Earthmoving Accessories, Hydraulics, Industry Training

The operator’s basic guide to hydraulics

Kyle Probert (centre) with the APT Specialists Hydraulics and Training team.

Scott Lidster reaches out to Kyle Probert from APT Specialists Hydraulics and Training for a crash course on hydraulics.

Hydraulics: what an amazing invention. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be if some curious minds a couple of thousand years ago didn’t start to nut hydraulics out.

Operators interact with hydraulic systems all day long, though mostly from the comfort of their cab. But every operator needs to understand what a healthy, safe hydraulic system looks like.

In this edition, I reached out to the champions at APT Specialists Hydraulics and Training, in particular their head honcho Kyle Probert, to get the low down on what an operator needs to know about their hydraulic systems.

Over to you, Kyle!

While our maintenance teams do a great job making sure that our hydraulic systems keep running, as operators, you also play a pivotal role in ensuring that the machines you use run efficiently and safely. That’s why it’s incredibly important that you understand a few basic concepts about hydraulics so you can help keep the machines running and yourselves safe.

So, what are a few things you can look out for? Well, to start with, we can look at leaks and cross contamination that can cause leaks.

First and foremost, your hydraulic system shouldn’t leak. If you notice hydraulic oil (or coolant, or any other fluids seeping from your machine), it’s a red flag. Not only should you fix the leak promptly, but also, ask yourself why it’s happening. Leaks often result from damage to hoses and fittings. But there can be more sinister reasons for leaks such as O-rings hardening, which can be due to normal wear or, the more important thing to watch for: excessive heat. Addressing the root cause could prevent a major event.

Moving on, cross contamination is one major issue that operators can help control.

Ensuring the cleanliness of hydraulic oil is a straightforward yet highly effective maintenance task. Regularly change and maintain filters, and make sure to fill the hydraulic oil with care. Cleanliness here refers not only to dirt and dust in the oil but also to water and other fluids. Hydraulics and water don’t mix well.

But let’s take this one step further since clean hydraulic systems extend beyond oil and filters. Air coolers and oil coolers should be kept free of debris to operate efficiently. Hoses must also be kept clean to avoid damage, and components should be cleaned in case of leaks to prevent dust and dirt build-up. A clean system operates better and lasts longer, ensuring your machine performs at its best.

Finally, if you are going to work on the hydraulics, ensure you understand the dangers of trapped pressure. The three key things to remember here are isolate, dissipate, test.

  • Check for extended or raised components

Before working on a hydraulic system, such as a hydraulic excavator, inspect parts like the boom, bucket, or arm. If these parts aren’t entirely at rest, stored energy is present, and it’s unsafe to work on the connected hoses.

  • Ensure proper shutdown and dissipate any stored energy

Ideally, all machines should be parked and stored with dissipated energy before shutting down. If, after your initial check, you observe stored energy in the boom or bucket, dissipating this energy should be your first step before commencing work.

  • Confirm pressure has been dissipated

This is the most important step. Test with gauges to check the pressure has been dissipated – if you are unsure, do not work on the hydraulic system.

Remember, hydraulic systems are designed to work efficiently, but they require proper care. Demonstrating your skill by keeping your machine clean and respecting its intricacies will ultimately keep you safe and your machine in good working order.

Thanks, Kyle!

So, there you have it. A 101 guide for when working with or around hydraulics – not only for operators, but anyone who interacts with hydraulics in their day-to-day.

About APT Specialist Hydraulics and Training

APT specialises in hydraulic systems from basic to advanced, simple to complex.

The business is a registered training organisation with scope for not only hydraulics, but post-trade engineering courses from Certificate 4 Engineering through to Advanced Diploma of Engineering – a career path from Trade to Engineering level.

To learn more about APT and access their free safety training, head to:


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