Common Causes of Hydraulic Cylinder Failure

Published: March 31, 2021 Last Updated: June 2, 2021 How To Series ,

Hydraulic cylinder failure on construction equipment Hydraulic cylinder repair or replacement can throw a wrench into your productivity. Increased down time can equate to lost revenue and potentially lost jobs. 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.

Signs of Hydraulic Cylinder Failure

While we have outlined the top four causes of hydraulic cylinder failure, we want to focus on additional causes of hydraulic cylinder failure. Learning how to prevent hydraulic cylinder failure can help keep your cylinders running smoothly.

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.


Whether it is from air contamination or fluid contamination, debris and other particulates can abrasively damage your hydraulic cylinder. Liquid particles can also increase the likelihood of advanced seal damage and failure. External contaminants can cause component degradation while internal contaminants can cause unintended leakage.

Seal Failure

One of the most common causes of hydraulic cylinder failure occurs with seal leaks. Improper installation, physical damage, and excessive heat can cause your cylinder seals to fail. When a hydraulic seal is damaged, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the proper internal pressure.

Piston and Rod Damage

Piston and rod damage can occur due to normal wear and tear, however, damage from rod bearings or pistons are a common cause of cylinder failure. Bending or side loading due to improper installation can add unneeded force to your cylinder, ultimately causing complete system failure.

Extreme Temperatures

Regardless of work environment, excessive heat and bitter cold temperatures can cause irreparable damage to your cylinders. Temperature extremes can affect the effectiveness of your cylinder’s seals. Fluids exposed to extreme heat or cold can cause lubrication issues. Fluids that are too thin, too thick can cause leakage issues, resulting in hydraulic cylinder failure.
over pressurized cylinder

Excessive Pressure/Over Pressurizing

When hydraulic cylinders are over pressurized, system failure can occur. Excessive pressure can cause cylinder sleeves to bulge, dislodging the stop ring that holds the cylinder together. Over pressurization can break stop rings and caps, thereby causing system failure and damage.

Preventing Hydraulic Cylinder Failure

With the common causes of hydraulic cylinder failure noted, it is important to highlight ways to prevent failure from occurring. Scheduled routine maintenance remains one of the best ways to prevent system failure. With routine maintenance, you can pinpoint issues before they balloon into catastrophic cylinder failure issues.

Some tips for preventing failure include:

  • Ensure your hydraulic cylinder is properly aligned and seals are installed correctly.
  • Check that you are using the correct fluids and seal materials.
  • With routine maintenance, check for uneven wear and tear or eroded seals.
  • When in doubt, consult with a hydraulic cylinder professional.

Ensure Your Hydraulic Cylinder Doesn’t Fail

Understanding common problems that can cause your hydraulic cylinder to fail can enable you to stay ahead of unwanted repairs and potential replacement concerns.

Found issues with your seals during routine maintenance? Check out our hydraulic cylinder replacement component parts. Not sure if part replacement will solve your cylinder issues?  Contact us to discuss your hydraulic cylinder issues. Our staff of hydraulic cylinder experts can help you determine the best course of action for component replacement or complete hydraulic cylinder replacement.