The Top 5 Misuses of Hydraulic Cylinders

Are you misusing hydraulic cylinders? These common mistakes could be costing you.

Hydraulic cylinders are simple to use, but most users have not been properly trained on them due to their simplicity. Instead, many have been trained to use more complicated equipment.

Misuse of hydraulic cylinders is a serious issue because they work under an extreme amount of pressure when at maximum capacity. Even the simplest mistake can lead to cylinder damage, the supporting structures, and even injury or death to the user.

hydraulic cylinders

Adequate Support

The most common mistake is not having the proper structure underneath to support the amount of force being exerted. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. If you’re jacking up to 5 tons, there has to be a supporting structure to support that amount. If you don’t have adequate support, your operation will not go smoothly.


Another common error is side-loading a cylinder. This can easily occur from not having the load properly seated on the piston of the cylinder. It needs to be perfectly squared and level. If you don’t have a supporting structure that can withstand that force, when you’re pushing down or jacking up, and that opposite action is happening, it could very easily cause the supporting structure to fall out of plum or level. Ultimately, it will side-load the jack and damage the cylinder, the structure, and yourself.

Know Your Limits 

If you’re designing a lift or jack operation, you want to make sure that it’s well within the means to lift or jack up. So, a good rule of thumb is to select a cylinder that can lift 20% more capacity than what you need because it gives you some room for error. The same principle goes with the amount of stroke or how much that piston is actually advancing out of the cylinder housing itself. For instance, if your system requires you to jack up 8 inches then make sure you have a piston that can jack up 10 inches. It leaves room to work within and provides more stability.

Retract/Detract Properly 

It’s also common to not be aware of the amount of hoses you have or where they’re running through and to. When this happens, someone can jack up a component or a vessel and when they detract or retract the piston itself, they may retract it right onto the hose that’s providing the pressures. They’re cutting off the power supply, essentially.

Hot and Cold

It’s also common to use torches or welding apparatuses around hydraulics – that’s a dangerous mix. You should never position hot materials near hoses that are made of reinforced rubber. That’ll lead to severe damages, especially to yourself and the other workers.


Now that you know the most common mistakes, here are a few tips to help avoid them altogether:

• It is unwise to position yourself anywhere underneath the component that’s jacked.

• Improper selection of a jack itself is a problem. A 60 ton center hole jack cannot be used to jack 60 tons unless the proper specified threaded rod is used in conjunction. For example, it could cause the equipment to mushroom or cause damage to you as well.

• Always use a hydraulic gauge. Without one, you don’t know how much force you’re applying to it. It just serves as a window into the system.

• Don’t modify your cylinder. It loses its certification and potentially becomes unreliable.

• Always have a solid surface to jack on and to lift up on. It needs 100% contact throughout.

• Always closely monitor the cylinder to make sure everything is plumb and level throughout all movements.



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