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Solving the Common Causes of O-ring Failure

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

O-rings are one of most well-known rubber gasket alternatives. Widely used in different commercial and industrial applications because of their sealing capabilities, just like any other device, O-rings are prone to failure.

Here are some reasons why O-rings fail, together with a few simple precautionary methods:

Extrusion and Nibbling

O-ring extrusion can be recognised when the edges of the ring show a “chewed” or “chipped” appearance. In some extrusion cases, more than 50% of the ring may be damaged or destroyed before catastrophic leaking is observed.

Nibbling causes the removal or deterioration of pieces at the low pressure side of the ring, which can lead to breakage.

Here are some solutions to this problem:

  • Decrease clearance by reducing machining tolerances
  • Replace current O-ring with a harder and a more flexible option
  • Remove gland’s sharp edges to a minimum radius of 0.002 inches
  • Ensure that you have installed the proper O-ring size

Compression Set

Probably the most common cause of O-ring failure, a compression set of O-rings means that a ring loses its “O” shape and is permanently misshaped into an oval with flat sides.

Compression set is usually caused by any of these reasons:

  • Inappropriate gland design
  • Exposure to extreme temperatures that cause the ring to harden and lose elasticity
  • Poor compression properties of the ring

Suggested solutions to fix O-ring compression set failure include:

  • Check for any friction heat build-up on seal interface and reduce the temperature
  • Switch to an O-ring with “low-set” material property

Abrasion

Abrasion is another common reason for O-rings to fail. This complication is usually found in dynamic seals that are used in reciprocating and rotary motion.

Possibly caused by an improper finish or a rough surface that the ring comes into contact with, an O-ring with an abrasive complication shows a flat area and some wear lines on its side – which could lead to the deformation of the ring.

You can help to resolve this problem by:

  • Using a surface with a proper finish
  • Selecting an O-ring material with a better abrasion resistance
  • Using an appropriate system fluid to provide enough lubrication and reduce friction and wear

It is important to understand the causes of O-ring failure and to learn how to solve each complication to maximise their sealing capacity.



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