When shopping for a tilting quick hitch for your current or next machine, nothing is more discussed than which one to get; a Hydraulic Actuator tilting hitch (also known as a Motor) or Hydraulic Cylinder tilting hitch (also known as a Ram).
Traditionally speaking the industries impression of each hitch has been based on application, the Actuator style hitches are for civil, and roading and Cylinder style hitches for agriculture and forestry. However, today these beliefs are being challenged with more operators and businesses using each design across various applications. We'll discuss the strengths and features of each tilt hitch type and what to weigh up in purchasing a tilt hitch.
All Drawings based on the latest 10.0 - 14.9 tonne Ram-Tilt and Heli-Tilt quick couplers by Attach2
The most recognisable difference between a Cylinder and Actuator tilt hitch is their maximum tilt ranges. Cylinder tilt hitches are limited to a total of 90 degrees or 45 degrees each way; this comes down to their inherent design.
The Cylinder pushes the hitch base in a straight line, which has a fixed pivot point at the centre of the unit. To tilt more than 45°, the Cylinder would have to push further than the hitch base could travel from a fixed pivot point. Tilting hitch designers the world over have tried all sorts of novel solutions to getting more tilt from a Cylinder style hitch without much success due to the added complexity all of these systems had to add to achieve added motion.
In an Actuator tilt hitch, the Hydraulic Actuator is the pivot point and propelling force of the tilt motion; this enables the hitch to be tilted as far as the motor will allow or until something gets in the way. As most will know, the larger the excavator, the less tilt range available; because larger excavators need as much drive and hold torque as possible - to get the required torque and more tilt a longer Actuator would be needed. The Actuators piston is responsible for the tilt motion and power output; length = tilt capability; piston area and tooth angle = torque power.
Drive Torque: 11,347Nm
Drive Torque: 10,600Nm
Without looking at figures, its often thought that Cylinder powered hitches are more powerful than Actuators likely because, for their size, Cylinders are torquey and fast to respond to operator input. You would be surprised to learn that Actuators closely match a Cylinder in drive torque.
As discussed in the previous paragraph tilt range and tilt power are related; hence there can be different specs of motors in tilt power and range.
What's important to know in these instances is that the change lies in the piston surface area and the angle of the Helical gears.
The larger the piston surface area, the more area hydraulic fluid can push on to move the piston to produce motion with more torque.
Equally, the angle of the gearing (helical; meaning helix or spiral) has a bearing on the amount of tilt and its power. More aggressively angled (tighter spiral) teeth turn further in a given length, resulting in less piston travel to tilt, allowing a broader range in a finite length available to a tilt hitch, but this comes at the cost of power. The reverse is also true; less angle means less tilt but more power.
When it comes to Actuator design in tilt hitches it's often balancing how much torque and tilt range is needed versus adding diameter and length to the hitch as exceeding dipper width and length would affect digging performance.
Heights and Widths
When it comes to height, both hitches are very similar with negligible difference in height.
However, widths are discernibly different; Actuator tilt hitches are generally a little wider than the boom itself and no wider than the narrowest of trenching buckets. Their narrow width is what has made Actuator tilt hitches the preference of civil and roading contractors who often do trench with narrow buckets.
A Cylinder tilt hitch, on the other hand, has two Hydraulic Cylinders either side of the ears. The extra width here is noticeable and something that would prevent trenching narrower than the width of the hitch or deeper than the attachment.
In terms of durability, there is a myth that Cylinder tilting hitches are more durable than Actuators; we'd say we disagree.
Actuators and Cylinders are by no means weak, but the consensus is often that Cylinders are more durable over Actuators because they seem simpler. Both are simple in their operation; both push a piston to produce tilt on a hitch, just in different ways. They are both connected to the ears and base at similar points, in terms of outright strength both are similar. Both Cylinders and Actuators use comparable types of seals, so both are as unlikely to leak and have similar servicing requirements.
The main durability difference is in cross relief; Actuators have these built-in, unlike Cylinders which are separate from each other without a manifold. Cross relief valves stop sudden shocks and pressure spikes from damaging components inside the Actuator. The added cross relief inside a Hydraulic Actuator adds to its durability and is much more forgiving in sudden shock environments.
Cylinder tilting hitches have a lower upfront cost by around 30 - 40% than their Actuator counterparts, which is what drives their popularity as a low upfront cost hitch but at reduced tilt and increased width.
Actuator tilt hitches have proven that their extra tilt and significantly reduced width are a worthwhile investment for most earthmoving businesses, especially for multi-role contractors. Over 5-6 thousand hours, the extra cost is made up by the extra productivity gained from an Actuator powered tilt coupler.
Which hitch is best for whom? Ultimately both hitches are capable and give contractors more options to tilt attachments, and negates the need to change tilt bucket hoses. Rather than focus on purely which industry likes what hitch better, it would be best to weigh up these requirements, see the flowchart →
Why we prefer Actuator powered Tilting Quick Hitches
Given that an Actuator has similar power output, and are more versatile, we strongly believe Actuators to be the better choice for a tilting quick hitch. Some may argue for a Cylinder style hitch because of their assumed simplicity and better durability, but as demonstrated once the Actuator is understood; it's just as simple and durable, and even more versatile.
We find the main driver for Cylinder style hitches is the price, and those without the frills are an inexpensive option with a few limitations in trenching and tilt, but if you absolutely don't need the extra versatility, they could be a good option. Given though the cost of a hitch on a machine and when worked out over its lifetime, you may find that little extra was likely worth it.