How to Handle Common O-Ring Problems

An O-ring is a gasket with a closed circular design. These O-rings are used to prevent the passage of gases and liquids. It is among the simplest mechanical pieces made. The applications of O-rings continue to grow each day. The O-rings are available in various materials with varying properties. The efficiency of these devices depends on cautiousness in the choosing and installation process. The O-rings fail due to a combination of adverse environmental effects. 

Here are some of the common O-ring failures you will likely encounter. 

Failure with Lack of Physical Evidence

One of the hardest issues to diagnose is when the O-rings fail, but there is no visible evidence of damage. Such a problem could be due to various elements. It could be that the compression in the system is not enough or the moulding process left some parting lines. Another reason why you may not see physical damage is when there is an imbalanced volume between the seal and its gland. 

You can apply various solutions to these problems. For instance, you can ensure the compression range is ideal for your application. Also, find out the tolerance stack-up of the machine as that affects the seal cross-section. 

Oxidation and Heat Hardening

These are issues that affect both the dynamic and static seals. When there is heat hardening or oxidation, the O-ring surface looks cracked or pitted. Additionally, the high compression set appears flat. The leading cause of oxidation is excessively high temperatures. These high temperatures cause the hardening of the elastomer and cracking. 

The best way to handle oxidation is by lowering the temperature of the hydraulic unit. Using antioxidants to specify the high-temperature O-rings could also prevent oxidation.

Excessive Swelling

It is easy to notice when the O-ring swell beyond the standard size. The seal dimensions will increase both in the static and dynamic applications. The increase in the size of the seal then reduces the physical properties. This problem is common in dynamic applications as friction speeds up the failure of the seal. 

When the O-ring and the system environment are not compatible, it causes the seal to absorb the surrounding fluids. That happens until the O-ring swells to the point of malfunctioning. Choosing an O-ring that is compatible with the liquid is the best way to prevent the swelling. 


Choosing the right O-ring and following the correct installation process is the only way to get an efficient system. If you are unsure about how to achieve that, then you should get help from the experts. Professionals will help you choose the ideal O-ring for your application and system.