A pressure-control valve may limit or regulate pressure, create a particular pressure condition required for control, or cause actuators to operate in a specific order. All pure pressure-control valves operate in a condition approaching hydraulic balance. Usually the balance is very simple: pressure is effective on one side or end of a ball, poppet, or spool and is opposed by a spring. In operation, a valve takes a position where hydraulic pressure balances a spring force. Since spring force varies with compression, distance and pressure also can vary. Pressure-control valves are said to be infinite positioning. This means that they can take a position anywhere between two finite flow conditions, which changes a large volume of flow to a small volume, or pass no flow.
Most pressure-control valves are classified as normally closed. This means that flow to a valve’s inlet port is blocked from an outlet port until there is enough pressure to cause an unbalanced operation. In normally open valves, free flow occurs through the valves until they begin to operate in balance. Flow is partially restricted or cut off. Pressure override is a characteristic of normally closed-pressure controls when they are operating in balance. Because the force of a compression spring increases as it lowers, pressure when the valves first crack is less than when they are passing a large volume or full flow. The difference between a full flow and cracking pressure is called override.