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Generic VS Custom Hydraulic Cylinders: Pros & Cons

Generic VS Custom Hydraulic Cylinders: Pros & Cons


With increased engineering capabilities and ever-evolving technological software, custom hydraulic cylinders are often the best option for mobile and industrial machinery needs, ensuring you get exactly what you need out of your system. Unlike standard cylinders, which are designed to accommodate specific needs, custom hydraulic system designs can adapt and perform for your needs, addressing all issues your system may encounter.

By opting for a custom hydraulic cylinder with the help of an experienced hydraulics engineer, you can have a cylinder built to suit your specifications and needs. To learn more about how custom-made hydraulic cylinders can enhance your system, and all the pros and cons, we are breaking down the must-know information below.

What Are Custom Hydraulic Cylinders?

custom hydraulic system designs

Custom-built hydraulic cylinders are created to address the unique and specific requirements of your application. With this hydraulic cylinder design, elements such as lifting capacity and the operating environment are prioritized, ensuring you get the best cylinder for your specific usage.

Elements including piston rods and barrels are created to suit the exact length and diameter of your system design. In addition, to best suit your specific application, specific materials, coatings, and finishes are utilized, and elements such as valves, manifolds, and electronics will be built right into your custom hydraulic components. With this unique, one-of-a-kind design, more extreme applications and environmental temperatures can be managed, ensuring your system is well-suited for your conditions.

In addition to the components used, various mounting connection needs can be accommodated, and port sizing and location can be customized to match the equipment in the design. While this custom design can cost more in the beginning, these custom hydraulic system designs tend to pay off over time, as they ensure better performance and reduced maintenance, thus reducing costs.

What Are Generic Hydraulic Cylinders?

hydraulic cylinder design

On the other side of the custom hydraulic cylinders debate are generic cylinders. These hydraulic systems are off-the-shelf cylinder options that are manufactured in large quantities and available for use. With these highly available cylinders, generic hydraulic cylinders are quick to obtain, affordable, and can meet most of your needs.

Most commonly, a generic hydraulic cylinder is beneficial when your equipment is down and a replacement is needed ASAP. In addition, when producing new equipment, a standard hydraulic cylinder is the go-to, and can be implemented early in the design process to ensure all corresponding components are compatible and built around it.

Some generic cylinders come readily equipped with various features, such as valves, electronics, and manifolds, but these options are not as readily available and are made with specific use cases in mind.

Keep in mind that when opting for generic cylinders, ensuring proper compatibility and safety can increase maintenance costs over time. In addition, port orientation can be an issue and misalignment is common with this option. So, when selecting an off-the-shelf cylinder for equipment, it’s important to take the time to find the right choice for you. Oftentimes, it is realized that the wrong one is selected, limiting the performance of your equipment.

Custom Hydraulic Cylinders: Pros & Cons

When it comes to a custom hydraulic cylinder design, there are many pros and cons you may find. To better understand what you may encounter, here are both the benefits and considerations of this hydraulic cylinder option.

Pros of Custom Hydraulic Components

  • Flexibility: Custom hydraulic cylinder manufacturers designing a custom cylinder with specific load and lift capacity in mind is one of the most important benefits of opting for a custom hydraulic cylinder. As a result of this custom design, you can ensure your design is best suited for your use case. In addition, other variables can be adjusted accordingly, including the materials used, compactness, efficiency, and mounting options;
  • Durability: With a custom hydraulic actuator, cylinders can be created with a specific use case in mind, adjusting to unique operating systems to best suit your needs. This can accommodate everything from increased pressure to high temperatures or extremely low temperatures. In addition, they can be created to be strong enough for your specific function, as well as adjustable to match your use case for a  more efficient system;
  • Third-Party Approvals: Custom hydraulic cylinders are especially wonderful if you are dealing with a third-party insurance company with specific demands. In this case, your cylinders can not only be built to suit industry requirements, but design specifications by another party for an approved system;
  • Longevity: With a specifically-designed cylinder, you can greatly increase the longevity of your machinery, meeting optimal performance and tailor-made needs for a system that is built to withstand your operations. Unlike a generic cylinder that may not be able to withstand your wear and tear, a custom cylinder made with specific materials for your needs will be built to last.

Cons of Custom Hydraulic Components

  • Cost: Above all else, hydraulic cylinders can be quite pricey. When creating a custom design, these components will cost more at the onset, however, they are likely to pay themselves off over time as they will require less maintenance and are built to last for your specific needs;
  • Experience Needs: When creating custom components, an expert technical team is essential to create the custom hydraulic cylinder design. Not everyone has this heightened experience level, so finding the right team with a good turnaround time is essential.

Off-The-Shelf Hydraulic Cylinders: Pros & Cons

custom hydraulic cylinder

Not sure if you really need to invest in a custom hydraulic cylinder? Before spending the money on a custom design, here’s what you need to know about the off-the-shelf hydraulic cylinders.

Pros of Off-The-Shelf Hydraulic Components

  • Availability: One of the greatest perks of generic cylinders is that they are readily available at a hardware store near you, or conveniently online. This makes generic cylinders a much more convenient, affordable option that is available immediately. These components are still made with high-quality materials and will perform adequately as replacements in a system. Typically, this is the most hassle-free approach when replacing a hydraulic cylinder;
  • Cost: Since generic hydraulic cylinders are made with mass production, they feature a lower price than that of their custom counterparts. For this reason, they are great for those on a budget. They are specifically great to implement in the early stages of the design process so all other components are selected accordingly;
  • Different Options Available: With a variety of designs and capabilities, off-the-shelf hydraulic components are made with various industries and applications in mind. Watch type can be used for a different approach to best suit specific needs.

Some of the different kinds of generic cylinders include:

Off-The-Shelf of Custom Hydraulic Components

  • Maintenance: Since a generic cylinder is not specifically designed for your use case, it typically requires more maintenance over time. Especially when it’s used in a machine it’s not suited for, it can increase the maintenance requirements and machine downtime, thus increasing costs over time;
  • Approval: Unfortunately, many standard cylinders do not have the third-party authorization needed for equipment in a number of industries. Specifically, offshore and marine sectors have specific demands about how these components are built and tested, with specifications that will help determine the safety.

Common Uses of Custom Hydraulic Cylinders

custom hydraulic components

Custom hydraulic cylinders are used in many different industries and machinery elements, ensuring that systems run smoothly with a specifically designed component. Some of the use cases include:

  • Roads and Railroads: Hydraulic cylinders are used for roads and railroads, designed specifically for high-cycle applications. In this use, the head style is usually an internally threaded gland or an externally threaded nut, ensuring retention in environments with heavy-duty vibrations;
  • Waste Collection + Removal & Excavation: Custom cylinders are great for waste and excavation needs, as they have proven more reliable over time. A lot of engineering goes into these custom cylinders, ensuring both durability and performance;
  • Truck Cranes: From simple, single-acting steering, to double counterbalance valves used for system failure, hydraulic cylinders for truck cranes are incredibly efficient and reliable;
  • Material Handling: To help guarantee personal safety and performance, hydraulic cylinders are used in material handling, helping to deal with dangerous materials in a more secure way.


As industries continue to evolve and performance and longevity remain top-of-mind, custom-made hydraulic cylinders are growing in popularity,  helping to limit the time spent on maintenance for a well-running system. However, for those in a pinch or looking for a more budget-friendly alternative, generic hydraulic cylinders are a great go-to, and are readily available at a number of locations.

For assistance selecting or repairing your hydraulic cylinder, our hydraulic cylinder repair company, Cylinders, Inc. is ready to assist. To learn more, contact us online today to begin.

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