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How to fix the automatic return on a log splitter

repairing the detent on a log splitter hydraulic control valve


Fixing the auto-return on a hydraulic control valve usually is just a matter of tightening The bolt inside the detent cover assembly. This tutorial apply to the Energy control valve. This valve is the most prevalent valve used in the residential log splitter industry.

The detent cover on the hydraulic valve controls the auto-return
The detent cover on the hydraulic valve controls the auto-return

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  • What does the detent on a hydraulic control valve do?
  • How to adjust the detent.
  • How to replace the detent.
  • Where to buy a replacement detent part.

What does a detent on a hydraulic valve do?

The detent on a hydraulic valve controls automatic return features. For example, on a log splitter, it allows for the auto return of the hydraulic piston. This allows you to get the next log to be split ready while the piston is returning to the start position. If the detent isn’t working correctly you will have to hold the hydraulic control lever in the return position until the cylinder gets back to the start position. This is inconvenient and can nearly double the time it takes to split wood if you’re working alone.

How to adjust the detent.

To adjust the detent you must first remove the detent cover. It is held in place by 2 hex bolts.

Detent cover with 2 hex bolts holding it in place
The 2 hex bolts hold the detent cover in place

Once the detent cover is removed you’ll be able to access the detent assembly. At the top of the assembly, you can see a slotted cylinder. This is the adjustment bolt for the detent.

In this picture, the bearing at the top center of the slotted cylinder is missing. You will see a bearing when you remove the detent cover.

When you tighten this bolt the detent will hold the control valve lever in the return position more tightly. When you loosen this bolt the detent will hold the lever in position less tightly until it won’t hold it at all.

If you control lever won’t hold into the automatic return position 9 times out of 10 you just need to snug this bolt down with a couple 1/4 turns.

Replace the detent cover and give it a try. You are more than likely all fixed up at this point.

If tightening this bolt down doesn’ fix the problem then you’ll need to replace the detent and detent cover altogether. This is also very simple.

How to replace the detent

Here is a link to find the replacement detent and current prices on Amazon. https://amzn.to/2J7TeFg

Once again, you need to remove the detent cover. Then unscrew the adjustment bolt all the way. this will remove the detent assembly from the hydraulic control valve.

Detent assembly base
Be sure to wipe away all oil and debris from the detent base before installing the new detent. DO NOT use a scraper or anything that can gouge the base. This could cause a hydraulic leak.

When the new detent arrives it will be shipped with the detent assembly already assembled and set inside the new detent cover.

Replacement detent assembly with detent cover
Detent cover assembly shipped preassembled.

The detent assembly will have to be removed from the detent cover.

CAUTION: Do this very carefully. When sliding the detent assembly out of the detent cover don’t allow the assembly to come apart. There are small bearings inside the detent assembly that are held in place by the detent sleeve

Detent assembly showing how detent sleeve can slide up
DO NOT allow the detent sleeve to slide up and out of place.

Thread the detent into the base threads of the control valve. Tighten it down all the way by hand making sure not to allow the threads to get crossed. Once in place snug down the assembly with a large slotted screwdriver.

New detent assembly installed
New detent assembly installed. Pack the top bearing with grease if it wasn’t greased by the manufacture.

Now it’s time to screw on the new detent cover and try it out.

You may need to tighten down the slotted sleeve more if it isn’t holding the control lever into the return position.

Use the comment section below if you have any questions. I respond daily to comments.

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My wife and I have lived off-grid since 2013. We moved onto a raw piece of land and began building our off-grid homestead. Almost everything we did was a DIY project. The purpose of this blog is to share what we learned along the way.

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  1. I have an Energy splitter valve on a 33 ton Troy Built log splitter that wouldn't detent properly. It didn't work properly when brand new. It was aggravating to use. I read numerous complaints about this. I've worked on hydraulic equipment for 35 years and decided to correct it. I disassembled the valve completely to inspect it. The detent system uses hydraulic pressure against spring tension. The spring for this is inside the spool opposite the end where the handle is. After I had previously run some pressure checks, I decided the spring did not have sufficient tension. I added a .050" shim under the spring, relubricated, and reassembled the valve. That was over a year ago and it has worked flawless ever since. The "shim" I found to fit perfect is the tab you break off an electrical receptacle. I save these to use for flat washers on small machine screws.

    1. Carl could you explain your shim install in more details? I have a Cub Cadet 33 ton splitter and the auto return hasn’t worked properly since new. Bought in 2018 has been back to dealer 3 times for same issue and now is out of warranty.

  2. Its very awesome article,all the content is so beneficial and valuable for us.presentation of article is very good,so I will bookmark it for sharing it with my friends.Thanks for sharing nice and pretty post.

  3. The problem I'm having is the valve does not return to the neutral position when I release the handle. It keeps progressing to splitting. I have to manually return the valve handle to the neutral position. Is this a problem with the detent assembly or possibly a dirty valve? My
    splitter is a 22 ton Speeco splitter.

    1. I just had my detent valve apart and when I put it back together the first time it would lock in the forward position and had to hold the valve handle for reverse. I took it back apart and thought I must have put the sleeve covering the ball bearings in backward. And so it was. There is definitely a trick to getting the small bearings to stay in place while putting the sleeve over it. There is a youtube video explaining how.

      1. I have the same problem. I am following these instructions but did not pay attention to what side was up on the sleeve. Is the grove closer to the top or the bottom?

  4. Good morning Sir,

    Hope you are doing well.

    Now my problem. My log splitter has been acting up the last couple times I used it. The auto return would not release. I had to wait for it to return and then tap the handle in the forward position to stop it. No big deal as with work I didn't have time to investigate the problem. Until yesterday. Now it doesn't want to return or if it does, it is extremely slow. Would a simple adjustment of the detent bolt work this out, or should I just go with a new detent assembly? Also, sometimes the ram does not return to the neutral position when I release the handle. Any input or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. I would first try an adjustment. Maybe 1.5 turns clockwise first. If I couldn’t adjust it into working I would just replace the detent.

  5. I have a 20 ton MTD splitter it worked perfectly until I replaced the pump. Now the handle doesn't pop into neutral for about 10 seconds after the ram is all the way back into the cylinder. Any ideas on why ? Thank You, Steve Brown

    1. I can’t say for sure, but I have 2 ideas. Maybe there is air trapped in the hydraulic lines and it may take a while to work it out or there is enough of a pressure difference between the old and the new pump which may require an adjustment on the detent bolt.

  6. Appreciate this article! So my problem is that I cannot get the adjustment screw to turn at all… in either direction. This is a Yard Machines 25-ton with an energy detent. Any suggestions?

    1. I can only say that I can’t think of anything that would keep it from turning except maybe it has locktite on the threads.Try turning it harder. I doubt you can break it, but if you do you’ll be left with replacing the detent.


  8. My log splitter retracts very slow. I removed the detention cover and tried to turn the adjustment bolt clockwise to increase the return speed, but it was tight and I could not move it. Please help! Thank you.

    1. The detent doesn’t really have much to do with the speed of the splitter. That is going to be a clogged hydraulic fluid filter or a worn out hydraulic motor.

  9. We had a hydraulic leak in the control assembly. Replaced all the o-rings and reassembled. With the detent cover installed, the handle will only lift about 1undefined2 way. Is there a trick to installing the detentundefinedhandle? Detent is tightly screwed into the piston. We lifted the handle so that the detent would retract (spring compress) and the cover could be attached. With the handle in the down position the detent was extended and the cover was about 1undefined4" away from the assembly. The ram had dropped all the way down from time of disassembly to reassembly.
    The splitter engages, but ram only retracts a few inches (extremely slow). Auto retract doesn't work at all.
    Are we battling air in the lines or reassembly error? We have manually lifted the ram and re assembled detent & cover.
    A lot of fluid "drained" during initial removal (1-2 quarts). We've added 1 quart, but wanted to hold off on wasting too much fluid until we get the ram moving correctly.
    37 Ton Northstar horizundefinedvert. splitter.

    1. It sounds to me that the reassembly went wrong. It’s hard to say without being there. Sorry I’m not much help on this one.

  10. Hi I bought a new control valve for my log splitter. But when I put it on the log splitter it works backwards. When I pulled the handle up the wedge goes down. And when I push it down the wedge goes up. So I turned the handle around and it works correctly except for the detent is still working backwards. So the auto return goes down instead of up. Is there a way to reverse the detent mode to where it will retract up on its own instead of down?

  11. I think I would get along well with you and your wife. Kuddos for getting off grid. I bought a cabin in NC 30 years ago and looking at solar panels so I can go totally off grid. My wood splitter won't retract and I came upon your thread here.
    I don't think I understand mechanics well enough to try and fix it so I'm gonna call my mechanic friend that can literally fix anything.
    Thanks for the info though and we'll wishes.

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