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Viton® You Crazy Diamond: Detecting Leaks in the World’s Best Gaskets

From the bottom of the ocean to the outer limits of our solar system and everywhere in between, gaskets make it possible to produce, build, develop, and transport every aspect of our modern world. In fact, chances are you have already used a wide variety of gaskets several times since you woke up this morning.

Gaskets can be found in your bathroom, in your kitchen, in your car, and in many other places that you may not have ever considered. Since gaskets are used for creating seals, they are typically found in spaces that are, you guessed it, sealed off from view. As such, we often don’t really think about gaskets and the important functions that they serve.

But the truth is that they serve some very important functions, improving the safety and functionality of many common and not-so-common objects. For example, have you ever tried to make a quick pot of joe in a coffee percolator without replacing the gasket between the top and the bottom of the coffee pot? If the answer is yes, then you are probably still finding coffee grounds in some of the most unlikely places around your kitchen years later. And you may have even sustained some second-degree burns when you found your percolator spraying boiling bean water several yards in every direction.

This is purely hypothetical, of course, and we are certainly not speaking from experience. But this example does highlight the importance of gaskets in simple, everyday activities. Now imagine some of the more critical responsibilities of gaskets, such as sealing connections within propulsion systems inside a space vehicle.

The ramifications of a gasket malfunction in this kind of situation could be catastrophic, and this is exactly what happened in 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart in mid-air as the entire nation watched. Gaskets are extremely crucial components in the systems where they are employed, and it’s of the utmost importance that they are made from the right materials and thoroughly tested under specific conditions.

Luckily, there are many different kinds of gaskets for just about every purpose imaginable. Scientists and engineers have developed some extremely tough gaskets that can withstand extreme temperatures, even more extreme pressures, and some very aggressive chemicals that can eat right through most materials.

One such gasket is the Viton® gasket, which is well-known for its ability to stand up to all three of the elements mentioned above. The Viton® gasket can be shaped and formed for almost any purpose, providing a tight, almost impenetrable seal in some of the harshest environments you can think of.

But even the best gaskets can fail over time, which is why it is important to test and replace them periodically. The good news is that there are tons of ways to test gaskets, ranging from a good old-fashioned eyeballin’ to advanced ultrasonic tests.

In this article, we will be talking about some of the creative and effective methods that mechanics and engineers employ to test a Viton® gasket, find leaks, and prevent gasket failures.

How to Test a Viton® Gasket

For our list, we’ll start with the simplest and most straightforward means of testing a Viton® gasket, then work our way up to some more sophisticated testing procedures that require specialized materials and tools.

Visual Inspection

This type of Viton® gasket testing requires a trained eye, and it should only be performed by those who have adequate experience and knowledge. When performing a visual inspection of a Viton® gasket, engineers and maintenance personnel will check the gasket for cracks, tears, gaps, and misplacement.

In order to do this accurately, the person performing the inspection needs to have a precursory knowledge of what the Viton® gasket should look like when it is in perfect condition, allowing them to recognize imperfections. Additionally, they should also have a good idea of how the fitting should look when properly sealed.

Some telltale signs of a faulty gasket include visible moisture on the outside of the fitting, hissing noises from gas that is escaping, and odors from gasses that are scented to make them more easily detectable. It is important to keep in mind when performing a visual inspection of a Viton® gasket that just because the seal is good right now, that doesn’t mean that the gasket is still in good working condition. Gaskets will usually show some signs of wear when they are nearing the end of their useful lifespan.

Bubble Testing

Another quick and easy way to detect a Viton® gasket leak involves applying a viscous substance to a fitting to check for bubbles. For this type of testing, mechanics will often use something like oil or glycerin since these substances are thick enough to stay on the fitting where the Viton® gasket is placed without dripping off or evaporating right away.

After the substance is applied to the union, the mechanic will check for bubbles to form around the joint. However, keep in mind that this type of testing only works with gas lines. If gas is escaping from the union, it will cause the oil to bubble up as it passes through the layer of liquid.

There are a number of other substances that can be used for this type of Viton® gasket test, such as soapy water, dyes, and special leak-detection fluids. But the substance you use will mostly depend on the environment and what you have on hand.

Dye Penetrant Testing

Dye penetrant testing is a pretty straightforward inspection method, but it does require the use of some specialized materials. To perform this kind of Viton® gasket testing, mechanics will apply a special dye to a surface after thoroughly cleaning it to remove dirt and oil. The dye used for these tests needs to have high capillary capabilities, meaning that it will easily seep into openings within the gasket, tube, or pipe.

The dye is then allowed to sit for a specified amount of time to ensure that it is able to thoroughly penetrate any areas that are compromised. Once the dye is ready to be inspected, the entire surface will be cleaned with a developing agent that removes excess dye and helps bring penetrated dye to the surface.

At this point, the Viton® gasket and the rest of the surface can be inspected under adequate lighting to pinpoint any areas that the dye has penetrated. If you are using a fluorescent dye, this step of the inspection process will need to be performed using UV lighting.

Pressure Testing

There are a couple of different ways to go about this type of testing, but both work on the same basic principles. In some cases, the system will be pressurized by filling it with gas or liquid. By monitoring gauges for significant decreases in pressure, engineers can determine when leaks are present, but they may need to do some further testing to find out where the leak is.

On the other hand, engineers can pull a vacuum within the system and then check for increases in pressure. If the system is tight, air will be unable to enter the system when the vacuum is pulled.

Fluorescent Tracers

This is another type of testing that involves the use of UV lights (techno music is optional). However, rather than applying fluorescent dye to the surface, the dye is added to fluids within in the system. As the fluids are allowed to run their natural course through the system, engineers can use UV lights to detect leaks from a Viton® gasket or elsewhere.

Inert Gas Testing

This type of testing involves filling the system with inert gas (most commonly helium) to determine whether there is a leak in the Viton® gasket. By using an inert gas (a gas that is not reactive or flammable), engineers can safely detect leaks within the system using a “helium sniffer.”

Although helium is present in the atmosphere, it exists in such small quantities that these “sniffer” tools can easily detect concentrations of helium without returning a false positive.

Electronic Sensor Testing

If you are thinking that this type of Viton® gasket testing involves electronic sensors, then you get a gold star. Electronic sensors can be used to continuously monitor pressurized systems to detect leaks and other potential liabilities in real time. The data gathered by these sensors might include pressure changes, temperature changes, or variations in gas composition.

Ultrasonic Testing

Now we are getting into some of the more advanced methods of testing. Ultrasonic testing requires a special tool known as a transducer, as well as a computer interface that is capable of receiving and interpreting the information that the transducer collects.

First, the transducer generates ultrasonic waves that will travel through the material that is being tested. As these waves pass through the material, they reflect information back to the transducer, which is then deciphered by the computer.

When the waves encounter a change in the material, they will reflect “echoes” back to the transducer, which will let the computer know what kind of variations the waves have encountered. This equipment is capable of accurately detecting a wide range of variations, such as cracks, voids, thickness changes, and more.

Thermal Imaging

If you’re picturing Navy Seals in night-vision goggles, you’re actually not too far off. Thermal imaging cameras can be used to detect leaks within a system by picking up confined temperature changes on the system’s surface.

For example, most gasses will become hot when pressurized, but they cool extremely quickly as they depressurize. If your thermal imaging camera is picking up a cool area on or near a warm gas line, chances are that’s your leak.

Acoustic Emission Testing

Similar to ultrasonic testing, acoustic emission testing also produces useful data by monitoring vibrations within the material. However, this is usually an ongoing process that is performed consistently within systems that regularly undergo high internal pressure or strong external forces.

One place where you are likely to find acoustic emission testing is on an underwater gas line since this type of system experiences both internal and external stresses. As pressure and other forces are applied to the system, changes in the system’s construction will begin to occur, such as cracking and delamination. When sound waves pass through these irregularities, the system will produce what is known as “stress waves.”

Sensors will be placed at regular intervals and strategic locations along the system to monitor the structural integrity of the system. These sensors gather data in the form of acoustic anomalies and relay the information to a central computer for further analysis. This data gives engineers the ability to monitor structural deformations so they can repair or replace gaskets and other components as necessary.

Gorilla Gasket

Here at Gorilla Gasket, we produce a wide range of standard and non-standard gaskets, seals, o-rings, and the like. Although no gasket is too small for us, we work with customers in some pretty big industries. These include gas, oil, refining, mining, energy, manufacturing, and the list goes on.

Also, if you need a specialized gasket that is produced nowhere and by no one, we can make it for you. We have an extensive database of premade Viton® gasket designs that our expert engineers can reshape and tailor-make to fit just about any seal you can think of. In fact, our engineers are so good, they can usually get your gasket designed, cut, and shipped all in the same day. So if you need some outlandish, crazy gasket fast, then you need Gorilla Gasket.

In addition to Viton® FKM, we also work with a bunch of other materials, like Neoprene, red rubber, Teflon™ PTFE, expanded PTFE, non-asbestos materials, and a variety of different sheet materials. The bottom line is… we know gaskets and how to make them.

If there’s anything you want to know about gaskets, gasket materials, or gorillas, then give us a call! Our experienced staff has the knowledge and insights to answer all of your gasket-related questions, and our goal is to be your one-stop gasket shop. Click here to take a look at our standard gaskets, or reach out to get a quote for your customized order!