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Tips for Choosing the Right Hydraulic Cylinder

Rexroth photo 1 large hydraulic cylinders

As hydraulic specialists, we regularly get asked how to choose the right hydraulic cylinder for a specific application. In this article we will cover the main considerations someone should make when choosing a hydraulic cylinder. For more information or enquiries about custom cylinder manufacture, get in touch with us at Hydraulic Solutions and Sales.


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What does a hydraulic cylinder do?

A hydraulic cylinder plays a key role in a hydraulic system by converting fluid power into a linear force. When pressurised hydraulic fluid pushes on the piston of a cylinder, the result is a powerful stroke in a straight motion. This movement can then be used to achieve useful work for a wide range of applications.


There are many types of hydraulic cylinders with various capabilities. When choosing a hydraulic cylinder for a specific application, it is important that you choose one which is optimised for the conditions of the application. The right hydraulic cylinder will not only make the system more efficient; it will protect the system from damage and optimise productivity.

How to choose the right cylinder

1.  Application

The first step is to understand what you need the cylinder to do. Do you require pushing, pulling or both? Does the cylinder need to hold a load in place? The job will determine the rest of the decisions you make concerning the design of the cylinder.

2.  Rod Size

Getting the piston-rod size correct is crucial, as undersized piston-rods are much more vulnerable to stress, wear and breakdowns. Piston-rod size should be calculated carefully to prevent any buckling or bending of the rod.

3.  Bore Size

The first step for choosing the right bore size is to know what the operating pressure will be.  This typically ranges from 500 psi to 10,000 psi. From there, how much force you need the cylinder to produce will determine the size of the bore.

4.  Cylinder Mounts

Mounting methods affect the overall performance of the cylinder. The two basic categories of mounts are pivoted (when a load needs to move) and straight line (when the load only moves in a linear direction). Trunnion and clevis mounts are examples of pivoted mounts while the most common straight-line mount types include front head flange and side lug.


5.  Seals and O-Rings

Seals play an important role in reducing wear and tear, and increasing the service life of your cylinder. Choosing sub-ideal seals can lead to downtime and costly maintenance issues. You must make sure the seals you choose are compatible with the hydraulic fluid you’re using. Contaminated fluid will damage seals, and even the cylinder, so it’s important to keep your fluid clean. Also consider the operating temperature as some seals may fail in very hot conditions.

6.  Materials

The type of metal a cylinder is made from should be carefully selected to suit the environment and operating conditions it will be used in. For example, cylinders to be used in highly corrosive marine or offshore mining environments are often made from stainless steel for optimal performance and reliability.

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