Wood Splitter Hydraulic Questions

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Hello!
After many years of splitting by hand I finally broke down and bought an old (late 80's, 4" cylinder) American Wood Splitter lo-boy off of Craigslist. This is my first splitter ever and it's definitely a game changer compared to swinging the Fiskars for hours on end. I put it to work on some elm that succumbed to Dutch Elm disease a couple years ago and it split every single piece of that twisted, sinewy wood like a champ.

After getting the splitter home I went through it, changed the hydraulic filter, a fitting on the valve that needed replacing, drained and tried to purge the reservoir and system with compressed air and re-filled the reservoir with new, clean fluid.
The old Brand Hydraulics valve has a leak at the seal where the handle/actuator is. On cold start, the fluid will foam up pretty good and leak out of this seal. It slows down after splitting a few rounds. I have a new valve ordered and on the way.

Would a leak like this introduce air into the system and cause the foaming?

Since it has been leaking consistently over the past few days as I split, I added some more fluid to the reservoir. Once I start the machine up, it immediately starts purging foaming fluid out of the hole in the reservoir cap.
Why would it be doing this?
Is this a sign of over-filling the system?


After a minute or three, it stops purging the foaming liquid and things are back to "normal", at least with the leaking valve.

My thought is that the new valve will fix both the leaking and purging issue (assuming I'm not accidentally over-filling the reservoir) but my knowledge of hydraulic systems is weak and I'm not sure if I'm missing something.

If anyone could confirm or clarify what's happening to cause these issues, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance for any help - Cheers!
 

Microduck17

Member
Dec 21, 2017
126
New Concord Ohio
My old home made splitter started doing that after a while and it turned out to be the pump shaft seal was bad and drawing air into thd system.

These things helped me get another season out of it before replacing the pump.

I added a gallon of Lucas hydraulic treatment and that helped a lot with the foaming and leaking (cylinder seal was leaky) also i reduced ths engine speed some when splitting. Try letting it idle for 5-10 minutes and cycle the cylinder a few times at an ilde to purge the air slowly so it don't get mixed with the fluid.



Sent from my SM-G900P using Tapatalk
 
  • Like
Reactions: StudlyHogly

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Thank you for the suggestions. I was eyeballing some of that Lucas treatment at Tractor Supply the other day while grabbing some more hydraulic fluid. I'll have to give that a shot. I think I'll install the new valve first once it arrives (still a couple weeks out according to the website) and see how the foaming acts. Then add in the Lucas treatment if it's still foaming. Probably a good idea for me to gain some knowledge on those pumps as well.
 

Jags

Moderate Moderator
Staff member
Aug 2, 2006
18,012
Northern IL
At the valve the fluid should be under pressure, meaning that they system shouldn't be able to suck air in from that area. Air introduction will generally come from the NO pressure or suction side of the system. This being the tank input to the pump or the pump (shaft) itself.
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
At the valve the fluid should be under pressure, meaning that they system shouldn't be able to suck air in from that area. Air introduction will generally come from the NO pressure or suction side of the system. This being the tank input to the pump or the pump (shaft) itself.

Ok, understood. I think I know exactly what the issue is then. The inlet to the pump is a metal 90 that just sits in a cavity in the side of the pump. I can pull it out by hand without issue. It doesn't look like it was ever welded in place but there might've been an o-ring in there at one point that is long gone. I was thinking that since it's on the low pressure side sucking fluid from the reservoir that it wasn't a big deal. This shows my lack of knowledge in these areas...

Is it "normal" to have the inlet just sitting in the cavity like that?
Should it have an o-ring at minimum in there?

I was thinking that the suction from the pump might create enough vacuum to pull that elbow in. Without an o-ring though, clearly air is getting in there.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
9,914
Nova Scotia
That sounds very abnormal.

Should be a barbed fitting threaded into the pump inlet that the hose from the tank gets stuck onto. Then clamped. (Typically).

Got a pic? Sounds way weird.
 

Grizzerbear

New Member
Feb 12, 2019
61
SW Missouri
Was the fluid off color....like rusty color. Just wandering because moisture could be getting in....this will make fluid foamy looking if it has enough moisture in it.
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Here's a pic of the inlet to the pump as it sits normally:


Here I'm pulling it out a bit and fluid is starting to leak out. The tension from the clamped on hose seems to keep it mostly in place:


Perhaps a thorough cleaning and possibly some JB Weld is in order? :)
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
I ended up hitting it with some degreaser and a scrub pad then used some JB Weld WaterWeld on it to see if it may do anything. The packaging on the WaterWeld specifically calls out a resistance to hydraulic fluid but we'll see how that "resistance" tests out over time.
I won't be using the machine until the weekend most likely so figure it'll have time to fully cure. It's not pretty but we'll see if it works. Worst case, if it continues to foam I'll drain the fluid and come up with a more permanent fix for it.


 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
9,914
Nova Scotia
Somebody must have broken the fitting off there in the past (dropped wood on it?) and came up with that brain wave fix. Which is more like a big brain fart. Even Red Green would be ashamed of that one...
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Somebody must have broken the fitting off there in the past (dropped wood on it?) and came up with that brain wave fix. Which is more like a big brain fart. Even Red Green would be ashamed of that one...
Any suggestions for a more permanent fix for this?
I’m not sure what kinds of fittings are available. I’m assuming since it’s the low pressure side there should be a wider array of options?
 

mustash29

Minister of Fire
Feb 6, 2012
646
SE CT
Hopefully that JB weld solves your problem. Sucking air right there is most likely causing the foaming. I also suspect that port may have a broken off pipe nipple inside of it. They make "easy outs" for pipe fittings that are very similar to what you may be familiar with for removing a broken bolt that you drilled the center out of.

Also make sure your hyd tank is properly vented. The system will heat up as you run the machine and the expanding air in the top of the tank has to go somewhere.

My splitter lives outside under the deck. The hyd tank is also the "axel beam". The fill port on the tank has a level dipstick with a hole drilled in the side of it for an air vent. After a few years the fluid was turning milky so I flushed & refilled it. Maybe I had my tank overfilled a wee bit because every time I started splitting and the system warmed up I would get hyd oil burping out of the vent hole if the splitter was not absolutely level. I added a 6" tall pipe nipple to the hole and the dipstick now screws into the top of it. This allows me to cover it with an empty beer can for rain protection and adds a little height to prevent it from burping out. The only drawback is having to remove the "extension" in order to get a proper level check with the dipstick.

IMG_4225.JPG
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Thank you for the info - it is helpful. I'm viewing the JB Weld "fix" as a test of sorts to see if it calms the foaming down on startup. I'll look to get a more permanent repair in the future. My reservoir fill is similar to yours (without the extension) however I don't have a dipstick attached to it. When filling, I just eyeball it to near the bottom of the hole which is apparently too much. My understanding is that you need enough fluid to ensure the entire system is filled at all times and the level in the reservoir never drops low enough to suck air.
The reservoir cap does have a clear vent hole in it and it works well. That's where all the foaming oil fires out of on start/warm up. After splitting for awhile and when power into a tough split, I'll hear some air come out of the hole which I'm assuming is normal?

I like your extension idea on the reservoir fill and the beer can topper. I may look to implement that too.

Word came through yesterday that my new valve has shipped and could be here by the weekend. I'm going to plan to fire up the machine prior to installing the new valve to see what affect, if any, the JB Weld has on the foaming. If it helps, great! If not, we'll see what impact the new valve has as well then look to fix that pump inlet.

I should have taken pics when the reservoir was dry and I had it apart. That 90 degree elbow rests in the cavity in the pump about 1/2 inch. The end of the elbow looked flat and unbroken. The hole in the pump had a flat surface that the elbow rested on and looked almost like it had residue of a long gone o-ring. It's not a tight, flush fit but as you could probably see in the pics above the gap is very small. Obviously still plenty big to suck air in however.
I did not check at the time or notice if the sides of that cavity were threaded. I don't think that they are simply by the smooth fit of that elbow but I'd be inclined to think the elbow was once tacked in place or something. There's zero evidence of that on the outside so maybe it did break off whatever piece is left inside the pump. I've got some easy-outs that may fit that hole as well so when the time comes to investigate deeper I should have the proper equipment to extract anything that needs extracting. The next mystery will be determining a proper fitting and sourcing one to seal up that hole and make a good clean connection to the reservoir.

I'll update once I run it to see if the JB Weld did anything positive and also when the new valve is on. Hopefully this will ultimately be helpful to someone else experiencing similar problems at some point.
 

mustash29

Minister of Fire
Feb 6, 2012
646
SE CT
The pump suction is under a suction so maybe it only had a o-ring from new.

After flushing and refilling the hydraulic system, once you started the unit, the pump, lines and cylinder should have self vented all of the air out of the system after a few cycles of the ram. It should not be foaming under normal operation. As it warms up it should only push out air as the system heats up, and then suck air in as the system cools down. Some splitters don't have "breather element filters" on the tank because they "push" during dusty use and "suck" during cool down which is after you are done working them.
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
I fired up the splitter for a few minutes and the JB Weld WaterWeld seems to be doing the trick. The valve is still leaking but instead of having foaming fluid coming out, it's just straight, clear hydraulic fluid. I didn't warm it up for too long, just cycled the piston back and forth a few times. I'm not sure if it's just the way this machine is setup or if the valve leak has something to do with it, but when the piston retracts it's very slow. It comes out to split at a solid pace but retracting seems to be at about 1/4 or 1/3 of the outgoing speed. Not sure if that's normal or not.
Tracking on the new valve has it showing up on Saturday. Depending on what time it arrives I'll throw it on late Saturday or Sunday to see if most of these issues get sorted out.
 

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Good News! The new valve is installed and the splitter works like a champ. No foaming fluid and no leak from the valve. This valve has the auto-return detent (the original didn't) so you don't have to hold the lever to retract the piston. Also, the return speed looks like it matches the outgoing speed now as well which is great. Previously it would crawl back as you retracted the piston.

Thank you for the suggestions, tips and ideas to get this machine 100% back online. I'm looking forward to many years of service from it and will likely post back about whatever permanent fix I ultimately come up with for that patched inlet elbow. That'll wait until the fix fails, however.

For anyone who's curious or needs info on the valve it is a: Brand Hydraulics Log Splitter Valve, Model# PLS755T4JRSH
At the time I purchased it here in 2019 it was $99.00

Including the valve, trailer rental to pick this up when I bought it, hydraulic fluid, filter, new fitting for valve and the purchase price of the machine itself, I have a total of just about $365.00 into it. In my neck of the woods I had difficulty trying to find anything that runs for less than $500. The standard Huskee's, Country Line's, Yard Man's, MTD's etc typically seem to sell used in the $700-$1,000 range on Craigslist. There are two slightly newer (mid-90's or early 2000's) used American Wood Splitter brand lo-boy's for sale on Craigslist in my area right now for $1,500 and $2,000 respectively. Based on all that, I feel like I got a good deal. Plus, I learned something about hydraulic systems along the way which definitely has value me.

Here's a pic of the unit with the new valve in place:

 
  • Like
Reactions: WiscWoody

WiscWoody

Minister of Fire
It looks good and that’s a good price for a decent splitter.. I’ve never seen a splitter that low to the ground like that though, I wander if that’s so you don’t have to lift a heavy log so high like you do on a normal splitter? Hmm....
 

mustash29

Minister of Fire
Feb 6, 2012
646
SE CT
If that thing is as low to the ground as it looks, you need to:
a - Remove the ball on the hydraulic lever
b - Install a suitable pipe extension
c - Screw the ball back onto the extension
d - Stand up and stretch out while operating it in the "split" direction.

Sounds like you got a good deal on that sucker. Hope you get many years of good service out of it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WiscWoody

WiscWoody

Minister of Fire
You mentioned the prices of splitters on Craigslist and from what I’ve seen many want a kings ransom for well used splitters up here on the site so when I sold a nearly new 22 ton splitter on Craigslist for $500 I was surprised on how many calls I got on it. The couple that bought it was here 3 hours after I posted the ad and they had a hour and a half drive and they were thrilled to get the splitter. I had bought it on Black Friday so I paid just a bit more for it originally, I think it was $650 with the sale price and a rebate.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

sdunlimited

Member
Oct 26, 2014
21
NH
Your sale experience with the splitter is very similar to what I did to purchase this one. I contacted the seller within a few hours of posting and after they responded answering a couple questions I had, I committed to buying it. We weren't there within 3 hours as we coordinated our schedules for the next weekend but it was all of a 1.5 hour drive each way to pick it up. From the prices I had been seeing for this brand of splitter selling for I figured it was worth it. Also, since the company is still in business (now called American Conveyors and Log Splitters) I figured that was a good sign for parts and service if needed. The only units selling for the same price ($1,500-$2,000) and more that I had seen in my searches were the Timberwolves and some of the newer kinetic machines. I had also seen a number of newer big box units that had broken cylinders or other issues for sale and that turned me off to those. Those broken units were $200 and $400 if I recall correctly. Spending $700-$1,000 for a used big box machine that I may need to put $200-$300 more into didn't seem like a good deal in my book. This one however, checked all the boxes.
I was out the door before the sun was up to pick it up as the seller had limited time that day. Much like the folks you dealt with, I was happy to make the drive and ultimate repairs to bring this back to 100% operational.

Regarding the valve handle, I think the picture angle makes the machine look a little lower to the ground than it actually is. No denying it sits low, and as mentioned above it does make it easier to heave a big round onto. I've got some monsters I've cut out of some log length I'm prepping for the next couple seasons so that'll definitely be a test once I get to splitting it in the coming weeks.
For my height, the handle sits high enough for me to actuate while standing up straight. The bending and lifting of putting rounds on the unit is the weak point but I imagine that can be said for most machines without a hydraulic lift.
I've seen a number of people put extensions on the handles of the lower sitting machines and may end up doing that at some point if it proves to be an issue. I'm betting I'll know if it's going to be an issue within the first multi-hour session of splitting. That may just happen today. Looks like it's going to be a nice one out there with the sun shining, trees changing color and nice temps outside. Cheers!
 
  • Like
Reactions: WiscWoody