Tips for Handling Hydraulic Leaks

9 Tips 

According to government reports, hydraulic fluid leaks account for almost 14% of the more than 700 million gallons of petroleum products entering the environment each year. If you are serious about your hydraulic equipment running well, and being environmentally safe, consider these nine Hydraulic DO's to handle leaks.

#1 Do resolve a leak issue as soon as it is noticed

Even the untrained eye can easily spot an external leak.  Don't ignore it. Even a minor drip could be a sign of a more serious problem in your hydraulic system, and can cause performance issues and inefficiencies. Resolve the issue as soon as possible. 

#2 Do use gloves when working with hydraulic leaks 

Don't use your hand to check for leaks. Hydraulic fluid reaches temperatures of 300 degrees F or higher, which can quickly result in a serious burn. In addition, taking a pinhole leak of high velocity fluid to your hand can have devastating outcomes.  Injuries such as these result in the need for immediate medical attention, possible amputation, and industry safety violations. Be careful.

#3 Do keep open flames away from the leak 

Keep all open flames away from leak points. People often forget that pinhole leaks can create mist-like "clouds" of flammable vapor. Common hazards include lit cigarettes, the use of lighters for illumination and welding or cutting torches being used close by. Safety First, repair second.

#4 DO Depressurize the system

Always depressurize a hydraulic system before inspection. This applies even if you only see a slow fluid drip on the ground. Depressurization minimizes the chances of hydraulic fluid erupting from a machine component during inspection.  Trapped fluid and back pressure can still be present after the system is turned off. Approach the system carefully even when it is off.

#5 Do check your lubricant

Eighty percent of machine and equipment stoppages and component failures are caused by contaminated lubricants. Oxidation caused by overheating and contamination by dirt, water and wear metals are two of the biggest causes of hydraulic system failure and can lead directly to leakage problems. Dropping the fitting on the ground before reassembly can introduce contamination into the hydraulic system. Protect your work space.

#6 DO clean connections and fittings

Remember to clean the connecting ends before replacing or reassembling a fitting. This helps prevent dirt and metal flakes from entering the hydraulic system. Installing a conical washer between the joint's nose and flare can eliminate leaking flare joints on JIC 37 flare and will decrease potential issues.  Connectors that incorporate an elastomeric seal, such as a UN-O-ring, BSPP, ORFS, and SAE 4-bolt flange, offer far superior seal reliability. For leak-free reliability, it's best to replace pipe-thread connectors with a type that incorporates an elastomeric seal, where possible.

#7 Do replace fittings and Orings as needed

O-rings should always be changed even if you are reassembling a reusable fitting. O-rings are susceptible to cracks that can ruin seal integrity upon reassembly. It is always less expensive to replace a fitting than to replace the entire machine.


#8 Do tighten and torque correctly

A common cause of leaks from 37° flare joints and compression-type tube fittings is incorrect torque. In the case of flare joints, insufficient torque results in inadequate seat contact, while excessive torque can result in damage to the tube and connector. In the case of compression joints, incorrect torque can result in too much or too little "crush" on the ferrule. Fluid leaks are occasionally the result of a loose nut. This problem can be easily corrected by tightening the nut. Check that you don't over-tighten when you are done.

And perhaps the most important way to handle hydraulic leaks-

#9 DO set up a maintenance schedule

Hoses and fittings that are inspected regularly tend to create fewer emergencies.  Check for cracks, blisters, leaks.  Service filters and keep the machinery clean.  Watch for hydraulic drips and take the time to locate the leak, before it becomes an environmental and economic problem. 

Hydraulic leaks cost millions of dollars annually, and our environment an unknown toll. 
Let's work together to lower the costs to you, and to our planet.

Tagged as fittings, hydraulic repairs, leaks.


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