After trying to help troubleshoot a hydraulic system over the phone, I decided it may be best to make an on-site visit. I was met in the lobby by the plant manager who stated his guys had been working on the problem for a few days and just could not figure out what was going on.

I walked out onto the plant floor to see one man holding a hose into a 5-gal bucket, another standing next to the pump, and a third man next to the system’s motor start button. After looking at the pump and realizing it was quite large, and the 5-gal bucket would be filled in a matter of a few seconds, I warned them this was not a safe way to test the amount of flow from that pump. They said after they checked this one last thing, they would let me look at the system. I asked the plant manager if he would step around the corner with me while they “tested” their theory of no pump flow.

Lesson learned:
Safety should be the number one priority. Before you start troubleshooting a hydraulic system, ask yourself the following question: “What could happen if I turn this thing on?” Calling on an expert is typically the best course of action.

While we were talking around the corner we heard the pump start up, followed by shouts of “Turn it off!!! Turn it off!!!” When the pump stopped we looked around the corner to see a very large hydraulic oil spill, the 5-gal bucket on its side, several feet from its original location, and three very oily individuals. They were lucky no one was hurt.

We cleaned up the spill, isolated the problem to an unloading valve that was stuck open, and I laughed all the way home.

Lessons Learned is contributed by Cleveland-based Applied Industrial Technologies’ Fluid Power Specialists. Tom Nash is Applied’s Product Manager — Fluid Power Products. He has 20+ years of technical, sales and managerial experience in the fluid power industry. Contact him at (216) 426-4257, tnash@applied.com, or visit www.applied.com.