Hydraulic systems that are operated outdoors during winter can be exposed to extreme low temperatures. Low temperature thickening of the hydraulic fluid can increase power consumption, cause pump cavitation, and stall system actuation. In this study, the response time and power consumption of a hydraulic vehicle restraint system that is used outdoors year-round was evaluated at low temperatures. This safety device incorporated proximity switches that triggered a machine “fault” when the time delay between the locked and unlocked positions exceeded 8 seconds. Straight- and multi-grade ISO VG 32 and 46 fluids were compared in the device. The multi-grade oils were able to function at a lower temperature without faulting. The effect of system operating conditions and fluid properties on pump input power was evaluated. The input power was determined from measurements of pump rotational frequency and torque. Pump torque increased as the oil temperature decreased. As a result, low-temperature operating conditions resulted in a higher system power requirements. An empirical model was developed to investigate the effects of turbulent and laminar flow conditions on the hydraulic system power requirements. A comparison of model standard errors revealed that viscosity-dependent laminar losses had a greater impact on system performance than density-dependent turbulent losses. Since the viscosity coefficients of the fluids were very high at the test temperature, it was theorized that pressure drop in the hydraulic lines was affecting system response. Hydraulic system simulations were conducted via Automation Studio. Cylinder retraction velocities were evaluated with larger ID cap- and rod-side hoses. Increasing the cap-side hose diameter enhanced the low temperature performance of the system. Changes to the rod-side hose had minimal effect. These results provide new insights for system design and the formulation of hydraulic fluids used in extreme low temperature operations.

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