Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki


The Definition of Hydraulics ; is a topic of science and engineering dealing with the mechanical properties of liquids. Hydraulics is part of the more general discipline of fluid power. Fluid mechanics provides the theoretical foundation for hydraulics, which focuses on the engineering uses of fluid properties. Hydraulic topics range through most science and engineering disciplines, and cover concepts such as pipe flow, fluid control circuitry, pumps, turbines, hydropower, computational fluid dynamics, flow measurement, and also in relation to water hydraulics, dam design, river channel behaviour and erosion.

Hydraulics in the field of Agricultural Machinery and Construction plant involve the use of Oil as the Fluid medium.



The word "hydraulics" originates from the Greek word ὑδραυλικός (hydraulikos) which in turn originates from ὕδραυλος (hydraulos) meaning water organ which in turn comes from ὕδωρ (hydor, Greek for water) and αὐλός (aulos, meaning pipe)

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662-1672) study of fluid hydrodynamics and hydrostatics centered on the principles of hydraulic fluids. His inventions include the hydraulic press, which multiplied a smaller force acting on a larger area into the application of a larger force totaled over a smaller area, transmitted through the same pressure (or same change of pressure) at both locations. Pascal's law or principle states that for an incompressible fluid at rest, the difference in pressure is proportional to the difference in height and this difference remains the same whether or not the overall pressure of the fluid is changed by applying an external force. This implies that by increasing the pressure at any point in a confined fluid, there is an equal increase at every other point in the container, i.e., any change in pressure applied at any point of the fluid is transmitted undiminished throughout the fluids.

From his name is derived the name for the modern metric mesurement of presure; The Pascal. The UK measure is more commonly the imperial term PSI, (Pounds per Square Inch)

Hydraulic machinery

Hydraulic machinery are machines and tools which use fluid power to do work. Agricultural Machiner, Tractors and Construction Plant is a common example.

In this type of machine, high pressure hydraulic fluid is transmitted throughout the machine to various hydraulic motors and hydraulic cylinders. The fluid is controlled directly or automatically by control valves and distributed through hoses and tubes.

The popularity of hydraulic machinery is due to the very large amount of power that can be transferred through small tubes and flexible hoses, and the high power intensity and wide array of actuators that can make use of this power.

Force multiplication

An interesting aspect of hydraulic systems is the ability to apply force multiplication. Imagine if cylinder one (C1) is one inch in diameter, and cylinder two (C2) is ten inches in diameter. If the force exerted on C1 is 10 lbf, the force exerted by C2 is 1000 lbf because C2 is a hundred times larger in area (S = πr²) as C1. The downside to this is that you have to move C1 a hundred inches to move C2 one inch.

Hydraulic circuits

For the hydraulic fluid to do work, it must flow to the actuator and or motors, then return to a reservoir. The fluid is then filtered and re-pumped. The path taken by hydraulic fluid is called a hydraulic circuit of which there are several types. Open center circuits use pumps which supply a continuous flow. The flow is returned to tank through the control valve's open center; that is, when the control valve is centered, it provides an open return path to tank and the fluid is not pumped to a high pressure. Otherwise, if the control valve is actuated it routes fluid to and from an actuator and tank. The fluid's pressure will rise to meet any resistance, since the pump has a constant output. If the pressure rises too high, fluid returns to tank through a pressure relief valve. Multiple control valves may be stacked in series [1]. This type of circuit can use inexpensive, constant displacement pumps.

Closed center circuits supply full pressure to the control valves, whether any valves are actuated or not. The pumps vary their flow rate, pumping very little hydraulic fluid until the operator actuates a valve. The valve's spool therefore doesn't need an open center return path to tank. Multiple valves can be connected in a parallel arrangement and system pressure is equal for all valves.

Constant pressure & load-sensing systems

The closed center circuits exist in two basic configurations, normally related to the regulator for the variable pump that supplies the oil:

Constant pressure systems (CP-system), standard. Pump pressure always equals the pressure setting for the pumpregulator. This setting must cover the maximum required load pressure. Pump delivers flow according to required sum of flow to the consumers. The CP-system generates large power losses if the machine works with large variations in load pressure and the average system pressure is much lower than the pressure setting for the pump regulator. CP is simple in design. Works like a pneumatic system. New hydraulic functions can easily be added and the system is quick in response.

Constant pressure systems (CP-system), unloaded. Same basic configuration as 'standard' CP-system but the pump is unloaded to a low stand-by pressure when all valves are in neutral position. Not so fast response as standard CP but pump life time is prolonged.

Load-sensing systems (LS-system) generates less power losses as the pump can reduce both flow and pressure to match the load requirements, but requires more tuning than the CP-system with respect to system stability. The LS-system also requires additional logical valves and compensator valves in the directional valves, thus it is technically more complex and more expensive than the CP-system. The LS-system system generates a constant power loss related to the regulating pressure drop for the pump regulator:

Power loss = ΔpLS·Qtot; The average ΔpLS is around 2 MPa (290 psi). If the pump flow is high the extra loss can be considerable. The power loss also increase if the load pressures varies a lot. The cylinder areas, motor displacements and mechanical torque arms must be designed to match in load pressure in order to bring down the power losses. Pump pressure always equals the maximum load pressure when several functions are run simultaneously and the power input to the pump equals the (max. load pressure + ΔpLS) x sum of flow.

Four basic types of load-sensing systems

(1) Load sensing without compensators in the directional valves. Hydraulically controlled LS-pump.

(2) Load sensing with up-stream compensator for each connected directional valve. Hydraulically controlled LS-pump.

(3) Load sensing with down-stream compensator for each connected directional valve. Hydraulically controlled LS-pump.

(4) Load sensing with a combination of up-stream and down-stream compensators. Hydraulically controlled LS-pump.

System type (3) gives the advantage that activated functions are synchronized, flow relation remains independent of load pressures even if pumps reach the maximum swivel angle. This feature is important for machines that often run with the pump at maximum swivel angel and with several activated functions, such as with excavators. With type (4) system, the functions with up-stream compensators have priority. Example: Steering-function for a wheel loader.

Open & closed circuits

Open-loop: Pump-inlet and motor-return (via the directional valve) are connected to the hydraulic tank.The term loop applies to feedback; the more correct term is open versus closed "circuit".

Closed-loop: Motor-return is connected directly to the pump-inlet. To keep up pressure on the low pressure side, the circuits have a charge pump (a small gearpump) that supplies cooled and filtered oil to the low pressure side. Closed-loop circuits are generally used for hydrostatic transmissions in mobile applications. Advantages: No directional valve and better response, the circuit can work with higher pressure. The pump swivel angle covers both positive and negative flow direction. Disadvantages: The pump cannot be utilized for any other hydraulic function and cooling can be a problem due to the limited exchange of oil flow. Closed loop systems generally have a 'flush-valve' assembled in the hydraulic motor in order to exchange more flow than the basic leakage flow from the pump and the motor, for increased the cooling and filtering effects. The leakage flow as well as the extra flush flow must be supplied by the charge pump. Closed loop systems in mobile equipment are generally used for the transmission as an alternative to mechanical and hydrodynamic (converter) transmissions. The advantage is a stepless gear ratio ('hydrostatic' gear ratio) and a more flexible control of the gear ratio depending on load and operating conditions.

Hydrostatic transmissions for earth moving machines, such as large wheel loaders, are often equipped with a separate 'Inch pedal' that is used to temporarily increase the diesel engine rpm while reducing the vehicle speed in order to increase the available hydraulic power output for the working hydraulics at low speeds and increase the tractive effort. The function is similar to stalling a converter gearbox at high engine rpm. The Inch-function affects the preset characteristics for the 'hydrostatic' gear ratio versus diesel engine rpm.

Hydraulic pump

A Tripple hydarulic pump on a new JCB machine

Hydraulic pumps supply fluid to the components in the system. Pressure in the system develops in reaction to the load. Hence, a pump rated for 5,000 psi is capable of maintaining flow against a load of 5,000 psi.

Pumps have a power density about ten times greater than an electric motor (by volume). They are powered by an electric motor or an engine, connected through gears, belts, or a flexible elastomeric coupling to reduce vibration.

Common types of hydraulic pumps to hydraulic machinery applications are;

  • Gear pump: cheap, durable, simple. Less efficient, because they are constant displacement, and mainly suitable for pressures below 20 MPa (3000 psi).
  • Vane pump: cheap and simple, reliable (especially in g-rotor form). Good for higher-flow low-pressure output.
  • Axial piston pump: many designed with a variable displacement mechanism, to vary output flow for automatic control of pressure. There are various axial piston pump designs, including swashplate (sometimes referred to as a valveplate pump) and checkball (sometimes referred to as a wobble plate pump). The most common is the swashplate pump. A variable-angle swash plate causes the pistons to reciprocate.
  • Radial piston pump A pump that is normally used for very high pressure at small flows.

Piston pumps are more expensive than gear or vane pumps, but provide longer life operating at higher pressure, with difficult fluids and longer continuous duty cycles. Piston pumps make up one half of a hydrostatic transmission.

Control valves

Directional control valves route the fluid to the desired actuator. They usually consist of a spool inside a cast iron or steel housing. The spool slides to different positions in the housing, intersecting grooves and channels route the fluid based on the spool's position.

The spool has a central (neutral) position maintained with springs; in this position the supply fluid is blocked, or returned to tank. Sliding the spool to one side routes the hydraulic fluid to an actuator and provides a return path from the actuator to tank. When the spool is moved to the opposite direction the supply and return paths are switched. When the spool is allowed to return to neutral (center) position the actuator fluid paths are blocked, locking it in position.

Directional control valves are usually designed to be stackable, with one valve for each hydraulic cylinder, and one fluid input supplying all the valves in the stack.

Tolerances are very tight in order to handle the high pressure and avoid leaking, spools typically have a clearance with the housing of less than a thousandth of an inch (25 µm). The valve block will be mounted to the machine's frame with a three point pattern to avoid distorting the valve block and jamming the valve's sensitive components.

The spool position may be actuated by mechanical levers, hydraulic pilot pressure, or solenoids which push the spool left or right. A seal allows part of the spool to protrude outside the housing, where it is accessible to the actuator.

The main valve block is usually a stack of off the shelf directional control valves chosen by flow capacity and performance. Some valves are designed to be proportional (flow rate proportional to valve position), while others may be simply on-off. The control valve is one of the most expensive and sensitive parts of a hydraulic circuit.

  • Pressure relief valves are used in several places in hydraulic machinery; on the return circuit to maintain a small amount of pressure for brakes, pilot lines, etc... On hydraulic cylinders, to prevent overloading and hydraulic line/seal rupture. On the hydraulic reservoir, to maintain a small positive pressure which excludes moisture and contamination.
  • Pressure reducing valves reduce the supply pressure as needed for various circuits.
  • Sequence valves control the sequence of hydraulic circuits; to insure that one hydraulic cylinder is fully extended before another starts its stroke, for example.
  • Shuttle valves provide a logical or function.
  • Check valves are one-way valves, allowing an accumulator to charge and maintain its pressure after the machine is turned off, for example.
  • Pilot controlled Check valves are one-way valve that can be opened (for both directions) by a foreign pressure signal. For instance if the load should not be hold by the check valve anymore. Often the foreign pressure comes from the other pipe that is connected to the motor or cylinder.
  • Counterbalance valves are in fact a special type of pilot controlled check valve. Whereas the check valve is open or closed, the counterbalance valve acts a bit like a pilot controlled flow control.
  • Cartridge valves are in fact the inner part of a check valve; they are off the shelf components with a standardized envelope, making them easy to populate a proprietary valve block. They are available in many configurations; on/off, proportional, pressure relief, etc. They generally screw into a valve block and are electrically controlled to provide logic and automated functions.
  • Hydraulic fuses are in-line safety devices designed to automatically seal off a hydraulic line if pressure becomes too low, or safely vent fluid if pressure becomes too high.
  • Auxiliary valves. Complex hydraulic systems will usually have auxiliary valve blocks to handle various duties unseen to the operator, such as accumulator charging, cooling fan operation, air conditioning power, etc. They are usually custom valves designed for the particular machine, and may consist of a metal block with ports and channels drilled. Cartridge valves are threaded into the ports and may be electrically controlled by switches or a microprocessor to route fluid power as needed.



The hydraulic fluid reservoir holds excess hydraulic fluid to accommodate volume changes from: cylinder extension and contraction, temperature driven expansion and contraction, and leaks. The reservoir is also designed to aid in separation of air from the fluid and also work as a heat accumulator to cover losses in the system when peak power is used. Design engineers are always pressured to reduce the size of hydraulic reservoirs, while equipment operators always appreciate larger reservoirs.

Some designs include dynamic flow channels on the fluid's return path that allow for a smaller reservoir.


Accumulators are a common part of hydraulic machinery. Their function is to store energy by using pressurized gas. One type is a tube with a floating piston. On one side of the piston is a charge of pressurized gas, and on the other side is the fluid. Bladders are used in other designs.Reservoirs store a systems fluid.

Examples of accumulator uses are backup power for steering or brakes, or to act as a shock absorber for the hydraulic circuit.

Hydraulic fluid

Also known as tractor fluid, hydraulic fluid is the life of the hydraulic circuit. It is usually petroleum oil with various additives. Some hydraulic machines require fire resistant fluids, depending on their applications.

In addition to transferring energy, hydraulic fluid needs to lubricate components, suspend contaminants and metal filings for transport to the filter, and to function well to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius.


Filters are an important part of hydraulic systems. Metal particles are continually produced by mechanical components and need to be removed along with other contaminants.

Filters may be positioned in many locations. The filter may be located between the reservoir and the pump intake. Blockage of the filter will cause cavitation and possibly failure of the pump. Sometimes the filter is located between the pump and the control valves. This arrangement is more expensive, since the filter housing is pressurized, but eliminates cavitation problems and protects the control valve from pump failures. The third common filter location is just before the return line enters the reservoir. This location is relatively insensitive to blockage and does not require a pressurized housing, but contaminants that enter the reservoir from external sources are not filtered until passing through the system at least once.

Tubes, Pipes and Hoses

Hydraulic tubes are seamless steel precision pipes, specially manufactured for hydraulics. The tubes have standard sizes for different pressure ranges, with standard diameters up to 100 mm. The tubes are supplied by manufacturers in lengths of 6 m, cleaned, oiled and plugged. The tubes are interconnected by different types of flanges (especially for the larger sizes and pressures), welding cones/nipples (with o-ring seal), several types of flare connection and by cut-rings. In larger sizes, hydraulic pipes are used. Direct joining of tubes by welding is not acceptable since the interior cannot be inspected.

Hydraulic pipe is used in case standard hydraulic tubes are not available. Generally these are used for low pressure. They can be connected by threaded connections, but usually by welds. Because of the larger diameters the pipe can usually be inspected internally after welding. Black pipe is non-galvanized and suitable for welding.

Hydraulic hose is graded by pressure, temperature, and fluid compatibility. Hoses are used when pipes or tubes can not be used, usually to provide flexibility for machine operation or maintenance. The hose is built up with rubber and steel layers. A rubber interior is surrounded by multiple layers of woven wire and rubber. The exterior is designed for abrasion resistance. The bend radius of hydraulic hose is carefully designed into the machine, since hose failures can be deadly, and violating the hose's minimum bend radius will cause failure. Hydraulic hoses generally have steel fittings swaged on the ends. The weakest part of the high pressure hose is the connection of the hose to the fitting. Another disadvantage of hoses is the shorter life of rubber which requires periodic replacement, usually at five to seven year intervals.

Tubes and pipes for hydraulic applications are internally oiled before the system is commissioned. Usually steel piping is painted outside. Where flare and other couplings are used, the paint is removed under the nut, and is a location where corrosion can begin. For this reason, in marine applications most piping is stainless steel.

Seals, fittings and connections

In general, valves, cylinders and pumps have female threaded bosses for the fluid connection, and hoses have female ends with captive nuts. A male-male fitting is chosen to connect the two. Many standardized systems are in use.

Fittings serve several purposes;

  1. To bridge different standards; O-ring boss to JIC (hydraulic), or pipe threads to face seal, for example.
  2. To allow proper orientation of components, a 90°, 45°, straight, or swivel fitting is chosen as needed. They are designed to be positioned in the correct orientation and then tightened.
  3. To incorporate bulkhead hardware.
  4. A quick disconnect fitting may be added to a machine without modification of hoses or valves

A typical piece of heavy equipment may have thousands of sealed connection points and several different types:

  • Pipe fittings, the fitting is screwed in until tight, difficult to orient an angled fitting correctly without over or under tightening.
  • O-ring boss, the fitting is screwed into a boss and orientated as needed, an additional nut tightens the fitting, washer and o-ring in place.
  • Flare seal, a metal to metal compression seal with a cone and flare mating.
  • Face seal, metal flanges with a groove and o-ring are fastened together.
  • Beam seal, a costly metal to metal seal used primarily in aircraft.
  • Swaged seals, tubes are connected with fittings that are swaged permanently in place. Primarily used in aircraft.

Elastomeric seals (O-ring boss and face seal) are the most common types of seals in heavy equipment and are capable of reliably sealing 6000+ psi (40+ kPa) of fluid pressure.


Calculation of the required max. power output for the diesel engine, rough estimation:

(1) Check the max. powerpoint, i.e. the point where pressure times flow reach the max. value.

(2) Ediesel = (Pmax·Qtotη.

Qtot = calculate with the theoretical pump flow for the consumers not including leakages at max. power point.

Pmax = actual pump pressure at max. power point.

Note: η is the total efficiency = (output mechanical power ÷ input mechanical power). For rough estimations, η = 0.75. Add 10-20% (depends on the application) to this power value.

(3) Calculate the required pumpdisplacement from required max. sum of flow for the consumers in worst case and the dieselengine rpm in this point. The max. flow can differ from the flow used for calculation of the diesel engine power. Pump volumetric efficiency average, piston pumps: ηvol= 0.93.

Pumpdisplacement Vpump= Qtot ÷ ndiesel ÷ 0.93.

(4) Calculation of prel. cooler capacity: Heat dissipation from hydraulic oil tanks, valves, pipes and hydraulic components is less than a few percent in standard mobile equipment and the cooler capacity must include some margins. Minimum cooler capacity, Ecooler = 0.25Ediesel

At least 25% of the input power must be dissipated by the cooler when peak power is utilized for long periods. In normal case however, the peak power is used for only short periods, thus the actual cooler capacity required might be considerably less. The oil volume in the hydraulic tank is also acting as a heat accumulator when peak power is used. The system efficiency is very much dependent on the type of hydraulic work tool equipment, the hydraulic pumps and motors used and power input to the hydraulics may vary a lot. Each circuit must be evaluated and the load cycle estimated. New or modified systems must always be tested in practical work, covering all possible load cycles. An easy way of measuring the actual average powerloss in the system is to equip the machine with a test cooler and measure the oiltemperature at cooler inlet, oiltemperature at cooler outlet and the oilflow through the cooler, when the machine is in normal operating mode. From these figures the test cooler powerdissipation can be calculated and this is equal to the powerloss when temperatures are stabilized. From this test the actual required cooler can be calculated to reach specified oiltemperature in the oiltank. One problem can be to assemble the measuring equipment inline, especially the oilflow meter.

See also

References / sources

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

(Work required to increase relevancy to tractors and Construction Plant and to use UK termininology, and define link subjects)

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Hydraulic machinery. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at hydraulics. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia