How O-Rings Can Make or Break Your Operations
There’s nothing worse than having to shut down operations due to something completely preventable. While accidents happen or unexpected failures can occur, issues that arise from poor or improper maintenance are wholly preventable. Even worse is when those issues happen from something with a negligible cost, like replacing O-rings.
Seriously. At WET, we know how important O-rings are and the critical role they play in practically any system that involves fluids. And in a pressure washer, there’s no shortage of liquids that need to be properly managed. Whether it’s fuel passing to the engine, detergents being drawn from a container, or the water being forced through a hose and nozzle, O-rings play an important part at each of these steps in the process.
If you’re experiencing spraying, leaking or low pressure from your washer, you could have a failing O-ring. If you’re having problems with water intake, it could be a bad O-ring. Worst of all, if dirt and gunk are accumulating on an O-ring, it could be causing your pressure washer to function at a less-than-optimal level or even allow some of this dirt to get inside the pressure pump where it can lead to internal damage. All of a sudden, a 10-cent part leads to major costs – lost work time, repair bills and possibly rental fees to get replacement equipment to stay on task.
The Most Infamous O-Ring Failure
While O-rings can fail from overuse, they can also fail as the result of environmental factors like use in low temperatures. This was the case in perhaps the most infamous O-ring failure – the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger.
In January 1986, Florida experienced one of the coldest nights it had ever seen, dropping to temperatures 20 degrees colder than the previous coldest-weather launch performed by NASA, as Space.com reports. In these brisk conditions, the rubber O-rings that separated fuel compartments in the solid-rocket boosters became stiff and brittle. As a result, they lost the elasticity and expansive properties that would normally allow them to fully seal the joints between chambers.
As the shuttle ascended, an exhaust plume was able to leak out of the booster, heating the exterior of the fuel tank until it ultimately weakened and ruptured. The booster partially separated from the overall launch assembly and burned the venting fuel, resulting in a cataclysmic fireball and sheer aerodynamic forces that caused the shuttle to veer dramatically off course, resulting in a complete and utter disaster. This dramatic failure of an O-ring led to the ultimate loss of the Challenger, the death of the seven astronauts aboard, and the grounding of the spaceflight program for almost three years.
Prevention Bests Reaction
A failed O-ring on terra firma may not be as explosive, but it could still lead to serious injuries. A leaky hose could spray scalding hot water or caustic chemicals, leading to injury. A dirty O-ring connection on a pump could allow dirt or air to seep in, causing mini explosions inside that degrade and destroy the engine. But replacing an O-ring takes just a few minutes at the cost of your change from lunch.
Make checking and replacing O-rings a part of your regular maintenance routine. Keeping this important connection in good shape will help with the overall performance of your pressure washer and keep you CLEAN – working efficiently, effectively and safely each and every time you wash.
Take the CLEAN Challenge
Need help keeping up on your maintenance? Want a comprehensive review of your operations? Let the team at WET help. Take the CLEAN Challenge and invite one of our techs to your site to review your equipment and operations and put together a CLEAN Accountability Plan that helps ensure you’re always working at peak performance. Call us today to get started.