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Ball Valves vs. Needle Valves in Flow Control

Today we're talking about the difference between needle valves and ball valves. Both are intended for different uses.

Instrumentation and control systems take time to design. It’s good to know ahead of time which fittings or valves will work best for your chosen fluid, as well as, the best choice for flow management to balance your network.

Mako Products carries an extensive offering of flow control valves to give you the best regulation for your setup. The two most popular valves we offer are ball valves and needle valves, but what’s the difference between the two?

They’re both considered flow control valves but have separate ways of controlling flow that make them unique. Before you decide on the best one for you, let’s discuss their differences and the recommendations for using each one.

Main Differences in Ball Valves and Needle Valves

What’s a Ball Valve?

Simply put, a ball valve is an on-off valve. It can be used to control flow by its main characteristic, the ball, being open or closed. Ordinarily, this only requires a quarter-turn of the ball valve handle.

The ball inside isn’t a solid ball, it has a hole through the center. As a result, it permits flow when open and stops flow when closed at 90 degrees. Furthermore, a ball valve can be partially open to regulate the flow of gas/liquid.

An advantage to the ball valve is that it’s relatively easy to tell when it is open or closed. Notably, this only requires a quick visual assessment of where the handle is turned. We’ll discuss further advantages in a moment.

What's a Needle Valve?

On one hand, a needle valve can be as simplistic as the ball valve with the on-off feature. However, needle valves also have the ability to regulate flow in a variety of other settings.

These additional settings are possible because the needle valve has a needle-shaped plunger which is adjustable. Specifically, the plunger is capable of moving up and down allowing for half-open, barely open, or fully open positioning. This adjustability enables needle valves to have more precision in controlling flow than the ball valve

Recommendations, Advantages & Disadvantages for Using Each One

It’s important to note the function of each of these valves in order to choose the best option for your system. Both valves can be used in a variety of industries including petrochemicals, manufacturing, heating and cooling systems, wastewater treatment, chemical processing, and pharmaceuticals to name a few. We’ll showcase more specialized applications for each valve below.

Choose a Needle Valve

As discussed, the core difference in the two valves is the additional regulating opportunities a needle valve provides. The precise control of needle valves makes them “an ideal choice for calibration applications because they’re capable of being fine-tuned.”

When a high degree of accuracy and control are important, it’s better to stick with the needle valve. Two prime examples of areas where precise flow regulation is necessary and needle valves are the better option, are vacuum systems and metering systems. A few other regular applications include gas bleeder lines, sampling lines, fluid power systems, and automatic combustion control systems. 

This diagram depicts the narrow orifice through which needle valves allow media to pass and finite adjustments made possible by this system.


  • Flexibility, allows for adjustability
  • Precision
  • Easy to shut-off with finger-tight pressure
  • Resistant to both hot and cold temperatures
  • Able to endure constant high pressure and vibrations efficiently
  • High pressure drop when open


  • Restricted flow: Small passage flow between seat and needle – used for low flow rates
  • Hard to tell if valve is open or closed

Further information on needle valves can be found on the blog page of our website in this article, “How Does a Needle Valve Work?”.

Choose a Ball Valve

Because of their generally lower cost and robust durability, ball valves are preferred in applications where a good sealing system is required. They’re a notable industrial choice because of their reliable and air-tight sealing when in the closed position.

Common industries where ball valves are used include oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, heating and cooling, and construction.

With outstanding corrosion-resistance, stainless steel ball valves are notable for their use in petroleum refining, seawater environments, and brewing systems.

This diagram depicts the ease with which a ball valve allows full flow after only just a quarter turn from fully closed.


  • Cost-effective and reliable
  • Easy to clean, the seat wipes itself when the ball in the valve rotates and buildup is prevented
  • Require little maintenance because of the lack of internal components
  • Diverse, able to be used in a wide range of applications
  • Low pressure drop when open
  • Full port ball valves maintain full, unrestricted flow


  • Not suitable for precision flow control or permanent throttling
  • Leakage or abrasion may occur if particles from fluids collide with the surfaces and stick to them

Still curious about ball valves? Read more specific information on our line of ball valves by checking out our article “What is a Ball Valve?”.

Find the Best Fit with the Mako Products – Superlok Selection

We’ve laid out the main difference between ball valves and needle valves and have provided common applications, advantages, and disadvantages for each. When you’re ready to choose your valve we have several high-quality, affordable options for you at Mako Products!

Mako Products offers Mako threaded end needle valves and Superlok compression end and threaded needle valves, with a variety of sizes and options available. Our Mako threaded ball valve options go up to 4” with numerous options. Superlok tube end and threaded ball valves are available in trunnion, floating, flanged, swing out, and many other instrumentation valve types.

Let one of our customer care representatives get you the valve and size you need by contacting our team.


Best Type of Flow Control Valve for Your Application?

Understanding Valves

Ball Valves

Applications of Needle Valves

Types of Industrial Valves – Applications, Advantages, and Disadvantages

What is a Needle Valve and What is the Purpose of Needle Valves

A Guide to Applications for Stainless Steel Ball Valves

The Author

Ethan McNeese
Marketing Specialist
Ethan is our resident content marketer, blog author, YouTube host, and general knower of things. When he's not at his keyboard working on new web pages and videos, he's usually out in the shop wrenching on valve assemblies, developing diagrams for projects, or praying for rain.

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