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Since a hydraulic cylinder is a essentially a linear actuator motivated by hydrostatic energy to create force in a straight line, either by pushing or pulling, it's a safe assumption that if you are not performing preventative maintenance on your hydraulic equipment, eventually it will break under the pressure. All pun intended!

Despite the sheer power and ingenuity that goes into the design of a hydraulic cylinder like all things they still require regular maintenance. Hydraulic cylinders are used in almost every application requiring some type of linear force, across a wide variety of industries including construction, emergency vehicles, and industrial equipment and machinery.

Even your local Department of City Works uses equipment with hydraulic cylinders for your water systems, recreational facilities, highways and even cemeteries. Suffice it to say that broken down hydraulic equipment can have a major impact on the integrity of your equipment and the critical operations they perform.

The Most Common Causes Of Hydraulic Cylinder Failure and Down-times:

"Water is a common liquid contaminant that assists in the creation of extremely hard, iron oxide particles right where a rust patch forms inside a valve." - Mobile Hydraulic Tips

1. Contaminated Fluid

Contaminated fluid is one of the most common causes of hydraulic cylinder failure. When foreign particles are introduced into the hydraulic fluid they can damage the interior of the cylinder the same way metal particles would damage your cars oil delivery system. Contaminates can be sucked into a cylinder by a faulty wiper seal, or be drawn in through the oil or pump, causing the following:

Premature rod seal failure

  • Seal damage

  • Piston rod surface damage

The most common types of contaminants include:

  • Chemical Contaminants such as water, air or heat

  • Wear

  • Dirt

Although preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid hydraulic cylinder repair costs, sometimes break downs are hard to avoid. Avoid contaminants such as those introduced by new hydraulic fluid fills, by making sure your hydraulic cylinder fluid comes from a reputable facility. It's also important to inspect quick couplers and make sure that they are absolutely spotless, otherwise foreign contaminants could be forced directly into your hydraulic system.

2. Side Loading

There are different approaches to minimizing the misalignment that can lead to side loaded, including choosing the right cylinder mounting for the job as well as the use of stop tubes and dual pistons.

Although contaminated fluid is the most common, side loading is considered the most damaging cause of hydraulic cylinder failure and can lead to premature product failure. Side loading occurs when there is an incorrectly aligned cylinder that then creates an unusual force on the piston rod. The force of pressure and strain can lead to the following:

Bent Tubes

  • Seal Failure

  • Piston Rod Failure

  • Bending of the Rod

3. Damaged Seal or Piston

As you can see from the two previous items it's fairly easy for a piston or seal to be damaged or broken in the event of contaminated fluid, side loading as well as a lack of maintenance. Foreign contaminants specifically can drastically score the inner diameter of the barrel, causing excessive piston damage. Seals on the other-hand can be highly affected by side loading, when the cylinder creates an uneven distribution of force on them. This can lead to something called gland seal damage, while a cylinder rod that is either too smooth or scored can lead to worn seals or leakage past the seal.

Preventing Hydraulic Damage and Down-times.

Avoid leaks, keep your hydraulic system from overheating, and avoid costly shut-downs to your operation with:

  • Routing performance testing

  • Safety inspections

  • Hydraulic oil supply testing

  • Inspections on components such as gauges and valves

  • Filter and Fluid Conditioning

At Boston Balers & Hydraulics we have an established record of providing precision service/repair of vital auto shop equipment quickly and reliably. We offer preventative maintenance plans plus 24/7 emergency service to keep your operation running smoothly and productively. Learn more.

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