Operating media and operating temperature

b.

Filter ratingParameters to be considered for proper


rating of filter are:
(i)

Dirt holding capacityis a measure of the


amount of contaminant a filter can trap. It is a
gross rating based on the weight of particulate a
filter can capture. Filter must have enough dirt
holding capacity to provide acceptable time
interval between enough wear element changes.
(ii) Beta ratioindicates how many particles of a
particular size can pass through an element.
b100 = 2, means the filter will retain 50 % of all
particles of size 100 micron and more. Filter with
a higher beta ratio retain more particles and have
a higher efficiency. Recent filters are available
with a beta ratio of more than 200 i.e. 99.5 %
efficiency and up to 1000 i.e. 99.9 % efficiency
and are very efficient.
c.

However, this system does not provide protection to


specific component.
Results of Providing Off-Line Filtration System
The system has been practically tried out in the said mobile
hydraulic systems consisting of load sensing, variable
displacement pump, proportional direction control valve
and hydraulic cylinder as mentioned in the introduction.
A particle counter Parker make CM-20 equipment as
shown in Fig. 1 was used to measure the contamination
level at the outlet of load sensing variable displacement
pump. The brief details of the CM-20 equipment are as
follows:
The CM-20 particle counter is a laser based portable
equipment used for online measurement of solid particle
contamination analysis. The particles are measured by a
photo diode that converts light intensity to a voltage output
which is recorded against time. The readings are displayed
on the hand held LCD in the ISO and NAS standard. The

Selection of filter media

Table 3 giving comparison of filter media may be used


as guideline for selection of filter media based on various
important parameters, such as performance (capture efficiency), dirt holding capacity, differential pressure, life and
initial cost.
Off Line Filtration System (Auxiliary Filtration)
It is independent of main hydraulic system and consists of a
separate pump with motor and filters. A series of filter
starting from coarse rating to fine rating (25, 10 and 2 l)
are preferred to avoid choking of sensitive fine filter. The
oil is pumped through the filter and back to reservoir
continuously.

Fig. 1 Parker CM-20portable particle counter

Table 3 General comparison of filter media


Media material

Capture
efficiency

Fiber glass

High

High

Moderate

High

Moderate to High

Cellulose (paper)

Moderate

Moderate

High

Moderate

Low

Wire mesh

Low

Low

Low

Moderate

High

123

Dirt holding
capacity

Differential
pressure

Life in
a system

Initial cost

J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. C (JulySeptember 2012) 93(3):269274

273

The details of average number of particles (round off


values) and cleanliness level before and after filtration are
given in Table 4.

Testing of Hydraulic Components Cleanliness

Fig. 2 Initial contamination readings

provision also exists for hardcopy printout. However similar equipment with other manufacturers are also available.
Figure 2 indicates the number and distribution of 2, 5,
15 l particles per ml, measured through CM-20 equipment,
when hydraulic system was not used for about 20 days. It is
seen that the number of particles increase initially and after
certain time period remains stable. However their behaviour is not consistent. The ISO/NAS contamination level
measured as ISO 21/19/16 or NAS 10.
Figure 3 indicates the number and distribution of 2, 5,
15 l particles per ml in an interval of 1 h after starting the
Off-Line Filtration Systems. It is seen initially that number
of particles particularly 2, 5 and 15 l varies and generally
after 3 h get stabilised. The ISO/NAS level measured was
18/16/13(NAS 8)

An experiment was conducted on a vehicle mounted


hydraulic system to find out the component rating to
assess the contribution of particular component to total
contamination in a system as suggested by Williamson
[11]. In this system the volume and total contamination of
each component is compared to the total volume and total
contamination of entire system. The hydraulic system
under experiment consists of mainly a reservoir, pump,
proportional direction control valves, multi stage cylinders,
single stage out riggers cylinders, connecting tubes, hoses
and hydraulic filters etc. Since the wetted volume of pump
and valve is very small as compared to volume of entire
system/other component, hence these are not considered
during the experiment. The hydraulic oil used was HD68 &
CM-20 particle counter was used for counting the particles
ranging from 5 to 15 l size. The component/vehicle was
located out door and is exposed to dirt etc.
The test was conducted on each components (one at
time) using a separate reservoir wherever necessary. The
test results along with details e.g. percentage of total volume of each component and percentage of total contamination are shown in Table 5. The results shown are the
average of five ratings.
Total volume of oil = 1200 l (a)
Total no. of particles 515 l = 34,684 (b)
It is seen from the above results that both multi-stage
and single-stage cylinders generates maximum ingress
contamination since they are exposed to outside dirt. To
reduce the contamination on these cylinders suitable covers
and Lap seals with wiper have been provided later and
results were quite encouraging.

Fig. 3 Contamination readings after using Off Line Filtration System

Techniques for Preventing Contaminants


Table 4 Details of oil contamination level before and after filtration
using Off-Line Filtration System
Particle Before filtration
size (l)
No. of
Cleanliness
particles
level
2

1800019500

40504880

15

510590

After filtration
No. of
particles

Cleanliness
level

ISO-21/19/16 43304980

ISO-18/16/13

NAS 10

NAS 8

9901250
80150

The first defence against fluid contamination is preventing


their entry into a hydraulic system. After that removing
contaminants before system starts, prevent much damage
that can occur easily in a systems life. In fact, the contamination can be prevented from the installation of pipe
fittings stage itself. For this pipe, tubes and fittings shall be
thoroughly cleaned and pickled as necessary prior to
installation. Mil std-00419B [12] described the detailed
procedures.

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J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. C (JulySeptember 2012) 93(3):269274

Table 5 Details of tests for component cleanliness


Components

Volume, l (c)

Percentage of
total volume
V1 = (a)/(c)

No. of particles
measured
(515 l) (d)

Percentage of
total contamination
V2 = (b)/(d)

Multi-stage cylinders (2 nos)

656

54.6

23670

68.244

Outriggers cylinders (6 nos)

70.2

5.85

2091

6.03

1.03

Tubes
Hoses

63.6
11.3

5.3
0.94

1427
520

4.26
1.50

0.803
1.595

Reservoir

400

33.33

6933

19.98

0.599

Following steps proposed by Heney [13] may be followed to prevent contaminants:


(a)

Reservoir
(i)

Provide a breather having an air filter element


appropriate to the environment.
(ii) Provide descant type breather that removes
moisture from the air drawn into reservoir.
(iii) Provide baffler and return line diffuser to
prevent churning that whips air into the fluid.
(iv) Whenever the reservoir is emptied clean it out
thoroughly and remove all residual contaminant.
(b)

Component
rating (V2/V1)
1.2498

(i)

To provide filter at proper location with appropriate


rating to protect the critical hydraulic component(s).
(ii) To carry out continuous cleaning of oil through OffLine Filtration System which can restore the initial
level of cleanliness.
(iii) To monitor the oil contamination level for detecting
the progress of contamination.
(iv) To work out the component rating for cleanliness.
To study the cause and remedial measures for
reducing the level of contamination for the component having higher component rating.

Hydraulic system
(i)
(ii)

Provide off-Line Filtration Systems.


Provide oil cooler to avoid degradation of oil
due to higher operating temperature.
(iii) Flush the system thoroughly before put into
service.
(iv) Use bellows to prevent exposure of cylinder
rods and seals to atmospheric dust.
(v)
Provide fluid filter(s) in location(s) that
assures the required protection of hydraulic
system component.
(vi) Replace the filter element before the filler by pass
valve open. Also provide pressure differential
indicator/visual and or/electrical indicator.
(vii) Analyze fluid regularly to detect problems
such as overheating, increased contamination
level etc.
(viii) Timely filter service/replacement.

Conclusion
In this paper, the authors describe the importance of
hydraulic oil contamination, its monitoring, methods of
measurements and techniques to minimize it. Following
points may be considered for prevention of failures of
hydraulic system based on oil contamination.

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References
1. VickersIndustrial Hydraulics Manual, Second edition, 1989
2. The systematic approach to contamination controlVickers
Fluid Power System, pp. 67
3. NAS 1638National Aerospace Standard
4. ISO 4406-1999 (E) Hydraulic fluid powerfluid methods for
counting the level of contamination by solid particle
5. SAE AS 4059Aerospace Fluid Power-Cleanliness Classification for Hydraulic Fluid
6. Handbook of Hydraulic Filtration, Parker Hannifin Corporation,
Hydraulic Filter Division, HTM-2, USA
7. S.K. Basu, S.K. Sarkhel, S.K. Chakravorty, Oil analysisa tool
for condition monitoring of diesel engines. J. Cond. Monit. Diagn. Technol. 3(2), 4751 (1992)
8. B. Bikash, S.K. Basu, TerotechnologyReliability Engineering
and Maintenance Management (Asian Books Private Ltd., New
Delhi, 2003)
9. D.H. Stamatis, Failure Mode and Effect Analysis: FMEA from
Theory to Execution (ASQ Quality Press, Milwaukee, 2003)
10. T. Nush, Filtrationits the little thing that get you Hydraulics
& Pneumatics, June 1999, pp. 1931
11. W.D. Williamson, Hydraulic component cleanliness testing
method & result. SAE Technical Papers, Paper No. 790867, SAE/
SP-79/447/02.50, 1979
12. MIL STD-00419B, Military standard for cleaning and protecting
piping, tubing and fittings for hydraulic power transmission
equipment
13. P.J. Heney, Effective filtrationbreaking the chain reaction of
wear. Hydraul. Pneum. 51, 4352 (1998)