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How to Read Hydraulic Schematics

Brendan Casey

How to Read Hydraulic Schematics Brendan Casey

Copyright © Brendan Casey 2014

All rights reserved. No part of this electronic book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, and recording or otherwise, without the prior, written permission of the publisher.

The contents of this book reflect the author’s views acquired through his experience in the field under discussion. The information in this book is distributed on an “As is” basis, without warranty. Every effort was made to render this book free from error and omission. However, the author, publisher, editor, their employees or agents disclaim liability for any injury, loss, or damage to any person or body or organization acting or refraining from action as a result of material in this book, whether or not such injury loss or damage is in any way due to any negligent act or omission, breach of duty, or default on the part of the author, publisher, editor or their employees or agents.

First published in 2014 by HydraulicSupermarket.com PO Box 1029 West Perth WA 6872 Australia Email: info@HydraulicSupermarket.com Web: http://www.hydraulicsupermarket.com/books

How to Read Hydraulic Schematics

Brendan Casey, HydraulicSupermarket.com

In the introduction of The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook, I explain that in the hydraulics world, the ability to read a schematic diagram and the ability to troubleshoot effectively are often considered to go together, ‘hand in glove’. But this is not the case. The ability to read a hydraulic schematic is merely an indication of a certain level of system knowledge. And this makes a schematic diagram nothing more than a troubleshooting aid.

But even though the ability to read a schematic is not the key to effective troubleshooting, it is usually helpful in a hydraulic troubleshooting situation.

Schematic diagrams are the shorthand system of the hydraulics industrysee exhibit 1. They comprise simple, geometric symbols, drawn to ANSI or ISO standards. These symbols represent the components, their controls and connections.

A schematic diagram is a road

controls and connections. A schematic diagram is a ‘ road map ’ of the hydraulic system.

map

of

the

hydraulic

system.

And

to

someone

skilled

in

reading

and

interpreting

them,

they

can

be

a

valuable

aid

in

identifying possible causes of a

already

mentioned, this can save a lot of

a

time

problem.

And

as

and

money

in

troubleshooting situation.

If a schematic diagram is not available, the troubleshooter must

trace the hydraulic circuit and identify its components in order to isolate possible causes of the problem. This

can be a very time-consuming process, depending on the complexity of the system.

Exhibit 1. Hydraulic schematic diagram.

Worse still, if the circuit contains a valve manifold, the manifold may have to be removed and dismantled, just to establish what it's supposed to do.

Reason being, if the function of a component within a system is not known, it can be difficult to discount it as a possible cause of the problem. Schematic circuit diagrams eliminate the need to reverse engineer the hydraulic system.

When reading and interpreting a hydraulic schematic diagram, the following should be kept in mind:

1. Symbols can be drawn any size (scale). And they can be orientated in increments of 90-degrees (except accumulator, reservoir, and pressure gauge).

2. Each symbol is drawn to show the normal (neutral) position of the component, i.e. with the system shutdown, de-pressurized and all power off. Visualization is required in order to ‘see’ the component symbol in its other functional position(s) or state(s).

3. Multiple symbols for reservoir (tank) can be used to represent the one (same) reservoir.

4. The conductors (pipes, tubes and hoses) are represented by straight lines. The specific symbol for a hose may be used if required. Interconnections between conductors are shown with small, shaded circles (dots).

5. Symbols do not give any indication of the design, size, orientation, or location of the actual components they represent.

6. Symbols do not indicate the exact location of ports or control elements.

A list of common hydraulic symbols, along with explanation of how to read and interpret them, are included on the following pages.

ISO Hydraulic Symbols and Their Meanings

Reservoir (tank); vented to atmosphere. Note that the vertical line touching the bottom of the tank symbol indicates a penetration extending below oil level.ISO Hydraulic Symbols and Their Meanings Same vented reservoir symbol as above but with penetration terminating

Same vented reservoir symbol as above but with penetration terminating above oil level. This is generally not desirable because it can result in churning and aeration of the hydraulic fluid.symbol indicates a penetration extending below oil level. Reservoir; pressurized. A pressurized tank can also be

Reservoir; pressurized. A pressurized tank can also be represented by an enclosed rectangle.can result in churning and aeration of the hydraulic fluid. Filter. This same symbol is used

Filter. This same symbol is used for surface filters e.g. suction strainer; depth filters e.g. pressure and return filters; and air filters i.e. tank breather.tank can also be represented by an enclosed rectangle. Heat exchanger (cooler). Absent additional detail, this

Heat exchanger (cooler). Absent additional detail, this generic symbol does not distinguish between air-blast or water-to-oil type.and return filters; and air filters i.e. tank breather. Oil heater. Notice the arrow heads point

Oil heater. Notice the arrow heads point inward— the opposite of the heat exchanger symbol above. the opposite of the heat exchanger symbol above.

Accumulator; generic symbol. Additional detail may be added to indicate gas, mass or spring loaded.inward — the opposite of the heat exchanger symbol above. Pressure source; simplified symbol. This can

Pressure source; simplified symbol. This can also be represented by a solid dot inside a circle:detail may be added to indicate gas, mass or spring loaded. Pressure gauge. Differential pressure gauge.

Pressure gauge.This can also be represented by a solid dot inside a circle: Differential pressure gauge. Displays

represented by a solid dot inside a circle: Pressure gauge. Differential pressure gauge. Displays the difference

Differential pressure gauge. Displays the difference between two, discrete pressures.represented by a solid dot inside a circle: Pressure gauge. Pressure switch. Flow meter (flow measurement

Pressure switch.Displays the difference between two, discrete pressures. Flow meter (flow measurement turbine). Adjustable (variable)

Flow meter (flow measurement turbine).difference between two, discrete pressures. Pressure switch. Adjustable (variable) setting. Copyright © 2014 Brendan

Adjustable (variable) setting.Pressure switch. Flow meter (flow measurement turbine). Copyright © 2014 Brendan Casey; HydraulicSupermarket.com 5

Working line: suction, pressure and return.Pilot or control line (long dash). Drain line (short dash). Lines crossing (not connected). Lines

Pilot or control line (long dash).Working line: suction, pressure and return. Drain line (short dash). Lines crossing (not connected). Lines connecting.

Drain line (short dash).pressure and return. Pilot or control line (long dash). Lines crossing (not connected). Lines connecting. Enclosure

Lines crossing (not connected).Pilot or control line (long dash). Drain line (short dash). Lines connecting. Enclosure indicating two or

Lines connecting.Drain line (short dash). Lines crossing (not connected). Enclosure indicating two or more components integral to

Enclosure indicating two or more components integral to the one assembly— see below. see below.

Filter with bypass valve. The enclosure indicates the filter and bypass valve are not separate components, but are part of the same assembly.more components integral to the one assembly — see below. Pump; fixed displacement. Pump; variable displacement

Pump; fixed displacement.not separate components, but are part of the same assembly. Pump; variable displacement — simplified symbol.

Pump; variable displacementsimplified symbol. Additional detail may Pump; variable displacement — be added to show the configuration of the pump’s control mechanism. See be added to show the configuration of the pump’s control mechanism. See for example, the variable pump shown in exhibit 1 on page one, and the symbol below.

Pump; variable displacement. Additional information indicates this pump’s displacement -control mechanism is proportional, electro- hydraulic. pump’s displacement-control mechanism is proportional, electro- hydraulic.

Pump; variable displacement, flow possible in two directions. This is the symbol for a pump used in closed-circuit, hydrostatic transmissions. Additional detail may be added to show the configuration of the pump’s control mechanism. pump’s control mechanism.

Motor; fixed displacement.show the configuration of the pump’s control mechanism. Copyright © 2014 Brendan Casey; HydraulicSupermarket.com 6

Motor; variable displacementsimplified symbol. Additional Motor; variable displacement — detail may be added to show the configuration of the motor’s displacement-control detail may be added to show the configuration of the motor’s displacement-control mechanism.

of the motor’s displacement-control mechanism. Rotary actuator. Device capable of rotational movement of

Rotary actuator. Device capable of rotational movement of less the one revolution.

Cylinder; single-acting: hydraulically powered in one direction only.capable of rotational movement of less the one revolution. Cylinder; single-acting, spring returned. Cylinder;

Cylinder; single-acting, spring returned.single-acting: hydraulically powered in one direction only. Cylinder; double-acting: hydraulically powered in both

Cylinder; double-acting: hydraulically powered in both directions. direction only. Cylinder; single-acting, spring returned. Cylinder; double-acting, double-rod. Cylinder; double-acting

double-acting: hydraulically powered in both directions. Cylinder; double-acting, double-rod. Cylinder; double-acting

Cylinder; double-acting, double-rod.

Cylinder; double-acting with cushions installed to control deceleration at the end of stroke.in both directions. Cylinder; double-acting, double-rod. Check valve. Allows flow in one direction; blocks flow in

Check valve. Allows flow in one direction; blocks flow in the reverse direction.installed to control deceleration at the end of stroke. Check valve; spring loaded. Check valve; pilot-operated

Check valve; spring loaded.flow in one direction; blocks flow in the reverse direction. Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to open).

Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to open). Allows flow in one direction. External pilot-pressure opens the check to allow flow in the reverse direction.flow in the reverse direction. Check valve; spring loaded. Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to open); spring-loaded.

Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to open); spring-loaded.opens the check to allow flow in the reverse direction. Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to close).

Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to close). Allows flow in one direction absent external pilot-pressure which closes the check.Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to open); spring-loaded. Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to close); spring-loaded.

Check valve; pilot-operated (pilot to close); spring-loaded.absent external pilot-pressure which closes the check. Copyright © 2014 Brendan Casey; HydraulicSupermarket.com 7

Shuttle valve. The higher of two pressures is directed to the branch of the tee.Throttle (orifice); fixed. Throttle (orifice); fixed — not affected by changes in oil viscosity, e.g.

Throttle (orifice); fixed.of two pressures is directed to the branch of the tee. Throttle (orifice); fixed — not

Throttle (orifice); fixed— not affected by changes in oil viscosity, e.g. sharp-edged orifice. not affected by changes in oil viscosity, e.g. sharp-edged orifice.

Throttle; adjustable. Typically a needle valve.by changes in oil viscosity, e.g. sharp-edged orifice. Throttle; adjustable — with reverse-flow check valve.

Throttle; adjustablewith reverse-flow check valve. Controls flow in one direction only.Throttle; adjustable —

Adjustable flow control (throttle); pressure compensated. Throttle opening is automatically adjusted to compensate for changes in pressure. This results in more accurate control of flow.check valve. Controls flow in one direction only. Adjustable flow control; pressure compensated; 3-way bypass

Adjustable flow control; pressure compensated; 3-way bypass type. Excess flow not required by the primary function is bypassed to tank.in pressure. This results in more accurate control of flow. Flow separate flows. divider valve. Positively

not required by the primary function is bypassed to tank. Flow separate flows. divider valve. Positively
not required by the primary function is bypassed to tank. Flow separate flows. divider valve. Positively

Flow

separate flows.

divider valve. Positively

divides

a

single

flow

into

two,

Shut-off valve. Typically a ball valve, but can also be butterfly or shear-valve design.

Pressure relief valve; direct-acting.ball valve, but can also be butterfly or shear-valve design. Pressure relief valve; pilot-operated (two-stage),

or shear-valve design. Pressure relief valve; direct-acting. Pressure relief valve; pilot-operated (two-stage),

Pressure relief valve; pilot-operated (two-stage), internally drained.

Pressure relief valve; pilot-operated (two-stage), externally drained. Pressure sequence valve. Externally piloted (to
Pressure relief valve; pilot-operated (two-stage), externally drained. Pressure sequence valve. Externally piloted (to

Pressure relief valve; pilot-operated (two-stage), externally drained.

Pressure sequence valve. Externally piloted (to open) and externally drained.

Pressure reducing valve. Maintains reduced pressure downstream.valve. Externally piloted (to open) and externally drained. Pressure reducing/relieving valve. Maintains reduced

Pressure reducing/relieving valve. Maintains reduced pressure downstream. And if downstream pressure rises above the setting of the spring, excess pressure is relieved to tank.reducing valve. Maintains reduced pressure downstream. Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, internally

Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, internally drained.setting of the spring, excess pressure is relieved to tank. Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, externally

valve; internally piloted, internally drained. Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, externally
valve; internally piloted, internally drained. Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, externally
valve; internally piloted, internally drained. Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, externally

Counterbalance valve; internally piloted, externally drained.

Over-center counterbalance valve; externally piloted, internally drained.

Over-center counterbalance valve; externally piloted, externally drained.

Opening logic element (slip-in cartridge valve); poppet has three areas.Opening logic element (slip-in cartridge valve); poppet has two equal areas. Closing logic element (slip-in

Opening logic element (slip-in cartridge valve); poppet has two equal areas.element (slip-in cartridge valve); poppet has three areas. Closing logic element (slip-in cartridge valve). 2-way,

Closing logic element (slip-in cartridge valve).(slip-in cartridge valve); poppet has two equal areas. 2-way, 2-position directional control valve (2/2 valve). The

2-way, 2-position directional control valve (2/2 valve). The valve shown is hand operated and spring returned.areas. Closing logic element (slip-in cartridge valve). 3-way, 2-position directional control valve (3/2 valve). The

3-way, 2-position directional control valve (3/2 valve). The valve shown is lever operated with detent (mechanical position holding).The valve shown is hand operated and spring returned. 4-way, 2-position directional control valve (4/2 valve).

4-way, 2-position directional control valve (4/2 valve). The valve shown is roller operated and spring returned.is lever operated with detent (mechanical position holding). 4-way, 3-position directional control valve (4/3 valve). The

The valve shown is roller operated and spring returned. 4-way, 3-position directional control valve (4/3 valve).

4-way, 3-position directional control valve (4/3 valve). The valve shown is solenoid operated and spring centered.

The valve shown is solenoid operated and spring centered. 4-way, 3-position directional control valve (4/3 valve).

4-way, 3-position directional control valve (4/3 valve). The valve shown is pilot-operated and spring centered.

The valve shown is pilot-operated and spring centered. 4-way, 3-position proportional valve. The parallel lines

4-way, 3-position proportional valve. The parallel lines indicate proportional spool. And the arrow through the solenoid symbol indicates proportional solenoids.

the solenoid symbol indicates proportional solenoids. 6-way, 3-position directional control valve (6/3 valve). The

6-way, 3-position directional control valve (6/3 valve). The valve shown is hydraulic pilot operated and spring centered.

Visualization of Symbols’ Change in State

Being able to recognize a symbol and the hydraulic component it represents is the first step in reading a schematic diagram. But as already explained, each symbol in the schematic is drawn in its normal (neutral) position with the system shutdown, de-pressurized and all power off. So in order to truly understand how the represented system operates, the functional positions of the various component symbols must be visualized. With this in mind let’s consider a few examples.

We’ll begin by visualizing the two states of a spring-loaded check valve:

If pressure/flow is in the direction indicated by the arrow, the check’s poppet will be pushed open against the spring, as shown on the right. And as a result, pressure/flow is available downstream.

But if pressure/flow was to change direction, the poppet is pushed against its seat as shown on the right. This blocks (stops) pressure/flow from passing in the opposite direction.

pressure/flow from passing in the opposite direction. Now let’s visualize the two states of a pressure
pressure/flow from passing in the opposite direction. Now let’s visualize the two states of a pressure

Now let’s visualize the two states of a pressure relief valve:

In its normal or neutral state, pressure acts on the underside of the poppet, against the setting of the spring, as shown on the right.

When pressure acting on the underside of the poppet overcomes the spring setting, the poppet is shifted up, the spring is compressed and a flow path is openedusually to tank.

is compressed and a flow path is opened — usually to tank. A pressure reducing valve
is compressed and a flow path is opened — usually to tank. A pressure reducing valve

A pressure reducing valve works in the opposite way:

In its normal or neutral state, a flow path is open and downstream pressure acts on the underside of the poppet, against the setting of the spring, as shown on the right.

When downstream pressure acting on the underside of the poppet overcomes the spring setting, the poppet is shifted up, the spring is compressed and the flow path is blocked.

up, the spring is compressed and the flow path is blocked . Copyright © 2014 Brendan
up, the spring is compressed and the flow path is blocked . Copyright © 2014 Brendan

Let’s now visualize the two states of a hand operated, 2/2 directional control valve:

The bias of the spring ensures that the valve’s normal or neutral state is flow path blocked, as shown on the right.

neutral state is flow path blocked, as shown on the right. When applied hand force overcomes

When applied hand force overcomes the spring, a flow path is opened. If applied force is released, the valve shifts back to its neutral position and blocks the flow path.

back to its neutral position and blocks the flow path. The next step is to apply

The next step is to apply this visualization technique to understand the operation of a simple hydraulic circuit:

As you can see, the circuit on the right comprises: a fixed-displacement pump, a pressure relief valve, a 4/3 directional control valve, a double-acting cylinder, a return-line filter and a reservoir (one, not two!).

With the pump running, and the 4/3 valve in its center position as shown on the right, pump flow circulates to tank via the return filter.

right, pump flow circulates to tank via the return filter. With the 4/3 valve shifted to
right, pump flow circulates to tank via the return filter. With the 4/3 valve shifted to

With the 4/3 valve shifted to the left, pump flow is directed to the cap-end of the cylinder, and the cylinder extendssee diagram on the left.

and the cylinder extends — see diagram on the left. With the 4/3 valve shifted to

With the 4/3 valve shifted to the right, pump flow is directed to the rod-end of the cylinder, and the cylinder retractssee diagram on the right.

And note that if the lever operated 4/3 valve is not released from its detent

And note that if the lever operated 4/3 valve is not released from its detent at the end of the cylinder’s stroke, the pump is dead-headed and the resulting pressure rise will lift the relief valve poppet of its seat, opening a path to tanksee diagram on the left.

As you’ve now seen, an understanding of the symbols and their meanings, combined with visualization, means you CAN read a hydraulic schematic. You just have!

This means there’s really no need to get bamboozled or befuddled when you come across a schematic with more symbols and lines than the one shown to the left.

Consider the schematic shown in exhibit 2 below, which is discussed in chapter 6 of The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook:

in chapter 6 of The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook : Exhibit 2. Hydraulic schematic diagram. Copyright ©

Exhibit 2. Hydraulic schematic diagram.

Whether you initially view this hydraulic circuit as simple or complex largely depends on how practiced you are at reading schematics. But either way, there’s no need to fear it.

One way to gain a complete understanding of a hydraulic circuit represented by a schematic diagram like the one shown in exhibit 2without getting lost or confused, is by ‘painting a picture’. You’ve likely seen an artist on TV painting a canvas. I’m certainly no artist but recall that the process involves sketching an outline of the subject first, and then adding successive layers of detail: color, contrast, shadow, etc. until the picture is vibrant and clear. This same approach can be applied when decoding a hydraulic schematic, regardless of its complexity.

The symbols in a schematic diagram are generally arranged in three sections on the page:

1. Bottom section: hydraulic power supply unit (pump(s), reservoir and accessories).

2. Middle section: control valves.

3. Top section: actuator/s (cylinder, motor, and/or semi-rotary actuator).

With the above in mind, a scan of these three, distinct sections is a good way to ‘sketch out the subject’. Looking at exhibit 2, the main components in the bottom section are: 4 pumps, a heat exchanger and a return filter.

In the middle section, the main components are: 2 proportional valves, 5 directional control valves, 4 pressure control valves, 2 accumulators, a pressure switch and 2 pilot-operated check valves.

In the top section, the main components are: 2 single-acting cylinders, a motor and a double-acting, double-rod cylinder.

As you can see, no mystery so far.

Having scanned the drawing’s horizontal sections to ‘sketch out’ the system’s major components, let’s now do the same vertically, from left to right. The idea here is to start tying pump, control valve and actuator together.

For example, the single-acting cylinders (35) and (36) are controlled by proportional valve (14) and powered by variable-displacement pump (1).

The motor (37) is controlled by proportional valve (15) and powered by variable-displacement pump (1). AND motor (37) can also be controlled by lever-operated directional control valve (20), powered by fixed-displacement pumps (4) and/or (6).

The double-rod cylinder (38) is controlled by directional control valve (34) and powered by fixed-displacement pumps (4) and/or (6).

Lost anyone yet? Didn’t think so. And as you can see, what I’m seeking to do here is build an understanding of the circuit, layer upon layer. In much the same way an artist paints a picture. So let’s make another sweep, adding more detail to the canvas.

Single-acting cylinders (35) and (36) are fitted with piloted-operated check valves (25) and (26). This, combined with the cylinders’ orientation on the drawing and the fact they’re single-acting, tell us the function of these cylinders is to raise and lower a load.

Motor (37) features an over-center counterbalance valve (27). This tells us the load on the motor is overhanging or overrunningin one direction at least. And although we can’t say for sure, the function of adjustable throttle [needle valve] (32) is probably emergency release (manual rotation of motor in case of power failure).

Of course, at anytime we can zoom-in to any area of interest on the drawing. For example, flow from fixed-displacement pump (3) passes directly through the heat exchanger (5) to tank. So pump (3) is the hot-oil circulation pump.

Similarly, pumps (4) and (6) circuit features an accumulator (28). One-way flow control (21) is orientated so charging of the accumulator is unrestricted, but rate of discharge is controlled by the adjustable throttle. Shut-off valve (16) is the accumulator’s manual-drain valve. And sequence valve (18) unloads pumps (4) and/or (6) when the accumulator is charged.

Note that up to this point, my main focus has been getting familiar with the major components in the system, their function and their connections. In other words, a solid outline. The next layer of detail involves visualization of the component symbols in operation.

For example, with pump (1) running and proportional valve (14) shifted to the left, flow is directed to cylinders (35) and (36) via pilot-operated check valves (25) and (26). In this state, the cylinders will extend.

But note that for the cylinders to retract, the solenoid on 4/2 valve (19) must be energized first. This shifts its spool to right which pilots open check valves (25) and (26). Then, with proportional valve (14) shifted towards the right, the oil in the cylinders is directed to tank via return filter (2). In this state, the cylinders will retract.

That covers the main operation of cylinders (35) and (36). But there are other components attached to this part of the circuit which we haven’t yet included in the picture.

For example, hand-operated 2/2 valve (7). What does it do? Well this valve tees in between cylinders (35) and (36) and their pilot-operated check valves (25) and (26). So if the cylinders are extended and 2/2 valve (7) is manually shifted to the right, the oil in the cylinders is directed to tank. In this state, the cylinders will retractat a speed controlled by fixed orifice (24). From this we can deduce that 2/2 valve (7) is an emergency lowering valve in case of power failure.

Similarly, what’s the story with check valves (30) and (31) and 4/2 valve (33)? Well if the solenoid on 4/2 valve (33) is energized, its spool is shifted to the right. This directs flow from pumps (4) and/or (6) to cylinders (35) and (36) via check valves (30) and (31). In this state, the cylinders will extend. So these valves provide an alternate means of extending the cylinderspresumably in case of a failure of pump (1).

At this point I haven’t painted every part of the ‘picture’ (exhibit 2) in full detail. But my expectation is you now feel confident enough to add the remaining layers of detail on your own.

In summary, reading and interpreting any hydraulic schematic, whether simple or complex, involves:

1. Understanding the symbols and their meanings.

2. Visualization of a component symbol’s various operational states.

3. Compiling a complete operational picture one layer at a timethe same way an artist paints a picture.

And if you keep the above in mind whenever you’re reading a hydraulic schematic you should never feel lost or overwhelmed.