Will a new hydraulic pump fix the problem I am having with my bucket not lifting or tilting?


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Many customers having problems with the lift and tilt hydraulics on their skid steer ask “Will a new hydraulic pump fix the problem I am having with my bucket not lifting or tilting?”

Unfortunately we have to answer this question with a simple, “Possibly”.

The pump can be the problem of a weak or failed lift/tilt system, however there can be other factors causing the problem.

We try to narrow down the possibilities through the process of elimination:

1.)  First we need to eliminate the obvious: 

     • Is there enough oil in the machine?
     • Is the oil the correct type? (see our oil recommendations)
     • Is the pump turning? The coupler may be broken or the belt may be loose.

2.)  Ok so you didn’t get off that easy, now let’s try to narrow down the problem further.
      • If your lift and tilt functions are jerky or erratic the pump is probably not getting a good supply of oil. 

-   Check the suction hose to make sure it doesn’t have any holes worn into it, check the fittings or hose clamps for tightness. Sometimes the suction hoses get old and hard and will not seal good enough on the hose barbs even if the clamps are tight, consider replacing the suction hose. Some suction hoses have a wire coiled inside of it to keep it from collapsing. This wire is sometimes removed or lost during a previous service. This is hard to find because it usually collapses at high rpm when you are not watching it and looks good at idle when you are looking.

-  Another hard to find problem happens sometimes to pumps that are directly mounted to the back of drive pump. The gear pumps often have a hole drilled through the mounting flange to allow the drive pump case to drain oil into the gear pump suction. Any air that leaks into the drive pump case can then be sucked into the gear pump. Check the drive pump control shaft seals for wetness. This indicates a leak. Also check the gear pump mounting, sometimes people forget to install a mounting o-ring. This can leak air in as well.

-  Is the oil in the tank foaming? This indicates an air leak somewhere on the system.

  • Is the lift stronger at high rpm than at low rpm?

­-   If not you will need to check and possibly readjust the relief valve setting. Please don’t do this without a gauge or you may end up blowing a hose or pump.
-   If lift is stronger at high rpm this indicates internal leakage. The more speed you have the more oil flow you have, this additional flow at high rpm can make up for the internal leakage and mask the problem. You most likely have a bad pump, but before your spend the money on a replacement, let’s check a couple of last items that could also be the problem.

  •  Relief valve stuck open or seals blown on it.
  •  If you only notice the problem in one direction on one function you most likely have a weak port relief in the main control valve.

­There you have it. 99% of the time these simple checks will correctly pinpoint the problem.  However the only way to know for sure exactly what condition your pump is in is to hook a flow meter to the outlet and measure the flow under load. This will generally cost you about $100 in shop labor, so at this point you can decide if you want to spend money for a definite diagnosis or just go ahead and replace your pump. If you decide to replace the pump, please check out our pump installation precautions to avoid costly mistakes that others have made.



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