Cape Town 021 907 1900 / Durban 031 792 1020 / Johannesburg 011 396 6000 / Pretoria 012 030 1800
26 January 2022

NEWS & INSIGHTSCommon Causes of Hydraulic Cylinder Failure

Hydraulic cylinder repair or replacement can destroy your productivity and can endanger the safety of you and your workers. The consequent increased down time can equate to lost revenue and potentially lost jobs. Many hydraulic machines and tip trailers are used on a seasonal basis – sometimes for only a few weeks of the year. When you need your hydraulics to be dependable throughout a wide range of work environments, it is necessary to understand common signs of cylinder failure. To prevent cylinder failure from occurring, you must understand the underlying causes. Understanding the underlying symptoms of hydraulic cylinder failure can help you prevent issues before they occur.

Causes of Hydraulic Cylinder Failure

The top four causes of cylinder failure are:

  1. Side-loading
  2. Contaminated fluid
  3. Improper fluid conditioning
  4. Rough or scored rod

A proper equipment inspection, regular training, and a preventative maintenance plan can all decrease the chances of these common cylinder failures. Although these are common causes of hydraulic cylinder failure, this is not an exhaustive list. Work demands and cylinder type can accelerate mechanical issues and potential failure problems, in addition to the signs listed below.


Side-loading is the most common cause of wear and cylinder failure. A common result of side-loading is cylinder misalignment, which creates an unusual force on the piston rod. A side load of enough magnitude can result in tube scoring, piston rod, and rod bearing wear, and even seal failure. In tip and dump trailers these forces are drastically reduced when the cylinder is mounted in the proper cradle.

2. Contaminated Fluid

Contaminated fluid can cause premature rod seal failure. Abrasive particles in the fluid can damage the seal and the piston rod surface, airborne contamination can be drawn into a cylinder by a faulty wiper seal. Contamination occurs in numerous ways, the most common is drawn in from oil or from the pump.

3. Improper Fluid Conditioning

Check for and remove any dirt or foreign materials in the hydraulic fluid. Be careful not to introduce aerated fluid which can cause sound level issues. Verify the filtration system is operating properly. Finally, inspect filter elements for clogs and replace them as necessary.

4. Rough of Scored Rod

It is crucial to ensure the cylinder rod is in good condition. Rough places on the rod damage the seals and reduce their normal life resulting in the necessity for frequent replacement. Be sure to inspect the rod finish as well.

Also read our blog on Signs of Hydraulic Cylinder Failure in conjunction with understanding the common causes of cylinder failure.



We will be at the Nampo Bothaville event from May 14-17, 2024 at stand C29a.