Be proactive, not reactive, with hydraulic hoses

Identifying and replacing worn hydraulic hose assemblies before they fail saves money and potentially saves lives.

By Gary Kleiner

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“All hoses will eventually fail, it’s just a matter of when” is an often ignored, but essential fact to remember when working with hydraulic hoses. Moreover, if a hose suddenly fails, it can have dire consequences, including increased labor and material cost, unscheduled downtime, and, most importantly, injury of those working on or near the hose. Avoiding failure should be a prime directive for any process or application that uses hydraulic hoses but, unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Although proactive hose assembly replacement is the most cost-effective method for dealing with potential hose failure, many users mistakenly believe that being reactive is a better option. Typical comments from reactive advocates are:

  • “I can’t afford to shut down my process to replace a hose assembly.”
  • “I’ll wait until it fails.”
  • “I don’t have the time or the personnel available to fix the hose assembly right now.”

And there is the financial aspect typified by, “Why spend money to fix something before it’s broken?” Any of these attitudes can quickly fulfill the prophecy of a disaster waiting to happen.

Why spend the time and money to replace a hose assembly that has not failed? Here’s the answer: you run the risk of having the hose assembly fail at an inopportune time. Is there ever an opportune time for a hose failure? Any hose failure, at any time, results in unscheduled downtime and extra costs.

Be proactive, not reactive

A proactive hose maintenance program is more cost effective and ultimately provides a number of other advantages. It’s essential for hydraulic hose users to look beyond the initial costs of hose assembly replacement to its total cost, which includes the cost of the assembly plus labor, lost fluid,downtime, along with safety considerations. A scheduled replacement is far more cost-effective than reacting to a hose assembly failure, when material and labor costs will be higher and the potential for personnel injury can be serious.

Hydraulic hose can and will age whether it’s in normal service conditions or unused in storage. Hose failure isn’t an indication of poor product performance, but rather natural degradation.

Hydraulic hose can and will age whether it’s in normal service conditions or unused in storage. Hose failure isn’t an indication of poor product performance, but rather natural degradation.

– Gary Kleiner

A good analogy is automobile tires. Similar to some hydraulic hose, they’re made of rubber, an organic compound that ages naturally. The heat and friction a tire encounters during its working life also ages rubber. Tires experience a lot of abuse from road surfaces, highway driving, weather conditions and routine use.

Most drivers are vigilant about replacing tires as soon as they show signs of wear, cracking, blisters, bubbles, low or smooth treads, or bulges. Not replacing a worn tire can cause an accident or breakdown. It’ll be far more expensive and dangerous to replace blown-out tire in a roadside emergency as opposed to proactive replacement it at a more convenient time.

Similar to car tires, hydraulic hose will show signs of wear that include cracking, blisters and bubbles. Nevertheless, many users think nothing of running hydraulic hoses that show evidence of wear for days, weeks or even longer. Yet, they’d never drive a car that had a worn tire, knowing the dangers that could ensue.

The advantages of proactive hose assembly replacement include:

  • Reduced safety risk: maintenance can be scheduled before failure occurs
  • Reduced labor costs: labor can be scheduled during regular business hours or during a planned shutdown
  • Reduced downtime
  • Procurement of the proper hose assembly specifically intended to meet application conditions
  • Better equipment performance from preventive maintenance

With a proactive hose replacement program, maintenance personnel can stage materials, plan a replacement schedule, arrange for convenient downtime and reduce the risk of exposure to hazards associated with hose failure.

Proactive replacement saves money

The financial aspect of ignoring worn hydraulic hose is probably more critical than most people realize. In many manufacturing environments, hydraulic equipment does the heavy work. If that equipment is idled because of a failed hose, an expensive piece of machinery and a highly-compensated operator both sit on the sidelines. There also will be a workflow back-up that affects more than one piece of equipment and one operator. Unscheduled downtime for hose replacement results in revenue loss and higher operating costs.

In construction, a hose failure during an asphalt paving operation can shut down the entire workflow. Trucks load asphalt into a paver that spreads the asphalt while an asphalt roller compacts and smoothes the surface. If a hose on the paver fails in the middle of the operation, the upstream and downstream equipment, along with the personnel, must cease working. Unscheduled downtime means that equipment and workers are idle waiting for the hose to be replaced, and production time is lost.

Clearly, the financial aspect of not replacing a worn hydraulic hose can quickly add up to an undesirable cost. With a proactive hose replacement program, cost is controlled and the effects of unscheduled downtime are minimized.

A proactive hose assembly replacement program allows for planned maintenance. Repair labor can be scheduled, eliminating overtime expenses and the possibility of not having someone available for an emergency repair. Downtime can be scheduled when it causes the least disruption to operations.

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