Hydraulics, widely used to power production machinery, is one of those areas of specialization that challenges operators’ expertise. Here is a helpful guide to understanding hydraulic fluids and their performance capabilities.
Although new technologies are continually improving the performance and safety of hydraulic fluids, the most common base for hydraulic fluids remains petroleum oil because of its low cost and high performance. Many hydraulic components are designed with petroleum oil in mind, and often the performance criteria of other fluids are measured against that of petroleum oil, as oil is generally regarded as the standard for hydraulic fluid performance.
In many applications petroleum oil-based fluids cannot be used because of their high flammability. For any hydraulic system that operates close to open flames and hot surfaces that can provide a source of ignition, a fire-resistant fluid is the best choice.
When compared to petroleum oil, fire-resistant fluids need to be selected based on required system performance, cost and stability. Selecting the right fire-resistant fluid often means striking a compromise between system needs and fluid performance characteristics to arrive at a solution that both minimizes cost and maximizes the desired health and safety benefits.
More on hydraulic fluids on American Machinist.