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How Contaminants Affect the Reliability of Hydraulic Systems

Hydraulic contamination can cause major problems if left unchecked. A hydraulic system plagued by contaminants comes to ruin faster than it should—often during use. Depending on the situation, a sudden hydraulic failure can have catastrophic results. Keeping disaster at bay, however, is as easy as keeping your system clean.

Hydraulic Gear Pump

Keep reading to learn more about hydraulic contaminants and how you can keep your system safe from the harm they cause.

Types of Contaminants

There are many types of contaminants worth considering where hydraulic systems are concerned. Here are a few common ones to keep in mind:

Overheated Fluids

Whenever a hydraulic system is put under enough strain, it creates excess heat. This heat has to be removed to keep the system running properly, and most modern machines do this in a variety of ways. However, constant overheating of hydraulic fluids leads to damage, no matter how efficient the cooling system is.

Overheating hydraulic fluid does a poor job of protecting moving parts,1 as it is less lubricating at high temperatures. The fluid itself can act as a contaminant under such conditions, as well, melting seals, dissolving gaskets, and causing quicker degradation of metal parts than intended.


Any chemical not intended for use inside your hydraulic system functions as a contaminant once inside it. Whether it is a detergent, solvent, fuel or unknown compound, it can cause damage.
From corrosion to explosions, mismatched chemicals can and often will lead to disaster for an otherwise functional hydraulic system.

Dirt and/or Water

No hydraulic system known to man is designed to circulate dirt instead of hydraulic fluid. If your system is clogged with dirt, it is unlikely to function properly. In fact, it might not function at all.

Dirt can jam gears, stop up valves, and lead to far higher pressure levels than intended if left unchecked.

Causes of Hydraulic Contamination

Contamination can occur in all kinds of ways. Here are two common causes:

Filtration Issues

Poor filtration can cause your hydraulic system to take on all sorts of fluids and materials while it is running. However, filtering should be handled carefully whenever your hydraulic system is filled with a suitable fluid.

Pour new hydraulic fluid through a filter first to make sure it is clean enough for use and always choose the highest quality options from reputable suppliers.

Quality Control and Storage

When hydraulic fluid is manufactured, contaminants can enter into it. Under strict quality control guidelines, this should not happen often, but it can still occur occasionally. Filtering fluids before use can help here as well.

As for storage practices impacting hydraulic fluid, uncapped bottles, open vats, and barrels open without tops for too long can take in all manner of contaminants. Ensuring both your hydraulic fluid has been stored in ideal conditions before use goes a long way in keeping your system safe from foreign materials.


black and gray metal pipe

As was mentioned above, hydraulic contamination is best solved by improving filtration, sourcing, and storage practices. It also helps to ensure regular maintenance procedures include precautionary measures to keep your system free from hazardous materials. This means cleaning components with agents that leave no residue and drying them without cloths that leave lint behind.

If your hydraulic system fails due to contaminants or the damage they have caused, your only choice may be to purchase a replacement. That’s where we come in!

At White House Products, Ltd., we can assist you in finding the perfect replacement for your damaged hydraulic pumps and motors. Our experts can even craft a replacement to spec to meet your needs. Reach out today to learn how we can help you.


  1. http://info.texasfinaldrive.com/shop-talk-blog/6-types-of-hydraulic-fluid-contamination
  2. https://www.sealingandcontaminationtips.com/top-5-forms-hydraulic-contamination/

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