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Why Mechanical Seals Fail

April 2, 2020

Mechanical seals keep the fluid contained within pumps while the internal mechanical components move inside the stationary housing.  When mechanical seals fail, the resulting leaks can cause extensive damage to the pump and often leaves large messes that can be significant safety hazards. Besides being a crucial component to a pump running efficiently, it is also the most common culprit of pump downtime.

Knowing the cause of mechanical seal failure can help customers with preventative maintenance and ultimately with the service life of their pumps.  Here are a few of the most common reasons for mechanical seal failure:

 

Using the wrong seal

It is extremely important that the seal you are using is correct for the application.  Numerous factors like pump specifications, temperature, fluid viscosity, and chemical aspects of the fluid are all determinants in which mechanical seal is right for the job.  Even experienced engineers can sometimes miss certain aspects which result in seals that do not meet the needs of the application.  The best way to ensure you are using the correct seals is to consult with pump specialists that can take a look at the entire application and recommend seals based on all contributing factors.

 

Running the pump dry

When a pump operates without adequate liquid it is referred to as “running dry”.  During normal operation, the fluid being handled will fill the flow space inside the pump, helping to cool and lubricate the mechanical seal components in contact with each other. Without this fluid, the lack of cooling and lubrication can cause internal components to overheat and start to fail.  Seals can overheat and disintegrate in as little as 30 seconds when running the pump dry.

 

Vibration

There are a variety of factors that can lead to excessive vibration in the pump, including improper installation, misalignment and cavitation.  While mechanical seals aren’t a contributing factor to vibration, they will suffer along with other internal components when pump vibration exceeds acceptable levels.

 

Human Error

Any operation of the pump outside of its intended specifications and usage can cause damage to its components and run the risk of failure, including the mechanical seals.  Improper installation, improper start-up, and lack of maintenance can wear down seals and eventually cause them to fail.  Mishandling of seals before installation and introduction of dirt, oil, or any other abrasive material can also cause damage that gets worse as the pump runs.

 

Mechanical seals are a common pain-point in pumping applications and there are a wide variety of reasons for failure.  Choosing the correct seal, proper installation, and proper maintenance will help to ensure seals that last.  With decades of experience in the industrial pump market space, Anderson Process is uniquely positioned to help with mechanical seal selection and installation based on your application.  If your pump is experiencing issues, our in-house technicians can provide the expert, hands-on service needed to get your equipment back on-line quickly, and to keep your fluid processing operation running as efficiently as possible for as long as possible.