How Weather and Work Conditions Affect Hydraulic Tool Operation and Maintenance
Hydraulic torque wrenches, cutters, crimpers and similar tools are highly effective pieces of equipment that can prove to be invaluable additions to the modern contractor's toolbox. However, their size and effectiveness does come at a cost -- they need proper care and maintenance to operate at their best effectiveness. Here's what you need to know.
Be Wary of Extreme Cold
Hydraulic hoses are prone to cracking whenever they are flexed in very cold temperatures. This can cause a lot of issues if you are out on a job site when this occurs, and it can grind your entire operations to a halt depending upon which hydraulic tool you are using.
To prevent hydraulic hoses from cracking in the cold, it is important to apply the right lubricants before the weather starts to drop. Additionally, when turning on your machines in cold weather, have the hydraulic oil reach temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 66 degrees Celsius) or higher before beginning operations.
Use Hydraulic Tools As Intended
One of the biggest causes of hydraulic tool failure is improper use. These are highly specialized pieces of equipment and as such should not be used on varied work projects.
For example, the misuse of a hydraulic tool to hammer or pry something may seem like an obvious example and yet our team at Aztec Bolting continues to see this as the reasons a certain tool has failed and needs repair and reconditioning. Or sometimes workers will install extension handles with the aim of improving the tool's performance. However, these handles place unanticipated stress on the machine and cause premature issues.
The most dangerous situation, however, is when the operator of a hydraulic tool uses it in a similar but vastly different work condition from what it was designed to handle, such as when an operator attempts to use a soft-metal hydraulic cutting tool to cut through an extremely hard metal like a reinforcement bar. Attempting to do this won't just cause tool failure, but it often also, because the tool was not designed for such heavy metal use, causes individual pieces to shatter and break away to potentially cause life-threatening injuries.
Implement Regular Equipment Cleaning -- Especially After Dirty Work Conditions
Job sites are rarely pristine. Whether you are working in manufacturing or construction, dust, dirt and oil kick-up are common work conditions you and your operators are likely to face. While hydraulic torque tools and similar equipment were designed to handle such dirty work conditions, it is important that they are properly cleaned following such use to ensure they keep up their normal operations.
Most hydraulic tools are tested for their ability to withstand extreme work conditions, such as being tested in a salt-spray chamber to ensure they can withstand a minimum of 24 hours. But just because they have passed such rigorous evaluations doesn't mean you want to push them to do so.
Always clean your company's tools after every use and pay special attention to routine maintenance following their use in extreme work conditions such as being exposed to salt spray.
Recommended maintenance steps include:
- Every time, wipe clean the hydraulic connections before inserting them into any head or pump to prevent sand and grit transference.
- After use, clean the hydraulic head with a non-petroleum solvent to keep it clean and free of any contamination. While dirt won't harm the hose itself, it can cause issues if it gets down to the cylinders, pumps and valves.
- Annually, inspect for proper operation.
Keep Your Tools in Excellent Shape with Aztec Bolting
At Aztec Bolting, we strongly believe in our hydraulic tools and their ability to significantly reduce the time and effort on job sites. However, efficient operations require proper care and maintenance and proper use.
Talk to us to learn more about how to take care of your equipment so that it stays working and stays working well for many years to come.