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Sunday, September 25th, 2022

Hydraulic Fluid – Log Splitter Oil Recommendation Today

Brake hydraulic cylinder brake drum, isolated on a white background

Disclaimer | This article may contain affiliate links, this means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for qualifying purchases.

Unless it’s a kinetic log splitter, there’s a hydraulic system behind the enormous wood splitting power!

And to keep it that way, the machine needs a fair bit of maintenance. Not only does this involve regular servicing, but it also requires you to know what oil and fluid type is best suited for the system.

Much to the relief, most manufacturers of log splitters explicitly state the kind of oil or fluid to be used. But what if you don’t find that during an emergency? What are the best alternatives out there?

To answer these questions, we’ve documented everything you need to know about hydraulic fluid and splitter oil.

So, let’s proceed!

What Is Hydraulic Fluid?

man's hand checking level of brake fluid tank - Car maintenance

Before we give you the deets about log splitter oil recommendations, let’s start with hydraulics. As complex as the term may sound, hydraulic is a pretty simple concept. It’s used to explain the relationship between fluids and how they function under certain conditions.

Simply put, hydraulic fluid is a pressurized fluid, which can be used to power an engine. Thus, hydraulic log splitters use the power or force generated by this fluid to operate. Furthermore, a hydraulic system consists of 4 main components, namely:

  1. Reservoir

Like any other reservoir, it stores the fluid for transferring later to the engine. Along with that, it also produces heat and eliminates unnecessary air.

  1. Pump

The pump moves the fluid through the reservoir and works on the basic principle of fluids moving through pressure. In fact, this part is responsible for creating mechanical energy within the system.

  1. Valves

Valves serve the dual purpose of directing fluid movement and controlling the engine operation. Depending on the design, the valves may be engaged using electric, hydraulic, pneumatic, manual, or mechanical methods.

  1. Actuators

Based on the system, the actuators look different from one model to the other. However, their basic purpose is to convert the hydraulic energy to mechanical energy for the engine.

Why Should The Hydraulic Fluid Be Changed?

As you go about operating the splitter, it’s natural for the hydraulic fluid to lose its quality. Exposure to oxygen, high temperatures, and contamination are some of the most common factors responsible for fluid degradation. Moreover, the release of various byproducts (including acids) deposits on different parts, eventually corroding the surface.

All of this ultimately correlates to decreased productivity to the extent where the splitter may even stop working altogether. Plus, several troubleshooting problems can be resolved by keeping an eye on the fluid level and quality. Hence, it becomes vital to change the fluid regularly.

Generally, it’s advisable to change the fluid per 100 hours of operation. But if the splitter has been idle for too long, it’s highly recommended to change the fluid before the next use. And if you have noticed a milky looking grainy substance in the fluid, change it immediately. The exact time of change is recommended by almost all manufacturers.

What Type Of Hydraulic Fuel Should Be Used?

Different manufacturers recommend different types of hydraulic fluids, which depends on the overall mechanism. And in the following sections, we talk about the two most widely used categories.

  1. Non-flammable

Not only are non-flammable fluids less prone to ignition, but they also contain some natural chemicals that don’t encourage foam formation. Without foam, the hydraulic system runs efficiently without the risk of dirt buildup. Beyond that, there’s a synthetic sub-type that runs the risk of corroding the internal parts.

  1. Flammable

Flammable fluids are essentially oil-based and are meant to supply more power to the hydraulic chambers. Furthermore, it prevents erosion but at the cost of a sticky buildup. Other than that, a hydraulic leak with flammable fluid and near a hot engine is a sure shot formula for an accident! So, many brands opt for the non-flammable variant.

Viscosity Index

Any discussion about hydraulic fluids isn’t complete without mentioning the viscosity index, represented by an ISO number. The viscosity of a fluid is nothing but its level of resistance to flow. The higher the viscosity, the more time it will take for the fluid to pass through an opening. Plus, it will have a thicker consistency, correlating to difficulty in processing.

Quite understandably, low viscosity refers to a thinner fluid that’s easy to process by the hydraulic chamber. However, the weather and temperature can also affect the viscosity, making a low viscous fluid thick until it’s heated.

So, you may choose a thinner fluid for low temperatures and a midrange or thicker variant for regular or high heat generation use.

Fluid Classification

The varied properties and performance of a fluid are expressed by some abbreviations on the package. If you see any of the below-mentioned letters on the bottle, know that they are referring to:

  • HL- antioxidant, anti-rust refined mineral oil
  • HM- anti-wear features
  • HR- VI (viscosity)Improvers that work in a wide range of temperature

How To Change Hydraulic Fluid?

Despite having varied designs, the steps involved in changing the hydraulic fluid of a splitter remain more or less the same. Begin by placing an adequately large container or vessel underneath the reservoir to collect the existing fluid. Make sure that it has a broad mouth so that there’s no spilling.

Also, it’s probably best to place an old rag or cardboard below the container to prevent the surface from getting stained.

Next, carefully pull out the suction pipe located at the bottom of the reservoir. The right method to do it will be mentioned in the instructions manual. Once done, remove the delicate inlet filter and clean it using a soft cloth or paper towel. Ensure that it doesn’t retain any bristle or fiber from the material.

Unscrew the drain pipe and allow the fluid to flow out into the container. This may take some time, so be patient. In most cases, the reservoir has a capacity of 3 gallons, while the entire hydraulic system can hold up to 4.7 gallons. To be on the safe side, get a bucket or vessel with a 5-gallon capacity.

It’s now time to refill the reservoir. Place a funnel above the fill tube and steadily pour the required amount of the recommended fluid. Be careful not to overfill. The dipstick will come in handy for gauging the fluid level. Later, close the drain plug and tighten the fill tube.

Since it’s not unusual to trap air during the entire process, use the control handle to engage the wedge and move it back and forth a few times. This will get rid of any air inside the system. Check for the fluid level again and fill it up to the dipstick mark if necessary.

Should The Hydraulic Filter Be Changed?

Going back to our point about cleaning the filter, a hydraulic filter is used to remove sediments, which can otherwise accumulate on the hydraulic chambers. When a filter stops working, you will notice sticky buildup along the walls of the hydraulic system. This may be a good time to get a new filter.

Again, the filter you opt for will depend on the log splitter, but you may also choose one that’s universally compatible. Whatever be the case, keep an eye for features like durable design and efficient filtering of harmful sediments.

Difference Between Hydraulic Fluid And Oil

Although both may come across as similar, hydraulic fluid and oil are two different things. While the latter is an individual substance, the fluid is a mix of several other fluids like water, salt solutions, water-oil emulsions, etc.

Moreover, oil is highly flammable and not suitable for use near any ignition source. When the oil passes through the high pressure of the hydraulic system, it’s likely to form a spray, which can then easily ignite.

Both oil and fluid are essential components for running a hydraulic system. Not only do they help in power transmission, but they also act as lubricants while doubling up as coolants. Beyond that, fluids find a wide range of use, especially for power brakes, steering purposes, and as a driving force in log splitters.

Since fluids are the primary source of power transfer, it’s crucial to have the right kind of fluid at the right level for uninterrupted machine use.

Types Of Engine Oil

Just like fluids, every brand recommends a specific engine oil to be used. That said, it’s not a bad idea to understand the types of oil available on the market. Based on the source, engine oils can be divided into two main categories, viz., mineral and synthetic. While mineral oils are extracted from minerals, synthetic oils are man-made in laboratories.

A lot of homeowners prefer to have synthetic oil for older machines as it has a reputation for being a more efficient lubricant.

Additive Options

Almost every engine oil has some kind of additive that makes it capable of dealing with a said situation. For instance, you may notice certain abbreviations or terms on the package, which tell you about the condition the oil is made for. The most common ones include:

  1. AW

AW or Anti-Wear oil is a good option to prolong the service life of the splitter, protect and lubricate the parts. Furthermore, AW oil can be divided into AW 32 or AW 64 categories based on their temperature and viscosity.

AW 32 (light duty oil) is ideally meant for ambient temperatures between -20 and 50-degree Fahrenheit. Similarly, AW 46 (medium duty oil) is suitable for temperatures ranging between 25 and 70-degree Ferenheit.

In an ideal scenario, an AW 32 oil uses less energy, thereby running the splitter cooler and inflicting less wear-and-tear. But if you need to regularly operate the splitter in hot weather, we’d suggest taking some ‘cool breaks’ between use.

Besides, you will also find an AW 64 (heavy duty oil) variant used mainly for heavy load hydraulics.

  1. Cold Flow

Used for very cold or freezing temperatures.

  1. Anti-Foaming

The presence of certain substances in oil can contribute to a foam-like consistency, thereby reducing the overall quality. Anti-foaming agents help mitigate this effect making the oil safe and efficient for use.

  1. Antioxidant

Antioxidant oil aids the reduction of sludge deposits and extends the use of the splitter between oil changes.

  1. Anti-Rust

Anti-rust motor oil utilizes a protective coating to negate rust formation.

  1. Environment-Friendly

Also known as biodegradable oil, it’s typically made from rapeseed or other vegetable oils for minimum harmful exhaustion.

Changing The Engine Oil

Now that we’ve talked about changing the hydraulic fluid, let’s take a look at how to change the engine oil. The first step is to let the engine cool completely. For a safer experience, schedule the oil change at least a couple of hours after the last use. And before you begin, touch the engine to ensure that it doesn’t feel warm.

Like the hydraulic fluid change, the next thing to do is place an oil pan or any other container under the engine drain pipe. Detach the pipe and let the oil flow out. You can also remove the dipstick to make the drainage faster. Replace the drain plug once the reserve is fully empty.

Use a funnel in the dipstick hole to refill the reservoir with the preferred motor oil. Remove the funnel to check the oil level and, if required, pour some more but never overfill. Finally, lock the dipstick.

Irrespective of the brand and other specifications, the best engine oils offer high performance with anti-wear properties. Besides, they are lightweight and help extend the life of the internal components, including the filter.

Some Other Tips

  1. Since some fluid is absorbed by the cylinder and hoses, it’s always advisable to keep the reservoir full, even when the splitter is not in use. Empty reservoirs will invariably damage the system, which may, in turn, break the warranty conditions.
  2. At the risk of repetition, never overfill the reservoir. The heat generated during operation may make the fluid to overflow and eventually lead to a fire. Ensure that there’s just the right amount of fluid in the system.
  3. Tighten the dipstick properly after a check or refill to prevent air leak.
  4. If not stated otherwise by the manufacturer, make it a point to flush the engine pistons and reservoir with kerosine. This will get rid of any buildup.

pipes and the hydraulic system of the tractor or excavator.Focus on the left side of the frame on the pipes

Final Words

That’s it from us for today’s guide!

No matter the type of log splitter, the fluid level will definitely demand your attention. With regular fluid and oil changes, you can cut down on professional maintenance costs.  And hopefully, we’ve been helpful in this regard.

On that note, it’s time for us to wrap up the guide. But before we leave, here’s one last tip: don’t mix your fluids. You may get away without any damage if the fluids have the same viscosity, but there will be severe problems if you end up mixing a non-foaming with a foaming type.

Till next time, Adios!

Anna Vaughn

Anna Vaughn

Anna Vaughn | Art Contributor

Anna is a highly motivated self-taught painter and design aficionado that loves pouring her passion into words here on Homesthetics; in her free time she runs The Little Painters, a small local painting workshop for children that invites the little ones to explore painting through simple and creative means in a safe, loving and extremely colorful environment.

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