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, yet most users have not been properly trained on them. Many jobsite workers receive training for more complicated equipment, leaving these powerhouses underappreciated and often misused. 

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, supporting structures, and even injury or death to the user.

Unleashing the Power: A Guide to Mastering Hydraulic Cylinders


hydraulic cylinders

1) 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.

2) Side-Loading 

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 the force of pushing down or jacking up, and that opposite action is happening, it could very easily cause the supporting structure to fall out. Ultimately, it will side-load the jack and damage the cylinder, the structure, and yourself.

3) Know Your Limits 

If you’re designing a lift or jack operation, you want to make sure that it’s within the means to lift or jack up. A good rule of thumb is to select a cylinder that can lift 20% more capacity than what you need. This gives you some room for error. The same principle goes with the amount of stroke height, 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.

heavy duty hydraulic cylinder from LGH
Heavy-duty hydraulic cylinder from LGH jacking up a bridge.

4) Retract/Detract Properly 

It’s also common to be unaware of the number of hoses you have or where they’re running. When this happens, someone can jack up a component or vessel, and when they detract or retract the piston itself, they may retract it right onto the hose that’s providing the pressure. They’re essentially cutting off the power supply.

5) 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.


Pro Tips for Hydraulic Mastery

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

• Never position yourself underneath the component that’s jacked.

• Choosing the right jack is crucial. A mismatched setup invites trouble, compromising safety and efficiency. A 60-ton center hole jack cannot be used to jack 60 tons unless the proper specified threaded rod is used in conjunction. It could cause the equipment to mushroom or cause damage to you as well.

• Always use a hydraulic gauge. Without one, you’re blind to how much force is being applied. It 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 and lift up on. It needs 100% contact throughout.

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



LGH’s high-capacity hydraulic cylinders are your solution for lifting and pushing applications where power, precision, and safety cannot be compromised. Trust LGH to elevate your projects with our top-of-the-line equipment, tailored support, and comprehensive rental solutions.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your next project with our unmatched hydraulic cylinder capabilities!



LGH is North America’s largest single organization devoted exclusively to the provision of lifting and moving equipment for rent. LGH holds the most comprehensive inventory for hoisting, rigging, jacking, pulling, material handling, and safety equipment. With over 70,000 pieces, our lifting equipment is available for rent from 24 locations, and our customers are supported by over 50 Rental Representatives nationwide.

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