Five basic steps to effective hydraulic system troubleshooting are: (1) Identify the problem. Talk to the machine's operator and, if possible, have the operator operate the machine so you can observe the problem yourself. Carefully observe the system, looking for anything out of the ordinary. (2) Establish background information. Check with other operators and examine maintenance records for similar, previous problems. (3) Review all data. List all probable causes, and organize them according to likelihood. (4) Reorder the list, this time placing at the top those problems that require the least amount of time to correct. (5) Repair the system. Once the problem is solved, keep a written record of what was done, and analyze why the problem occurred.
Basic hydraulic test equipment includes a metal ruler; a watch with a second hand; flow meters; and pressure, temperature, and field viscosity gauges. The ruler and watch are used to measure the drift rate of hydraulic cylinders. Flow meters are used to determine the rate of fluid flow through a hydraulic circuit. Pressure and temperature gauges determine whether high system pressure and excessive heat are contributing to problems. Field viscosity gauges are used to determine viscosity of an oil sample. Hydraulic fluid that is too viscous can cause many problems.
Some hydraulic system tests can be completed quickly and accurately without test equipment. Looking, feeling and listening for problems can instantly provide clues as to what is wrong.