6 Hydraulic Cylinder Failure Risks

30/07/2019 10:45:24 AM

Whether you operate fixed plant or mobile hydraulics, you know that you need to maintain a schedule of regular preventative maintenance in order to keep your equipment performing properly. However, are you truly aware of all the risks associated with hydraulic cylinder failure?

The consequences of poorly maintained hydraulic equipment go beyond the cylinder itself. In fact, it can have far-reaching effects on machine, system or even the business as a whole, leading to expensive repairs or even life-threatening situations.

In this article, we’ll look at the risks associated with hydraulic cylinder failure for you and your business so you can avoid major problems.

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6 Hydraulic Cylinder Failure Risks


  1. Loss of hydraulic cylinder efficiency

    Poorly performing cylinders cause a gradual loss of efficiency that increases the running cost of your operation. As hydraulic cylinders fail they experience problems such as internal leakage and increased friction between the reciprocating parts such as piston rods and the bores. To keep the cylinder going, system pressures are sometimes raised by the operator to counteract this inefficiency, this places the rest of the hydraulic system under more stresses which can lead to premature failure. This inevitably leads to a bigger drawdown in power, which drives up your energy bill. This issue becomes amplified exponentially, the larger the operation. In a business with dozens or even hundreds of cylinders, the cumulative cost of poorly maintained actuators can run into thousands of dollars per month. So, there’s a very practical cost benefit to following a proactive maintenance schedule.

  2. Risk of hydraulic cylinder component failure

    Hydraulic cylinders with issues such as internal leakage, increased friction or worn tolerances force the supporting components to work harder. The effects include the following:

    • Increased heat leading to worn or failed seals

    • Excessive friction leading to piston rod scoring

    • Excessive pressure leading to the fracturing of piston seals and glands

    • Erratic cylinder movement leading to bent piston rods, scored piston rods and barrels

    • Excessive vibration leading to failure of mounting points & bearings

    • Excessive internal pressure leading to barrel deformation

    • High volumetric fluid demand leads to increased pump wear

    • Loss of efficiency leads to increased hydraulic motors wear and failure


  3. Increased chance of injury due to hydraulic fluid leaks

    Components aren’t the only things at risk of damage when hydraulic cylinders fail. Slick surfaces are an injury risk and leaking hydraulic fluid creates hazardous conditions for workers - especially in high-risk environments such as heavy industry. As such, poorly maintained cylinders and hydraulic equipment are a safety liability that can lead to injury, death and compensation claims against the organisation responsible.

  4. Risk of health problems due to exposure to hydraulic fluid

    Exposure to hydraulic fluids through inhalation, ingestion or accidental injection can have negative health consequences ranging from skin irritation to gangrene and even death in extreme cases. Hydraulic fluid ingestion is particularly hazardous, potentially leading to intestinal bleeding. Accidental injection occurs when a high-pressure hydraulic fluid leak occurs causing fluid to be rapidly injected into the skin. Small hydraulic leaks in hydraulic hoses are sometimes invisible to the eye and when a person runs their hand over this, hydraulic fluid under 2000 psi of pressure is instantly injected into the skin. If left untreated it will cause infection and gangrene will set into the affected area.

  5. Increased fire hazard risk

    Hydraulic fluid is a petroleum-based liquid and can pose a fire risk, especially when heated to high temperatures. In addition, fluid leaks can potentially vaporise the fluid - generating a flammable airborne mist that - with the right circumstances could create an explosive situation. All it takes is an ignition source to cause a serious accident. Therefore it is vital that hydraulic cylinders, hoses and equipment are well maintained and in good condition - especially in environments with a high likelihood of exposure heat and flame.

  6. Increased risk of environmental contamination

    Hydraulic hose or pipe leaks run the risk of depositing fluids and chemicals on the ground or in bodies of water which become contaminated very easily. If hydraulic fluid is allowed to make its way into the groundwater, it can have disastrous consequences for the local ecology and residents. It only takes a few litres of fluid to contaminate thousands of litres of groundwater and these chemicals can stay there for years or more. This is another reason to maintain hydraulic cylinders in good working order to avoid ecological damage.



Avoid the risks of hydraulic cylinder failure with scheduled maintenance

Poorly maintained hydraulic cylinders present major risks to owners, operators and the environment. The risks range from increased wear, component failure and operating costs to extenuating circumstances arising from hydraulic fluid leaks that can have negative consequences. For this reason, it is important that hydraulic cylinders and other equipment are maintained in good working order to avoid equipment damage and safety liabilities that can lead to injury, death and compensation claims against the organisation responsible.

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