Hydraulic Cylinder Troubleshooting

Hydraulic cylinders are compact and relatively simple. The key points to watch are the seals and pivots. The following lists service tips in maintaining cylinders:

a. External Leakage. If a cylinder’s end caps are leaking, tighten them. If the leaks still do not stop, replace the gasket. If a cylinder leaks around a piston rod, replace the packing. Make sure that a seal lip faces toward the pressure oil. If a seal continues to leak,

b. Internal Leakage. Leakage past the piston seals inside a cylinder can cause sluggish movement or settling under load. Piston leakage can be caused by worn piston seals or rings or scored cylinder walls. The latter may be caused by dirt and grit in the oil.

c. Creeping Cylinder. If a cylinder creeps when stopped in midstroke, check for internal leakage. Another cause could be a worn control valve.

d. Sluggish Operation. Air in a cylinder is the most common cause of sluggish action. Internal leakage in a cylinder is another cause. If an action is sluggish when starting up a system, but speeds up when a system is warm, check for oil of too high a viscosity (see the machine’s operating manual). If a cylinder is still sluggish after these checks, test the whole circuit for worn components.

e. Loose Mounting. Pivot points and mounts may be loose. The bolts or pins may need to be tightened, or they may be worn out. Too much slop or float in a cylinder’s mountings damages the piston-rod seals. Periodically check all the cylinders for loose mountings.

f. Misalignment. Piston rods must work in-line at all times. If they are side-loaded, the piston rods will be galled and the packings will be damaged, causing leaks. Eventually, the piston rods may be bent or the welds broken.

g. Lack of Lubrication. If a piston rod has no lubrication, a rod packing could seize, which would result in an erratic stroke, especially on single-acting cylinders.

h. Abrasives on a Piston Rod. When a piston rod extends, it can pick up dirt and other material. When it retracts, it carries the grit into a cylinder, damaging a rod seal. For this reason, rod wipers are often used at the rod end of a cylinder to clean the rod as it retracts. Rubber boots are also used over the end of a cylinder in some cases. Piston rods rusting is another problem. When storing cylinders, always retract the piston rods to protect them. If you cannot retract them, coat them with grease.

i. Burrs on a Piston Rod. Exposed piston rods can be damaged by impact with hard objects. If a smooth surface of a rod is marred, a rod seal may be damaged. Clean the burrs on a rod immediately, using crocus cloth. Some rods are chrome-plated to resist wear. Replace the seals after restoring a rod surface.

j. Air Vents. Single-acting cylinders (except ram types) must have an air vent in the dry side of a cylinder. To prevent dirt from getting in, use different filter devices. Most are self cleaning, but inspect them periodically to ensure that they operate properly.

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