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The pump is the most expensive and critical component in any hydraulic system—it works by first creating a vacuum at the pump inlet, which generates atmospheric pressure. Liquid from the reservoir tank is then propelled through the inlet line to the pump, past a hydraulic filter or strainer, and into the hydraulic system. On a macro-level, the mechanical energy of the pump’s gears is transferred through fluid “flow” and used to power the attached hydraulic machinery.

Hydraulic systems can be used in many applications, including, for example:

  • Scissor lifts
  • Brakes
  • Vehicle gas pumps
  • Steering systems
  • Dishwashers
  • Airplane landing gear
  • Adjustable office chairs
  • Shock absorbers
  • Punch presses
  • Hydraulic power plants
  • Cranes, bulldozers, and construction equipment

Although hydraulic systems can be used in many everyday objects, they’re usually best suited for products that require high-power density or systems with changing load requirements. This simple yet elegant design offers exceptional consistency and speed compared to other driving mechanisms. Hydraulic systems are widely used across industries because they are reliable, easy to maintain, long-lasting, and safe. But despite their many advantages, hydraulic systems still require some degree of maintenance. The following guide explains what can make a hydraulic pump fail, as well as tips for extending its useful lifespan as much as possible.

5 Problems That Can Cause Hydraulic Pump Failure

Hydraulic pump failure is almost always caused by improper upkeep, which typically manifests in any of the following ways:

Hydraulic Fluid Contamination

Fluid contamination is the leading cause of pump failure and usually happens when particulates circulate through the system via a breather valve or cylinder rod, or as a result of repairs, welding slag, sealant, or refilling. Once contaminants enter the system, they can degrade parts, create buildup, change the fluid’s physical and chemical properties, corrode equipment, and lower the system’s overall efficiency.

Excess Pressure

Hydraulic pumps are designed to work within a specific pressure range. If pressures exceed the pump’s rating, it will likely overburden the pump, cause damage, and eventually halt operations completely. If the pressure changes are extreme, it could even cause an explosion.

Air in the Pump or Line

Joints and shafts must be completely sealed for the hydraulic pump to work properly. If air gets trapped inside the system, bubbles can cause pressure and temperature fluctuations, which eventually will cause the pump to break down. Usually the first sign there’s air in the pump is a high-pitched whine.

<Learn about the function of air breather filters in hydraulic systems.>


Cavitation occurs when the pump speed is inconsistent, creating air bubbles that rapidly form and then collapse. When this happens, the pump won’t completely fill with fluid, which destabilizes pressure in the system and produces the same type of high-pitched squeal as pump aeration. A blocked pipe, clogged filter, or poor system design can all cause cavitation.

Low-Quality Fluid

Hydraulic systems need high-quality cooling and lubrication oil with the right mineral content and viscosity. Purity is particularly important for high-pressure systems that operate with larger loads.

How to Prevent Hydraulic Pump Failure

The best way to prevent hydraulic pump failure is to inspect and maintain your hydraulic system. Hydraulic filters and strainers will help you avoid fluid contamination, which in turn will stabilize the temperature and pressure inside the system. Filters remove particulates that are smaller than 50 microns, and strainers work tangentially to remove contaminants larger than 50 microns. Various options are available for both filters and strainers using different ratings, mesh sizes, and materials.

When you’re selecting a new filtration system, consider the following:

  • What type of process fluid will you use?
  • What are the intended operating pressure and temperature ranges?
  • How quickly will fluids circulate through the system per cycle?
  • What volume and type of contaminants should you screen for?

After they’re installed, filters and strainers need to be routinely checked and cleaned. Operators should familiarize themselves with their hydraulic system to identify any aberrant conditions as soon as possible, if problems should arise. If you maintain your hydraulic system, it will work more efficiently, necessitate fewer repairs, require less downtime, and last as long as possible.

Contact DOMS Incorporated for Hydraulic Fluid Filtration Solutions

With over 60 years of experience manufacturing high-quality suction filters, suction strainers, gauges, and diffusers for hydraulic systems, the experts at DOMS Incorporated have the expertise to keep your operation in peak condition. We’ve worked closely with organizations from many industries, including construction, forestry, mining, energy development, industrial manufacturing, aircraft equipment manufacturing, plant processing, and more.

If you have questions about optimizing your hydraulic system, contact DOMS Incorporated today or request a quote.

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