One of the most common ways a hydraulic cylinder can malfunction is when cylinder drift occurs. Hydraulic cylinder drift is caused by internal leaks in the cylinder across the piston. The fluid physically moves from one side of the piston to the other which creates an uneven balance and causes the cylinder to move or “drift”. You’ll notice unusual movement or changes in position from your equipment when hydraulic cylinder drift has occurred.
How Does Cylinder Drift Happen?
Generally, cylinder drift occurs when there is a leak in the piston seals, holding valve, or rod seals. This leak causes the hydraulic fluid to be distributed unevenly, leading to a drift. Occasionally, hydraulic cylinder drift is also caused by contaminated hydraulic fluid which can damage seals and/or sealing surfaces.
Why is it a Problem?
Cylinder drift is problematic for a few reasons. First, the drift can cause what were once fluid movements to become rough and jerky. When we’re talking about equipment that lifts several tons, this can be a serious safety hazard. In addition, uneven distribution of hydraulic fluid can increase the distribution of forces and respective pressure put on one area of the cylinder, leading to cylinder failure. Drifting is a sign that the cylinders are not performing efficiently and as they were originally designed. Again, when you’re using hydraulics to lift and move heavy things, this can be extremely dangerous!
How Can I Prevent Hydraulic Cylinder Drift?
No one wants to deal with cylinder drift, for obvious reasons. Both the risks and the financial ramifications of equipment failure are great. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your machinery.
The number one thing you can do to prevent hydraulic cylinder failure is to use quality cylinders. Rather than choosing a generic, all-purpose cylinder, we recommend selecting purpose-built cylinders for your business. These cylinders are built specifically for your industry and equipment, so they are guaranteed to perform at a high-level.
In addition to quality parts, regular maintenance is also extremely important. Take good care of your machinery, and your machinery will take good care of you!
Do you want to take the first step to preventing cylinder performance issues? Contact us today to find out more about our purpose-built hydraulic cylinders. We’ll work with you to design the right cylinder for the job, and we’ll help you maintain it so it will work hard for years to come. Questions? Give us a call at 866.406.4100.