“Hydraulics” is a term that can be used to describe the study of liquids and how they function, but the majority of people think of it as a field in engineering. Hydraulic systems use pressurized fluid to power an engine. Hydraulic presses generate power from a small amount of fluid under pressure.
But overall what is the benefit of using a hydraulic system in something like a car, forklift, or hydraulic ramp?
The basic idea of a hydraulic system is that fluid in a contained system is put under pressure. As a result, the piston is forced against the other side of the container by that pressure. By doing so, energy is transferred into the piston, which in turn lifts the object. The piston cannot move the opposite way unless the pressure on the fluid is released, so the water cannot flow backward. Until the system operator releases the piston, whatever it is lifting is secure. For example, if a piston raises a forklift’s prongs, they will remain raised until the hydraulic pressure is released.
Types of Hydraulic Fluids
Some people think hydraulic systems use water, and that was probably true at one point in time. There are other fluids that work much better because they transmit energy as well as lubricate and self-clean. These are some of the hydraulic fluids currently in use:
Water-Based Fluids: It is very difficult for these fluids to combust. This provides some greater safety in high-temperature environments or mechanisms that risk creating sparks. Despite this, they are not as effective at providing lubrication as some other types of liquids. High temperatures can also make them evaporate, requiring more frequent monitoring of fluid levels.
Petroleum-Based Fluids: In today’s market, these fluids are the most popular. These fluids can be adjusted to fit any system by adding different additives. Petroleum-based fluids can contain rust and oxidation inhibitors, antiwear agents, anti-corrosion agents, and extreme pressure agents, for example. In addition, they are relatively inexpensive.
Synthetic Fluids: Finally, man-made lubricants can also be useful in high-temperature and high-pressure systems. In addition to being fire-resistant, they also help lubricate the system. Synthetic fluids, however, are artificial and may contain toxic ingredients. They are also typically more expensive than other types of hydraulic fluids.
Hydraulic System Uses
Mechanically speaking hydraulic systems are very stable and trustworthy, making them a reliable option for several applications, here’s just a few:
Cars and Automobiles
Hydraulic brakes are the most common application of hydraulics in cars. In these systems, brake fluid transfers pressure to a braking pad, which then presses against the axel and stops the vehicle from moving.
Hydraulic suspension is also available on some vehicles. A suspension like this raises the car off the ground so that the ride is smoother and more comfortable for the driver.
Construction Equipment and Lifts
Hydraulics are often used in construction equipment and other heavy machinery to lift, press, or split systems. Diggers, log splitters, cranes, and hydraulic ramps all make use of hydraulics to operate.
The vehicles often have large scoops or other parts that take a considerable amount of power to operate and would be more expensive and difficult to power were it not for hydraulics.
Speaking of the hydraulics used in some forklift ramps, forklifts also employ hydraulic technology in their forks. The hydraulic system in a forklift has been described as the heart of the vehicle, and that’s true; the hydraulic lifting system does most of the work, and the vehicles wouldn’t be able to move pallets without it.
Different Shapes and Sizes
While hydraulic systems are a great tool, no problem has a one size fits all solution. Therefore, hydraulic equipment may not always be what you’re looking for. An example of this goes right back to the hydraulic forklift ramps. There’s not always a need to have adjustable height on a ramp. Instead, you may need a more standard semi-truck ramp. It’s always important to take note of your needs before diving into a purchase.