January 2015

Three Ways to Make Gaskets Last Longer

Replacing gaskets is often costly. Unplanned downtime and maintenance hours dwarf the actual price of the gasket or seal, so you need it to last as long as possible. Gasket life depends very much on service conditions but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of premature failure.

1. Match the gasket material to the job.

Start by considering “TAMP.” This memory-jogging acronym stands for temperature, application, media and pressure. Specific factors to consider are: temperature of media (which should include any cleaning processes,) and the external temperature range, internal pressure, and the nature of the media itself, particularly whether it’s corrosive.

Look at the gap being sealed. Is it uneven? How often will the joint be opened? An enclosure gasket for an indoor electrical cabinet sees very different usage and conditions to what boiler seals endure.

Then select the gasket material. Conformable elastomers like NBR are a popular choice but are limited in temperature and pressure capability. EPDM and neoprene are often used for food grade gaskets as they clean easily. PTFE holds up well to corrosive media, graphite is soft and handles high temperatures.

2. Store gaskets correctly

Avoid exposure to sunlight as UV accelerates aging. Temperature extremes will do the same, so keep them away from heat sources and in winter protect them from freezing. Humidity can damage some materials too.

Don’t hang gaskets because they’ll stretch. Don’t place loads on them as the material may take a compression set. Rubber ages, so if possible, use date codes and discard after four years.

3. Use best-practice installation techniques

Clean surfaces thoroughly, then inspect for damage, especially any scoring that creates a potential leak path. Clean and lubricate bolt threads and heads to avoid making torque appear higher than what the joint actually sees. Seat the gasket carefully, then bring the joint together and follow best-practice methods for tightening.

Premature gasket failure often forces unplanned downtime, disrupting schedules and hitting capacity. Careful attention to gasket material selection, storage and installation reduces the likelihood of premature failure and all the costs that go with that.