Most of us have the philosophy: if it is not broke don’t fix it.
This should not be the case when it comes to your hydraulic system.
Whether talking about a simple integral backstay adjuster, or a complex system with multiple cylinders, valves and pumps, sooner or later it will need to be serviced. Regular maintenance and inspection is highly recommended for all hydraulic systems.
There are several ways to determine if your hydraulic system needs to be serviced. One of the biggest factors is the age of the system. Chances are if the system has original equipment, and the boat is more than five years old, it most likely will need to be sent to the hydraulics shop for reconditioning. If it is a NAVTEC system, it should be serviced by an authorized NAVTEC service facility. The servicing of these systems requires specialized tools and knowledge. Please heed the warnings on most cylinders stating not to dissemble them yourself. Uneducated disassembly could result in serious injury, as most cylinders have return forces within the ram. Most rigging lofts do have a hydraulic technician on staff. Be sure to use your best judgment concerning their experience in the hydraulics field.
A relatively straightforward visual examination can reveal the need for service. What should you look for? First, are there signs of hydraulic fluid anywhere around the unit? Second, are there signs of damage to the cylinder rod? Is the rod scratched, dinged, nicked, bent, or damaged in any way? A beat up cylinder rod is a sure way to have leaks in the system. The only fix in this case is to have the technician replace the cylinder rod when they are replacing the seals. A cylinder rod is not cheap, so make sure to keep yours protected as best you can. A good thing to do is frequently rinse the rod with fresh water to minimize debris coming in contact with the internal seals. Many leaks can be fixed by simply making sure all the hose connections are properly secured. Hydraulic fittings are notorious for coming loose for multiple reasons. Vibration is the most common culprit. Most cylinders are equipped with a schrader valves for pressurized return. If you insert a small object into this valve you can check for the presence of oil in this air-charged system. The presence of any oil here indicates that the internal seals have been compromised and need replacement.
Another common problem is the actual operation of the cylinder. Does is seem sluggish? Does it “jump” in and out when operated? Does it work slower than it used to? If any of these symptoms are present, there is air in the fluid system. If this is the case the system will need to be bled by a hydraulic technician.
Whatever the case, if you feel your hydraulic system is suspect please feel free to contact Matt Noren from Torresen Rigging at 231-759-8596 or email Matt to discuss these issues.
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