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Maximizing Your O-Ring Seal Performance: Tips to Prevent Failure

Are you looking for ways to improve an o-ring seal’s performance? We’ll give your team some tips on how to improve your O-ring seals so that your industrial equipment runs smoothly and efficiently. 

Understanding the Basics of O-Ring Seals

An O-ring seal is achieved through compression of the O-ring, which forces it to expand and fill the space between the surfaces it is sealing. O-rings are designed to handle a variety of pressures and temperatures, ranging from -60°C to +250°C and up to 15,000 psi. O-ring seals come in various sizes, shapes, and materials, depending on the application.

Even with the best design, an O-ring seal can fail if it is not installed or used correctly. To ensure optimal performance,  you must understand the factors affecting O-ring seal performance and how to maximize it.

Factors That Affect O-Ring Performance and How to Prevent Failures

O-ring seals ensure the efficient functioning of your equipment. O-ring seals serve as a barrier to prevent the leakage of fluids or gases from machinery components. However, several factors can affect their performance, leading to inefficiencies that can impact equipment productivity and even equipment failure.

See the common O-ring failures we see and how to prevent them.


O-ring over-compression comes from too much force applied to the seal. The surface will develop circumferential splits and distortions when compressed. If it becomes completely flattened, it’s likely to fail. Other circumstances can cause a flattened O-ring, but over-compression is the most likely cause.

Prevent over-compression by:

  • Confirming a durable seal
  • Choosing material properties compatible with your use case
  • Understanding if the O-ring seal meets compression criteria


Undercompression can result in poor sealing, leading to leaks and failure of the O-ring seal. Undercompression occurs when the O-ring seal does not receive enough pressure, causing it to not seal correctly. 

Prevent under-compression with the same methods of over-compression.

Chemical Degradation

O-rings that show signs of discoloration, blisters, or cracks before a seal failure have most likely been degraded by chemicals. You’ll also see The seal’s physical properties may also degrade. 

Prevent chemical degradation by:

  • Making sure the O-ring is compatible with your environment
  • Utilizing a chemical-resistant elastomer
  • Coating the O-ring for extra protection


If you see material on the O-ring’s surface cross-section, it indicates some type of contamination. This sign is a corollary to chemical degradation in that the contamination could come from a chemical. 

Use the correct seal material or employ an O-ring coating to correct any failure due to contamination.


The signs of O-ring abrasion are apparent. You’ll see scrapes or loose particulates on the surface of the seal. 

Reduce, fix, or prevent abrasion in O-ring seals by:

  • Lubicrating the seal internally
  • Removing abrasive materials from the production environment
  • Using gland surface finish recommended by the manufacturer
  • Coating the O-ring to reduce abrasion until much later in the O-ring’s lifespan


You’ll see an O-ring’s edges become ragged or tattered on the low-pressure side with an extrusion failure. 

Fix extrusion failures by:

  • Minimizing clearances
  • Minimizing pressure
  • Using elastomers with a greater modulus
  • Utilizing standby O-rings made from polymers

Heat Degradation

Your team will see radial cracks, a shiny surface, or a soft surface if the O-ring material is incompatible with your thermal requirements.  

Fix this issue by:

  • Assessing whether you can cool the surface of the seal
  • Selecting an elastomer with sufficient thermal stability
  • Improving your O-ring with the suitable coating

Improper Installation

If someone improperly installs an O-ring, you might find cuts, gashes, or nicks on the seal. 

Double-check the O-ring installation by:

  • Certifying the correct modulus
  • Cleaning residual material off of surfaces and components
  • Ensuring the seal has proper gland design
  • Making sure the O-ring fits
  • Removing any sharp edges
  • Using the correct elastomer

Other Problems With O-Ring Seals

You may see these less-common problems with an O-ring seal. 

  • Eroded gland edges
  • Excessive clearances
  • Low modulus
  • Wrongly sized O-ring
  • Too much elasticity
  • High pressures

We can’t stress this enough: You must invest in O-rings with the correct material and physical properties for your environment. Then, they must be installed properly.

One thing that will help you prevent failures in your O-rings is a surface treatment.

O-Ring Surface Treatments by EZ Coating

Our O-ring coatings outperform PTFE in several important factors, such as the coefficient of friction and abrasion resistance, for your industrial equipment.

Contact us for more information or if you need a test sample. We’ll respond within 24 hours and then discuss your requirements.