milky hydraulic fluid in tractor

Milky Hydraulic Fluid In Tractor – What Does It Mean And How To Prevent?

Tractors are essential equipment in farming, construction, and other industries. They rely heavily on hydraulic systems to operate various functions, such as raising and lowering equipment, steering, and braking.

Hydraulic fluid is critical to the operation of these systems, as it transfers power and lubricates moving parts. However, when hydraulic fluid turns milky, it can cause significant problems for a tractor.

In this article, we will discuss what milky hydraulic fluid means, why it is a problem, how to prevent it, and four ways to fix milky hydraulic fluid in a tractor.

What is milky hydraulic fluid in a tractor?

Milky hydraulic fluid refers to hydraulic fluid that has a milky or cloudy appearance. It is a sign that water has mixed with the fluid. Water contamination can occur when water condenses inside the hydraulic system due to temperature changes or when the system is exposed to rain, snow, or other sources of water.

Why is milky hydraulic fluid a problem in a tractor?

Milky hydraulic fluid is a problem for several reasons. First, it reduces the effectiveness of the hydraulic fluid by diluting it, which can cause a loss of power in the hydraulic system.

Second, the water in the hydraulic fluid can cause corrosion and rust in the hydraulic system, leading to damage and failure of the system’s components.

Third, the presence of water can also cause the hydraulic fluid to foam, which reduces its ability to lubricate moving parts and can lead to increased wear and tear.

How to prevent a tractor’s hydraulic fluid to turn milky?

Preventing milky hydraulic fluid in a tractor involves taking several steps to minimize water contamination in the hydraulic system.

First, it is essential to keep the hydraulic system clean and dry. This can be achieved by covering the tractor when not in use and by regularly cleaning the hydraulic system’s exterior.

Second, it is crucial to ensure that all hydraulic system components are in good condition, including hoses, fittings, and seals. Damaged components can allow water to enter the hydraulic system.

Third, it is recommended to use high-quality hydraulic fluid that is resistant to water contamination. Finally, it is important to store hydraulic fluid properly, away from sources of moisture and in airtight containers.

Four ways to fix milky hydraulic fluid in a tractor:

1. Flush and replace the hydraulic fluid

The most common way to fix milky hydraulic fluid in a tractor is to flush and replace the hydraulic fluid. Flushing the system involves draining all the contaminated fluid and replacing it with new, clean fluid.

It is important to flush the system thoroughly to remove all traces of contaminated fluid, which may require multiple flushes. After flushing, the hydraulic system should be tested for leaks and proper operation.

2. Use a demulsifying agent

A demulsifying agent can be added to the hydraulic fluid to separate the water from the fluid. This agent breaks down the water droplets, allowing them to separate from the fluid, making it easier to remove.

However, it is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using demulsifying agents, as using too much or using the wrong type can cause damage to the hydraulic system.

3. Install a water separator

A water separator is a device that separates water from the hydraulic fluid before it enters the hydraulic system. It works by using a series of filters to remove water droplets from the fluid.

Water Separator

Water separators can be installed on the hydraulic system’s inlet or outlet and can be an effective way to prevent water contamination in the system.

4. Repair or replace damaged components

Damaged components, such as hoses, fittings, and seals, can allow water to enter the hydraulic system, causing hydraulic fluid to turn milky.

Repairing or replacing damaged components can help prevent water contamination and prevent hydraulic fluid from turning milky.

What color should hydraulic fluid be?

The color of hydraulic fluid can vary depending on the type of fluid and its condition. Typically, hydraulic fluid is clear or amber in color when it is new and has not been used.

Hydraulic Fluid Color

However, as hydraulic fluid ages and is exposed to heat, oxidation, and contamination, it can become darker in color. Darkening of hydraulic fluid is a normal occurrence and does not necessarily indicate a problem with the fluid or the hydraulic system.

How to get moisture out of a hydraulic system?

Here are the steps on how to get moisture out of a hydraulic system:

  1. Drain the hydraulic system: Start by draining all the fluid from the hydraulic system. You can do this by removing the drain plug or by using a fluid extractor.
  2. Inspect the system: While the hydraulic system is empty, inspect all the components, including hoses, fittings, and seals, for any signs of damage or wear. Replace any damaged components before refilling the system.
  3. Refill with fresh fluid: Refill the hydraulic system with fresh hydraulic fluid that is compatible with your system. It is essential to use a high-quality fluid that is resistant to water contamination.
  4. Run the system: Start the tractor or equipment and run the hydraulic system for a few minutes. This will help distribute the new fluid throughout the system and help remove any remaining moisture.
  5. Drain and repeat: After running the system for a few minutes, drain the fluid again and inspect it for any signs of moisture. If the fluid is still contaminated, repeat the process until the fluid is clean.
  6. Add a desiccant breather: Consider adding a desiccant breather to the hydraulic system to prevent future moisture contamination. A desiccant breather is a device that removes moisture from the air entering the hydraulic system.

What happens when water gets in hydraulic fluid?

When water gets in hydraulic fluid, it can cause a number of problems that can ultimately lead to equipment failure. Water can contaminate the hydraulic fluid in several ways, including condensation, leaks, and improper storage.

Once water is present in the hydraulic fluid, it can cause the fluid to become milky or cloudy, indicating that the water is not fully mixing with the fluid.

Water contamination can cause corrosion of metal components within the hydraulic system, which can lead to pitting, cracking, and other damage.

Additionally, water can react with the additives in the hydraulic fluid, causing them to break down and reducing the effectiveness of the fluid. This can lead to decreased performance, increased wear and tear on components, and ultimately equipment failure.


In conclusion, milky hydraulic fluid in a tractor is a significant problem that can lead to decreased performance and damage to the hydraulic system. Prevention is key to avoiding this issue, and regular maintenance, proper storage, and the use of high-quality hydraulic fluid can help prevent water contamination.

However, if milky hydraulic fluid is already present, there are several ways to fix it, including flushing and replacing the fluid, using a demulsifying agent, installing a water separator, and repairing or replacing damaged components.

It is important to address milky hydraulic fluid promptly to prevent further damage to the hydraulic system and ensure optimal tractor performance. By following these tips, tractor owners and operators can maintain a healthy hydraulic system and prevent milky hydraulic fluid from becoming a problem in the first place.