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4 Causes of Hydraulic Components Wear and How to Prevent Them

4 Causes of Hydraulic Components Wear and How to Prevent Them


Even with the most robust system design, you may find yourself performing some hydraulic troubleshooting with your hydraulic system. Whether you haven’t checked on your system in months, or follow a strict preventative maintenance plan, hydraulic components will, at some point, begin showing some significant wear and tear. The elements of the system in need of maintenance include:

  • Hydraulic pump
  • Control valves
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Filters
  • Tubes, hoses, and pipes
  • Seals, fittings, connections

Depending on how many hydraulics problems your components endure, you can see a significant loss in performance. For this reason, we are sharing common causes of hydraulics issues to help you handle the hydraulic cylinder’s repair.

#1. Abrasive Wear

When troubleshooting hydraulic systems, one of the first causes of wear and tear you’ll notice is due to abrasive wear. There are two types of abrasive wear - two-body wear and three-body wear.

  • Two-Body Wear: This occurs when two surfaces come into direct contact without enough lubrication between them.
  • Three-Body Wear: This happens when the clearance between two surfaces is filled with a hard, particulate matter.

Both of these types of abrasions result in scoring and scuffing of the surfaces. In order to prevent this, it’s essential to make sure lubricants and hydraulic fluid are at a good level, and you avoid contamination of that fluid as part of hydraulics maintenance.

#2. Adhesive Hydraulic Components Wear

Another common troubleshooting factor is adhesive hydraulic component wear. This occurs when two surfaces lose the lubricating film that protects them, which creates that two-body abrasion. As the film disappears, the surfaces scuff as they come into contact with one another. This scuffing can result in the generation of heat due to friction, which can result in a friction weld. This means the two parts can begin to adhere to each other, and metal is transferred between the two.  

Ultimately, this process results in repeated welding and tearing between the two surfaces. To prevent this, ensure the hydraulic fluid is clean and keep the parts lubricated.

#3. Fatigue and Cavitation of Your Hydraulics

troubleshooting hydraulic systems

Fatigue wear usually shows as cracking and material breaking away. This occurs in highly lubricated parts, like bearings. While this is something that can’t be entirely eliminated, it can be minimized by avoiding an unneeded shock load on the system.

Cavitation of hydraulics is due to the collapse of air bubbles or oil vapor bubbles. These usually form at pump inlets and will collapse at the outlet. When these bubbles do collapse, they create a micro-jet that has enough power to erode even case-hardened steel. So, whenever these bubbles collapse near metal, they will create damage including erosion, as well as metal loss. Ultimately, the metal loss can lead to particulate contaminants being introduced into the hydraulic system - something we certainly want to avoid.

#4. Erosive & Corrosive Wear Down

Erosive wear is usually due to hard particles, around 2 microns or less, that contaminate the hydraulic fluid. When this contaminated fluid passes under lubricated areas quickly, it erodes the surface they encounter, wearing away the interior of the system. This can be managed by avoiding particulate contamination and checking filters regularly.

Corrosive wear, on the other hand, is a result of chemical reactions. For example, this can happen when hydraulic fluid is contaminated by water. This is best avoided by changing the hydraulic fluid on a regular basis, or after it has been exposed to excessive heat.

Preventive Maintenance of Hydraulic Components

To help with hydraulics maintenance, we are sharing tips to prevent some of the common types of wear and tear that can lead to air in hydraulic cylinder symptoms, a hydraulic cylinder running slow, and more.

Multi-Surface Wear and How To Prevent It

The best action to take when facing multi-surface wear is to correct the aging effects that are harming the system. First, dual-surface wear, as in when moving parts come in contact with one another, will need more lubrication to prevent abrasion and frictional heat. However, in the case of three-part wear, which is caused by foreign materials in the oil causing abrasion, it’s important to change the fluid and keep particulate matter out.

Countering Fatigue and Cavitation Wear

low hydraulic fluid symptoms

When metal parts begin to age, tiny slivers break off and become traveling contaminants in the system. This can lead to scuffing and scratching of the surfaces, which results in the air in hydraulic cylinder symptoms as bubbles propagate and collapse. This must be corrected immediately upon realization. As soon as the sounds and vibrations signal a cavitation problem, flow restriction origins should be tracked.

Preventing Erosive and Corrosive Damage to Hydraulic Components

When corrosion issues or chemical reactions occur, the steel framework is impacted which requires hydraulics maintenance. While these systems are built to last, they aren’t immune to erosive and corrosive issues. To prevent this, regular oil changes can make a big difference. Additionally, with cavitation problems, flow restriction conditions will need to be addressed and eliminated. And when it comes to parts that are cracked, it’s important to reduce system shock loads. If all of this doesn't work, it’s time to look into a replacement component.


From low hydraulic fluid symptoms to a hydraulic cylinder running low and many other topics for hydraulic troubleshooting, there’s a solution that can keep your systems running for years to come. This will take some regular hydraulics maintenance, but it’s well worth the extra time to ensure you prevent any unnecessary damage to your hydraulics.

For more help understanding the types of cylinders and how to keep them in fighting shape, our Chicago area cylinder repair company is here to help. To assist with hydraulic troubleshooting, contact us today with your cylinder repairs request.

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