How to Control the Speed of a Hydraulic Cylinder


Hydraulic cylinders are widely used in industry for lifting heavy loads. They have a number of common applications and can be found in machinery, vehicles and passenger lifts. The cylinder itself works when fluid is dispersed under pressure. As the cylinder fills, the hydraulic ram is raised, causing a load to be lifted. When fluids are released back into the holding tank, pressure is released and the ram will lower. The control of fluids is established by a hydraulic valve, and these need to be finely calibrated to produce the perfect operating speed.

Things You'll Need

  • Stopwatch
  • Tape measure
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Hexagonal wrench
  • Check the holding tank to ensure that fluid levels are above the minimum level while the cylinder is at its lowest position. If the system is under pressure, locate the fluid release button and push it down firmly. As the ram lowers and pressure is released, visible and audible signs of fluid dispersal back to the tank will be present.

  • Carry out a timed run of the hydraulic cylinder to see how long it takes for the ram to extend fully. Reset a stopwatch and activate the hydraulic cylinder by putting in a service command. Usually, this will involve pressing the button that activates the machinery during usual service. Time the movement of the cylinder and deactivate the stopwatch once the ram is fully extended.

  • Measure the distance from the furthest extended section of the hydraulic ram to the opening of the hydraulic cylinder from which the ram extends using a tape measure. Divide the distance that the ram has traveled by the time taken to obtain the current speed. A hydraulic ram that extends to 3.2 m in 20 seconds, for example, will have a current operating speed of 0.16 m per second.

  • Locate the speed control nut on the hydraulic valve. This should be clearly marked, but refer to the manufacturer's manual for easier identification if necessary. To increase the speed of the cylinder, place a hexagonal wrench into the nut and make a one-quarter counterclockwise turn. To decrease the speed, make a one-quarter clockwise turn. Turning the nut increases or decreases the flow of fluids and ultimately controls the speed of the hydraulic cylinder.

  • Carry out another timed run of the hydraulic cylinder to establish its performance using the tape measure and stopwatch to record relevant information before performing the same calculation to reveal the speed. Continue to turn the control nut inward or outward with the hexagonal wrench until the required speed is obtained.

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  • Photo Credit mechanizied car park showing hydraulic cylinder image by Heng kong Chen from
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