Regardless of whether they transfer gases, fluids, or other materials, piping systems require rubber expansion joints to operate properly. In the event of failure, these joints can cause the entire piping system to get compromised and expose the surrounding area to hazardous materials. As such, it is imperative that operators know how to tell when rubber expansion joints have gone through enough wear and tear and are due for a replacement to maintain high-level safety and prevent costly failures. Below, we list the four telltale signs when it is time to proceed with the replacement.
Ways to tell if a rubber expansion joint needs to be replaced
If rubber expansion joints begin to exhibit any of the following signs of damage, they must be replaced immediately;
1. Rubber deterioration
Rubber expansion joints in good condition will feel firm and smooth to the touch. Therefore, if they feel brittle, stiff, or gummy, a replacement unit should be installed as quickly as possible. Ageing and chemical exposure are two common causes of this deterioration. Suppose a piping system mainly handles chemical materials. In that case, it is vital to conduct more frequent checks on the rubber expansion joints to monitor for signs of deterioration and address them sooner than later.
Cracking happens due to several causes, such as compression, excessive extension, and lateral or angular movements. This damage generally occurs in arches, which can take the form of flattening or cracks appearing at its base. The rubber expansion joint is still considered safe if the cracking only affects the outer layer and no fabric is exposed. Otherwise, if the fabric is clearly showing, a replacement joint is required immediately.
3. Metal reinforcement is visible
Most rubber expansion joints have solid steel rings or wires embedded in their sleeves to increase durability. A replacement unit is necessary should any of these metal parts begin to project through the rubber sleeve. If the rubber expansion joints come with external metal reinforcement, it is vital to examine them frequently for signs of wear or fatigue. Similarly, replacement rubber expansion joints will be necessary at the first sign of damage or sufficient wear to these metal elements.
If there is leakage from anywhere in the rubber expansion joint, save for where the flanges connect, a replacement should be installed immediately. It is inadvisable to patch these cracks or holes since doing so is not a long-term fix. However, if the leaks come from where the flanges meet, turn off the pressure first and tighten all the bolts. This can fix the problem in most cases without needing a new replacement.
Rubber expansion joints mainly find use in piping systems that are still susceptible to damage and failure despite the long service life of some solutions. As such, it is important to look for the signs mentioned above of deterioration to enable timely preventative measures and avoid costly downtimes.
For different types of high-quality expansion joints, look no further than Pharmchem Engineering! With our decades of experience as an established expansion joint supplier, you can rely on our quality products which include rubber, stainless steel, and fabric expansion joints, to deliver the performance you expect. To learn more details about our expansion joints and other custom products, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.