Single-Acting vs Double-Acting Hydraulic Cylinders

Hydraulic cylinders can be divided into single-acting and double-acting hydraulic cylinder according to their mode of action.

What is the difference between single-acting and double-acting hydraulic cylinders?

The main difference between single-acting cylinders and double-acting cylinders is that single-acting cylinders have one port, and double-acting cylinders have two ports. This in turn will affect their function in your system.

What is a single-acting cylinder?
The single-acting cylinder has a port that allows compressed air to enter, and the piston rod can only move in one direction. As the cylinder cavity continues to fill, the high pressure of the compressed air causes the piston rod to elongate. When the compressed air leaves the cylinder through the same port, the rod returns to its original position.

Most commonly, the rod returns to its original position due to the internal spring. As the pressure is reduced, the spring simply pulls the rod back. There are other options to return the rod in a single-acting cylinder to its default position. These are external springs, weight within the system, or simple gravity.

What is a double-acting cylinder?
The double-acting cylinder has two ports for controlling the movement of the rod. The compressed air causes the rod to move in both directions by extending and retracting without the help of a spring. This type of cylinder is essential for any application that needs to control movement in two directions.

Double-acting hydraulic cylinders are actually used in more applications with multiple single-acting hydraulic cylinders.

Comparison table: single-acting and double-acting hydraulic cylinders

Advantages of single acting hydraulic cylinders:

2)Requires just 1 hose per cylinder
4)Easy to maintain

Advantages of double acting hydraulic cylinders:

1)Precise control
2)Faster retraction
3)Suits repetitive actions
4)Applies push and pull forces

Check the table below for a comparison of the different types.

Double-acting hydraulic cylinders are superior to single-acting hydraulic cylinders. If you use any single-acting hydraulic cylinders in your installation, please consider replacing them with double-acting hydraulic cylinders to improve performance and efficiency.

If you need help and guidance on selecting cylinders, please contact our technical team immediately. We are happy to recommend the cylinder that best suits your requirements. Send an email to


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