Garbage trucks and other refuse equipment are critical to the sanitation and health of our cities and towns. Built to heavy-duty and high-quality standards, we rely on this equipment to keep our communities and streets clean.

When it comes to hydraulics on refuse equipment, it’s all about power and reliability. Hydraulic power is one of the best ways to economically apply force (i.e. lifting and packing) in industrial applications, including all types of refuse equipment.

Rear Loader Refuse Truck – Typical Hydraulic Cylinder Locations

Refuse truck rear loader hydraulics

Image Source: Eagle Hydraulics

Hydraulics provide maximum productivity for refuse trucks, not only regarding cycle time, but the quantity and compaction rate of the garbage itself. Compaction rate refers to the density of trash per cubic yard of capacity after the material is compacted. Compaction rate is a measurement of mass per volume of space, rather than a time component. It is dictated by a combination of body strength, hydraulic cylinder force and the surface area of the compactor. A higher compaction rate provides more compacted material per cubic yard, improving collection productivity.

Each refuse packer body is somewhat unique with pumps, valves, controls, filters, and cylinders designed specifically for a given application. On refuse vehicles, the hydraulic pump is often powered through a PTO or directly from the driveshaft (e.g. a front-mount hydraulic pump).

Depending on the refuse equipment design, the hydraulic fluid is conveyed between the various components through rigid pipe or steel-reinforced flexible hydraulic hose.

Most hydraulic oil reservoirs have in-tank filters. The wear of hydraulic system components is dependent on this contamination, and the existence of metal parts in hydraulic system oil (iron and copper are particularly powerful catalysts) accelerates its degradation. A hydraulic filter helps to remove these particles and clean the oil on a continuous basis. The performance for every hydraulic filter is measured by its contamination removal efficiency, i.e. high dirt-holding capacities.

Wastebuilt can supply every component for the packer body hydraulic system including Eaton Aeroquip hydraulic hoses and fittings, as well as hydraulic cylinders.

Front Loader Refuse Truck – Typical Hydraulic Cylinder Locations

Refuse truck front loader hydraulics

Image Source: Eagle Hydraulics

Side Loader Refuse Truck – Typical Hydraulic Cylinder Locations

Refuse truck side loader hydraulics

Image Source: Eagle Hydraulics

Basic Types of Cylinder Action: Single or Double

There are two basic types of cylinders: single-acting and double-acting cylinders

Single-Acting Cylinders

  • Extends by pressure from a pump and retracts by the weight of the load or a built-in spring
  • Simple, economical design

Single acting hydraulic cylinder illustration

Double-Acting Cylinders

  • Uses hydraulic power to both extend and retract the rod
  • Provides more control and potentially shorter cycle times

Double acting hydraulic cylinder illustration

Basic Types of Cylinders: Single-Stage or Telescopic

In many cases, the equipment design envelope doesn’t allow for a simple (i.e. single stage) cylinder and a telescopic or multi-stage cylinder is required due to space constraints.

The length of a hydraulic cylinder = Stroke + thickness of the piston + thickness of bottom and head + length of the connections

If a shorter overall length is needed, the piston rod is also used as a piston barrel and a second piston rod is used

  • Telescopic cylinders are multi-stage units of two, three, four, five or more stages
  • In general, telescopic cylinders are much more expensive than simple single-stage cylinders

Outside of the refuse industry, most telescopic cylinders are single acting (push); within the refuse industry, most telescopic cylinders are double-acting cylinders.

Cylinder Failure Modes

Hydraulic cylinder failures usually manifests in one of three ways: 1) oil leakage; 2) failure to extend under load; 3) structural failure

Oil Leakage

Oil leaks are the most common cause of cylinder failure. Usually related to rod damage which in turn damages the seals; rod damage is often a result of objects falling on an extended rod, debris being dragged back through the seal upon retraction, or oil contaminants scoring the rod.

  • Oil leaks can range from minor “dampness” around the gland to significant oil loss
  • Beyond the economic cost of oil loss, oil spills have the potential to create more cost due to an environmental incident and cleanup

Failure to Extend

Cylinders may fail to extend when under load when oil bypasses inside the cylinder barrel after the piston seals fail

Structural Failure

Structural failure is the rarest type of failure

  • Most hydraulic cylinders are engineered for the specific application
  • Structural failure of the rod or barrel is usually related to severe over-loading beyond the original design specification
  • Excessive sideloading can also cause deformation and cylinder failure

Hydraulic Cylinder Design Variations

The piston rod is the most vulnerable hydraulic system component. If the rod becomes damaged, leakage and failure follow shortly thereafter. Most cylinder suppliers offer a range of designs based on customer preference – Wastebuilt mirrors the OEM selections.

Rod Material

Hardened steel rods are standard; most rods are hard-chromed. An alternative is black nitride or nitrocarburizing which involves converting the surface of the rod with iron nitride which provides:

  • Superior corrosion and wear resistance
  • Better oil retention (longer seal life)
  • Dent resistance
  • No pitting, flaking or micro-cracking

The combination of a nitrocarburized rod and steel scraper considerably extends the life of the cylinder, but also adds materially to the cylinder’s cost.


  • Seals and O-rings are used to prevent oil passage around the gland and piston
  • Many manufacturers use different materials depending upon expected operating conditions (e.g. temperature)
  • Often supplied in kits to repair minor seeps and leaks


  • Do not confuse wipers (which clean dirt and debris from the rod as it retracts) with scrapers
  • Cylinders with chromed rods utilize non-metallic wipers
  • Scrapers are typically manufactured from steel
    • Scrapers function to remove things like burrs, glue, and tape from the cylinder rod to avoid damaging seals upon retraction
    • Can be spring-loaded stainless steel or tool steel under high compression
  • The combination of a nitrocarburized rod and steel scraper considerably extends the life of the cylinder, but also adds materially to the cost.

Cylinder Engineering & Sourcing

Wastebuilt’s cylinder suppliers include many of the same suppliers used by the OEM’s. Like the refuse body OEM’s, we do not sole-source from any one supplier and have several suppliers for each item to ensure the integrity of supply to our customers.

Wastebuilt Engineering and Sourcing Process

  • Obtain competitive samples of cylinders
  • Wastebuilt internal and supplier engineering evaluation to define the functional spec, materials, and tolerances (see Specification section below)
  • Key design parameters to meet or exceed OEM part performance
    • Expected annual duty cycles
    • 2-to-1 yield safety factor
    • ASTM B117 salt spray test
    • Result in detailed, Wastebuilt-proprietary drawings
  • Source from a stable of qualified suppliers, many of which also supply various OEMs
  • Every cylinder is hydrostatically tested prior to shipment from our supplier factory for end-of-stroke bypass testing


Detailed specifications are a must and include at least the following areas:

Dimensions & materials, Stage diameter(s), Stroke, Extended and retracted area, Closed and extended dimensions, Base and rod end dimension and porting, piston and seal design, Plating design (chrome or nitrocarburizing), Bearing design, Min/max flow, Extend and retract force, Cushion design (if applicable)
Tube material specs and Rod material specs


  • Case hardness and depth
  • Chrome thickness

World-Class Suppliers

Wastebuilt works with the world’s leading suppliers (ISO 9001 Certified) to ensure we offer high-quality cylinders to meet the needs of our customers.

  • United Hydraulics: Euless, Texas – an OEM supplier for many companies including Heil, Marathon and Bayne
  • Custom Hoist: Hayesville, Ohio – an OEM supplier for many companies including Heil, McNeilus and Galbreath
  • HYCO Alabama: Arab, Alabama – an OEM supplier for many companies including Heil, McNeilus and EZ-Pack
  • Eagle Hydraulics: Mirabel, Quebec – an OEM supplier for many companies including Labrie, Pioneer and Galbreath

Cylinder Warranty

  • Cylinders are typically serialized items which helps enable warranty tracking
  • Most body manufacturers offer a one-year warranty for cylinders on new trucks
  • Most manufacturers ONLY provide a 90-day warranty for replacement cylinders
  • More expensive cylinders (especially those with nitrocarburized rods) typically have a longer warranty

Wastebuilt Cylinder Warranty

  • Wastebuilt provides a two-year limited warranty for all new hydraulic cylinders and a three-year limited warranty on cylinders with nitrocarburized rods.
  • Wastebuilt’s ERP system includes serial number tracking to ensure proper warranty application; all invoices include specific item serial numbers.
  • The warranty start date is the ship date from Wastebuilt, or on Wastebuilt’s behalf, to the original buyer.
  • The warranty process includes the return of cylinders to Wastebuilt for manufacturer inspection.
  • Wastebuilt’s complete warranty statement is available upon request.

Repair, Rebuild or Replace? That is the question!

If cylinder performance has deteriorated or leakage is evident, action is needed. The question is whether the cylinder can be repaired or if it should simply be replaced.

Initial inspection

Fluid beneath the gland or dampness on the rod indicates worn rod gland seals:

  • Is the wear normal? Is it due to contamination?
  • Are the mounts misaligned causing excessive side-loading?
  • Is the rod pitted, bent or scored? If so, much more extensive work is required; replacement may be more cost effective.

In the past 5-10 years, cylinder rebuilding has become less common as the cost for new cylinders with longer warranties have become much more competitive when compared to rebuilding.

WARNING — Often what is claimed as a cylinder rebuild is just the replacement of a seal kit; this practice, as much as anything else, may have contributed to the decline in the number of cylinder rebuilds.

Why Choose Wastebuilt for Replacement Cylinders?

  1. Wastebuilt has you covered – we are a true one-stop-shop – we can supply every cylinder for every refuse application.
  2. Wastebuilt provides the same or better quality as the OEMs, faster delivery, and at a lower cost.
  3. Wastebuilt cylinders are sourced direct from the same suppliers as the OEMs, but Wastebuilt has one less level of mark-up than most OEMs who must deliver through a chain of distributors.
  4. All Wastebuilt cylinders are brand new and carry a minimum 2-year (and up to 3-year) warranty; we do not sell rebuilt cylinders because the cost of a rebuilt cylinder is often more than 50% of the cost of a new cylinder despite used components and the lack of a warranty.
  5. Wastebuilt has 11 U.S. locations and offers local delivery (same day) in 11 major metropolitan areas.
  6. We can supply cylinders and other hydraulic products via 1-2 days shipping to most U.S. based customers.
  7. Why choose Wastebuilt? In three words: Quality, Service, and Cost.

Type of Refuse Cylinders from Wastebuilt

Wastebuilt offers a wide variety of hydraulic cylinders for most refuse equipment and applications as listed below:

Adjustable Fork Cylinder, Arm Cylinder, Arm Lift Cylinder, Arm Reach Cylinder, Arm Swivel Cylinder, Blade Cylinder, Blade Slide Cylinder, Body Raise Cylinder, Bottom Compactor Cylinder, Cart Dump Cylinder, Carriage Cylinder, Compactor Cylinder, Container Arm Lift Cylinder, Container Cylinder, Container Dump Cylinder, Container Fork Cylinder, Container, Grabber Cylinder, Container Tilt Cylinder, Dump Hoist Cylinder, Dumper Cylinder, Dumping Door Cylinder, Ejector Cylinder, Fork Cylinder, Grabber Cylinder, Grip Cylinder, Hoist Cylinder, Holding Panel Cylinder, Hopper Cover Cylinder, Inner Door Swing Cylinder,Inside Blade Cylinder, Inside Packer Cylinder, Lift Cylinder, Lift Arm Cylinder, Lift Tip Dump Cylinder, Link Cylinder, Loading Arm Cylinder, Operating Blade Cylinder, Operating Packer Cylinder, Operating Sweep Cylinder, Outside Packer Cylinder, Outside Blade Cylinder, Overhead Container Cylinder, Packer Cylinder, Packer Blade Cylinder, Panel Cylinder, Partition Door Swing Cylinder, Partition Positioning Cylinder, Push Out Cylinder, Reach Cylinder, Reeving Cylinder, Roll Bar Cylinder, Self Levelling Cylinder, Service Body Lift Cylinder, Slide Cylinder, Slide Shift Cylinder, Sweep Cylinder, Tailgate Raise Cylinder, Tailgate Latch Cylinder, Through Bucket Lift Cylinder, Tilt Cylinder, Top Compactor Cylinder, Top Door Cylinder, Winch Cylinder and others.

Cylinders for ALL Brands of Equipment

Wastebuilt offers a wide variety of hydraulic cylinders for most refuse bodies including EZ Pack, G&H, Galbreath, Galfab, Heil, Kann, Labrie, Leach, Loadmaster, McNeilus, New-Way, Pak-Mor, Pioneer, Wayne, Wittke and others.

To learn more about Wastebuilt hydraulic cylinders, availability and pricing, contact Wastebuilt at 855-927-8328 or online via our Refuse Body Parts page.