June 14, 2011 

'Inside Hydraulics' Newsletter

1. The bitter-sweet nature of proactive and predictive maintenance
2. Trouble with troubleshooting
3. Four diagnostic tests you need to know
4. Content for your web site or e-zine
5. Help us spread the word
6. Tell us what you think


The bitter-sweet nature of proactive and predictive maintenance

First, an announcement: I've worked for this company for 10 years and I'm taking long service leave.

If you live outside The World's Quarry, a.k.a. Australia, you may not be familiar with 'long service leave'. Down under, if you work for the government and stick at it for 10 uninterrupted years, you get 3 months leave on full pay. Nice perk, eh?

The truth is not many Aussies qualify because the majority are too busy digging stuff out of the ground and loading it onto ships to even consider working for the government. But still, there are a fortunate few.

Anyway, I've worked for this company for more than 10 years and since I'm fortunate enough to own it as well, I've decided to take long service leave. Well, sort of. The government won't be paying me, and I'll still be attending to ALL of my work commitments. But I am taking leave of sorts.

So last week I bought a used SUV. And the plan is to do some touring with the family. Starting with a trip across the Nullabor Plain from West to East. It's a BIG trip. If you spend 12 hours a day in the car driving, you can cover the distance in four days.

But the Nullabor is a desolate place. There's not much out there. You're real lucky if you see a kangaroo or emu between gas stations. And they're hundreds of miles apart. It's certainly not somewhere you want to breakdown (even more unacceptable for me, being a preventative maintenance guy, and knowing if something lets go on the car, I'm REALLY going to cop it in the neck from the wife!).

So to minimize the possibility of any nasty (and embarrassing) surprises in the middle of the desert, I took my newly acquired but pre-loved SUV down to the Automobile Association for a thorough workshop inspection. I dropped it off in the morning and when I arrived to collect it later that day, I could see it was still up on the hoist.

I knew all was not well when the inspecting mechanic invited me out into the workshop. When we get underneath the vehicle the first thing he points to is a broken front diff mount. While I'm thinking to myself: "Wow… that's not very cool", he shows me a lower front ball joint that's shot. Strike two. Now I'm thinking: "Enough already". Mercifully, there was no strike three.

Of course, the ideal outcome from any maintenance inspection or predictive maintenance task is to find nothing wrong. But on the other hand, the discovery of a defect or cause for alarm totally vindicates performance of the task. It's a bitter-sweet outcome.

And since the above issues are not the sort of problems you can fix on the side of the road with only a fistful of ring spanners, ignorance is NOT bliss. So based on the philosophy of 'a stitch in time saves nine', the $185 I proactively invested to have my SUV inspected has potentially saved me thousands. And that's without considering the likely stress and inconvenience a breakdown would cause.

The other thing this story illustrates is, what you do by way of proactive and predictive maintenance is at least in part determined by the cost and consequences of failure.

Of course, any piece of mechanical equipment can break down at any time. So stay tuned for my road-trip report from the East Coast.

Meanwhile, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to determine what you should be doing by way of proactive maintenance for the hydraulic equipment you own or are responsible for. And make sure it's all up to date.

The Nice Things People Say ...

"The knowledge I've gained from this information has been so valuable it has earned me a raise!" Find out more ...

Jack Bergstrom
Heavy Equipment Mechanic
Sharpe Equipment

2.   Trouble with troubleshooting

If you followed last month's bulletins about hydraulic troubleshooting, you'll recall I told the story of a monkey caught in an old Indian monkey trap. This story was an analogy for the importance of both knowledge and process in successful faultfinding (if you missed it, you can read it here).

In response, Bill Smith sent me this:

"That is a great analogy. I am a USAF civilian (USAF retired) and work with military aircraft technicians as a field rep.

I constantly hear from peers and leaders that personnel need system knowledge training and that is the end all to solve all troubleshooting problems. I have been trying to emphasize that the PROCESS and approach to troubleshooting is nearly as, or more important than, specific knowledge of a system.

I use the guitar as analogy for this. I can show a student the guitar, teach her where every note lies on the neck and strings, show her how it is constructed and so on, until they know everything about a guitar. Then I can hand it to them and say: "now play it" -- knowing full well they can't.

This is the difference between knowledge and expertise. Knowledge can be taught but expertise must be developed through practice. HOWEVER, if someone teaches you a PROCESS your practice is more effective and you fast track your way to expertise."

I couldn't agree more. Knowledge is a great advantage when troubleshooting, but without a reliable process, it's very easy for the troubleshooting effort to become hit and miss. But perhaps more importantly though, a reliable process will often lead to the discovery of the knowledge required to solve the problem.

Case in point is the monkey. Absent knowledge about how the trap works, he can very quickly figure it out. But only if he understands the troubleshooting process (technique) known as backing-out, and applies it correctly.

In my books and courses I teach a troubleshooting process that begins with checking the obvious things first.

The temptation of many is to dismiss this essential first step as too basic to be useful. But before YOU do so, consider that a colleague in the hydraulics repair biz has calculated that over a period of 20 years his business has earned in excess of $2-million from service calls which were resolved in one of two ways:

  1. adding oil to the hydraulic tank; and
  2. adjusting the system relief valve correctly.

This helps to explain why hydraulic troubleshooting expertise is highly valued and sought after. It also telegraphs the fact that it's not too hard to look good at this; even a modest amount of troubleshooting expertise can take you a l-o-n-g way.

"This book has the potential to save many organizations lots of money. It should be on the bookshelf of every engineer, supervisor, planner and technician who deals with hydraulic equipment... it's worth its weight in gold." Find out more

Alexander (Sandy) Dunn
Plant Maintenance Resource Center

3.   Four diagnostic tests you need to know

Fundamentals of Hydraulics and Troubleshooting explains when and how to use diagnostic tests, including the direct pump test, system T test, spool valve leakage test and cylinder piston seal leakage test - all from the convenience of your lap top or desk top computer. Find out more

4. Content for your web site or e-zine

Need some fresh content for your web site or e-zine? You now have permission to reprint these 'Inside Hydraulics' articles on your web site or in your e-zine, provided:

1. Each article is printed in its full form with no changes.

2. You send an e-mail to editor@hydraulicsupermarket.com to advise us where you'll be publishing them.

3. You include the following acknowledgement at the end of each article:
About the Author: Brendan Casey has more than 20 years experience in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of mobile and industrial hydraulic equipment. For more information on reducing the operating cost and increasing the uptime of your hydraulic equipment, visit his web site: http://www.HydraulicSupermarket.com

5. Help us spread the word

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6. Tell us what you think

We would love to hear what you think of this issue of our 'Inside Hydraulics' newsletter. And of course, if you have any suggestions for future issues, please send us those too.

Just e-mail the editor at: newslettersuggestions@hydraulicsupermarket.com

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