Because they are a valuable investment, hydraulic cutting and crimping tools should be used properly and maintained regularly.
Hydraulic tools are the biggest and most complex items in a contractor’s tool chest. They are certainly the most expensive and the costlier to replace on a regular basis. As such, good preventive care and maintenance will extend tool life and increase worker productivity. By investing a little time in staff training and nominal amounts of money for maintenance, you’ll be repaid many times over with good hydraulic tool performance.
The following guidelines should help you in maintaining these valuable tools.
The primary cause of premature hydraulic tool failure is dirt and contamination. Usually, pistons and rams are the areas on a remote head where dirt and contamination enter (unless the hydraulic fluid reservoir is left opened; a procedure generally not recommended in a field operation). As such, these are the areas where you should take most precautions. To combat their intrusion, the following preventive maintenance steps should be taken:
- Wipe clean all hydraulic connections before inserting them into a hydraulic pump or remote head
- Clean hydraulic heads with non-petroleum solvents, whenever possible, to minimize contamination of traveling surfaces and hydraulic interfaces
- Check the tool yearly for proper operation and output or bleed out of any air
Not all makes of hydraulic tools use the same type of seals. For example, O-rings on pistons and ram followers may be a type of rubber or neoprene that is negatively affected by certain petroleum-based products. As such, specific solvents may be required with some makes while restricted from use with others.
Non-petroleum-based solvents are safe to use in virtually every application.
While cleaning tools, always use fiber brushes, never metal-bristled brushes. Metal can score a piston, creating an area for dirt and other contaminants to collect and migrate into the hydraulic fluid. This increases the chance of compromising the tool’s rings, ball seats and the pump itself.
Avoid the use of caustics and flammables such as gasoline and mineral spirits for operator and tool safety reasons.
Adverse conditions make hydraulic tool cleaning and maintenance even more important. An application where salt water is present, is perhaps the worst situation. While most tools are tested in salt-spray chambers during design and can withstand exposure up to 24 hours or more, it’s still important to clean a hydraulic tool after each use. Most manufacturers recommend flushing the tool with clean water and wiping the tool with a recommended solvent. If not done on a regular basis, long-term damages can occur. Also, the “dirty” tool might contaminate other tools stored in the same case.
Another cause for tool failure is misuse or abuse. It’s not uncommon, during repair and reconditioning, to see a hydraulic tool that was used for hammering or prying. In other instances, extension handles or “cheaters” were added to a tool to “improve” its performance. Such handles actually do not improve operation since the tool’s output force is fixed. As a result, undue stress may be placed on the tool. More importantly, extension handles may compromise the dielectric properties of the tool, since these handles can cut into the tool’s insulation. In short, no mechanical advantage is gained at the compression or cut; instead, the tool becomes prematurely fatigued.
Ham Long expound on the maintenance of Hydraulic crimping tools. Not many are aware of how these tools are maintained. He gave an insightful view, also on the proper usage of the tools.