With hydraulic fluids, farmers have several brands and price points from which to choose.
That’s because every product is a little bit different. The cost varies to – you can spend $2 to $4 a gallon less in some cases. But how do you know whether you’re being a savvy shopper versus being pennywise/pound-foolish?
That’s why before purchasing hydraulic fluids, Andrew Hamilton, technical services and quality manager for Cenex brand products by CHS, says it pays to check two items in particular on the label or product data sheet.
“There are a few choices a farmer has when selecting hydraulic fluid,” he says. “Sometimes farmers have the opportunity to save some money, and they’re asking, is it worth it?”
The first number that farmers should seek out is the viscosity index (VI), Hamilton says. The transmission can put tractor hydraulic fluid through a bit of a “beat-down,” he says. For that reason, fluids with higher VI ratings generally perform better. VI ratings of 0 to 50 probably shouldn’t be used in modern tractors, Hamilton says. Values between 50 and 100 represent a bit of a gray area – “Test it and see,” Hamilton recommends. And anything over 100 should be adequate, he says.
The second number that farmers should know is the pour point – a temperature rating that lets farmers know the coldest conditions in which the hydraulic fluid will perform. Some products are only rated 0 degrees Fahrenheit, while others can perform in much colder conditions, down to -45 or -50.
“The chance your machinery will experience some metal-to-metal contact is higher if the pour point isn’t up to par,” Hamilton says. “That’s an easy ROI you can readily compare when making a purchasing decision.”
Hydraulic fluids perform several important tasks, including assisting the transmission, lubricating gears and hydraulic components, powering wet brake systems and maintaining consistent clutch operations. This protection can ward off costly repairs, too.
“Ten years ago, our typical transmission repair bill was around $20,000,” Hamilton says. “Today, we’re approaching $60,000 in some of these more sophisticated CVT transmissions.”
That’s all the more reason to check the specs the next time you purchase hydraulic fluid. Choosing the correct lubricants and machinery fluids is one of the most important decisions farmers can make when servicing their precision agriculture equipment, he says.