5 signs your hydraulic cylinder has a fault
Checking the health of your cylinders and ensuring they are performing as expected should be an integral part of any maintenance or service checklist.
Cylinders play a crucial role in the smooth and effective running of hydraulic systems. Checking the health of your cylinders and ensuring they are performing as expected should be an integral part of any maintenance or service checklist.
However, we understand that problems can occur outside of this schedule.
If a hydraulic cylinder is subject to damage or wear and tear, this can have a huge impact on the system’s overall performance. The good news is, cylinders often give warning signs that something isn’t quite right.
Understanding the telltale signs of a cylinder fault is the first step to avoiding a system breakdown. It’s important to recognise them early to avoid downtime and costly repairs.
1. Unusual banging noises
It’s true that hydraulic cylinders produce some level of noise, but this shouldn’t sound like loud thumping, knocking or banging. If your cylinder has started to amp up the noise level and sounds slightly unsteady, then it’s likely that there’s something wrong.
Banging or knocking sounds being produced from a cylinder typically has two main causes: aeration or cavitation.
Aeration is the formation of air bubbles inside the system which appear as a result of too much air entering the pump’s inlet. These air bubbles get compressed and decompressed as they circulate the system, resulting in loud banging sounds.
Cavitation occurs when there isn’t enough fluid getting into a part of the hydraulic circuit. A lack of fluid leads to a huge drop in pressure which causes the fluid to vaporise and prevents the system from running smoothly. The fluid cavity may implode on itself when the pressure returns. This process generates loud knocking noises and can lead to damage of the cylinder.
Whether your cylinder is experiencing aeration or cavitation, hearing this type of noise is a dead giveaway that something isn’t right. Both processes can lead to damage of the hydraulic system through overheating, burning of seals or loss of lubrication.
In either case, you should pause all operations until the system can be inspected to avoid any further damage.
2. Jerking or juddering movements
Hydraulic cylinders are designed to operate smoothly. If this consistently smooth movement is lost and a cylinder starts jerking or juddering, that’s usually a sign that there’s a problem.
Jerking or juddering movements as the cylinder extends typically signals that the piston and rod can’t move freely. More often than not, this is caused by physical damage to the cylinder from too much friction which can happen when there is insufficient lubrication in the system, or parts have become worn or damaged.
3. High temperatures
Hydraulic cylinders typically operate for long periods of time, and this can naturally result in an increase in temperature. However, they have set temperature ranges and shouldn’t heat beyond this.
As a general guideline, cylinders shouldn’t exceed 80°C during normal operations, but manufacturers will usually set out guideline limits for each specific model. Cylinders may reach temperatures as high as 120°C under high speed/peak load conditions, but this shouldn’t be the norm.
If a cylinder is hotter than it should be, this indicates abnormal conditions and is usually a part of a wider problem such as too much friction or a problem with the hydraulic fluid. It’s a good idea to be aware of your cylinder’s normal operating temperature, and recognise overheating as a warning sign that there may be an issue somewhere in the system.
4. Slow operating speed
If a hydraulic cylinder has a fault, it may start to lose power and start working at a slower pace than normal. This, in turn, affects the operating speed of the entire system.
A loss of speed or power can be a sign of increased friction or internal leakage. In the case of internal leakage, it will take the cylinder longer to build up to the required pressure which slows down the entire circuit.
If your machine is working slower than usual, it’s important to check for the underlying cause and inspect for any damage to the cylinder. Otherwise, the performance of the cylinder will continue to dwindle until it is unfixable.
5. Increased power consumption
A rise in energy bills may also indicate a problem with your hydraulic cylinder. If the component has been subject to internal/external leakage or increased friction, the circuit will need to source more energy to function efficiently.
This means that the hydraulic pump will begin to work overtime in order to deliver more fluid to compensate for the leak, which results in higher power consumption.
The main takeaway from this blog is to highlight that hydraulic cylinders rarely fail without warning. There are many signals that could indicate a problem with your component, and this should be identified and addressed as soon as possible to prevent any unnecessary system failures.
Conducting regular maintenance, actioning any repairs as soon as possible and investing in high-quality components should help to elongate the lifespan of your hydraulic system.
Flowtech can supply a range of industry-leading hydraulic components including cylinders, pumps, motors and valves. We also have the in-house capabilities to build or modify any existing products to match your specific needs. Browse our products to find out more or get in touch with us to make an enquiry.