In a condition-based maintenance environment, the decision to change out a hydraulic pump or motor is usually based on remaining bearing life or deteriorating efficiency, whichever occurs first.Despite recent advances in predictive maintenance technologies, the maintenance professional’s ability to determine the remaining bearing life of a pump or motor, with a high degree of accuracy, remains elusive.

Deteriorating efficiency on the other hand is easy to detect, because it typically shows itself through increased cycle times. In other words, the machine slows down. When this occurs, quantification of the efficiency loss isn’t always necessary. If the machine slows to the point where its cycle time is unacceptably slow, the pump or motor is replaced. End of story.

In certain situations, however, it can be helpful, even necessary, to quantify the pump or motor’s actual efficiency and compare it to the component’s native efficiency. For this, an understanding of hydraulic pump and motor efficiency ratings is essential. There are three categories of efficiency used to describe hydraulic pumps (and motors): volumetric efficiency, mechanical/hydraulic efficiency and overall efficiency.

Volumetric efficiency is determined by dividing the actual flow delivered by a pump at a given pressure by its theoretical flow. Theoretical flow is calculated by multiplying the pump’s displacement per revolution by its driven speed. So if the pump has a displacement of 100 cc/rev and is being driven at 1000 RPM, its theoretical flow is 100 liters/minute.