SUBJECT: Pump modifications you can
make to increase the life of mechanical seals and centrifugal pump
If you learn that you have the wrong pump in your application, and
your company will not buy you the correct pump because it costs too
much, you may still have the option of modifying the pump you have to
increase its performance, and increase the life of the seal and
- Mechanical seals should run leak free until the sacrificial
faces is worn away. Over 90% of mechanical seal leak excessively
long before they wear out.
- Pump bearings should run trouble free through out their L10
life. The L10 life of a radial bearing in a Durco Mark II pump,
size 3 x 2 x 10 is 300 years.
Here are a few modifications you can make to
your centrifugal pump to extend the life of both the bearings and
Stabilize the pump shaft. Any time you
reduce shaft deflection you will increase both seal and bearing
- Reduce the L3/D4 number.
- Shorten the shaft.
- Replace the sleeved shaft with a solid shaft.
- Install an upgrade new power end with a larger diameter
- Install a support bushing in the end of the stuffing box to
support a deflecting shaft.
- Carbon or any other bearing material that is chemically
compatible with the pumpage should work.
- A 0.002 inch per inch (0.002 mm/mm) of shaft diameter is a
typical diametrical clearance between the shaft and the
Install an oversize bore stuffing box to
give the mechanical seal more room.
- Avoid tapered designs that direct solids to the lapped seal
- Make the stuffing box bore as large as possible.
- You can make an oversize stuffing box by welding a pipe to the
volute back plate after the old stuffing box has been cut
- Most pump manufacturers stock special back plates with the
oversize stuffing boxes for their popular pump designs.
Replace the stuffing box discharge
recirculation line with a suction recirculation line connected from
the bottom of the stuffing box to the suction side of the
pump, or any other low pressure point in the system. Needless
to say this will not work all the time. Here are four instances where
suction recirculation would not be a good idea:
- Flowserve pumps that adjust the semi-open impeller to the
volute back plate. In this design the stuffing box is very close
to suction pressure.
- Any time you are pumping a product close to its vapor point.
Suction recirculation usually lowers the stuffing box
- Any time the solids in the pumpage float. In other words they
have a specific gravity or density lower than the liquid they
- Double ended pump designs where the stuffing box is at suction
Go to a centerline design wet end any time
the pumpage exceeds 200°F (100°C).
- If you are using a closed impeller pump this is the best
protection for the wear rings.
- The center line design will insure better centering for the
mechanical seal, and possibly prevent the rotating face from
sliding off the stationary face.
- A centerline design will prevent some pipe strain on the
suction side of the pump.
Use a "C" or "D" frame adapter to insure the
best alignment between the pump and the motor.
- The adapter performs the same function as the bell housing on
an automobile that aligns the engine to the automatic
- The adapter eliminates the complaint that there is never
enough time to do a proper pump/driver alignment.
- The adapter equalizes the temperature between the pump and
motor casings. This is a better idea than trying to equalize
temperature through the shaft.
Install a sight glass in the bearing
- The oil level should be through the center of the bottom ball
in the bearing when the pump shaft is not turning.
Replace the bearing grease or lip
seals that damage the shaft and allow moisture o penetrate
into the bearing housing.
- Positive face seals should be your first choice, with an
expansion chamber installed in the housing vent.
- Labyrinth seals are an alternative, but they only work when
the shaft is turning. They are not very good on intermittent
- Grease or lip seals have a design life of less than 2000 hours
(84 days) and they will cut and damage the expensive shaft.
Install a better thrust bearing retention
- Above 65% of its efficiency, a centrifugal pump is thrusting
towards the volute and in many pump designs it is being retained
by a simple and inexpensive snap ring.
Check to be sure that the pump's suction
specific speed number is less than 8500 (5200 in the metric
- It is possible to change the impeller to a different shape if
you need to meet this number.
Install an impeller inducer if you do not have enough NPSH
available to prevent the pump from cavitating.
- Most high speed pumps (greater than electric motor speeds)
come equipped with this inducer feature.
Install a split mechanical seal to fix a
leaking pump. It doesn't make any sense to remove and disassemble a
pump just to fix a leak.
- In many cases insulation would have to be removed and then
- Pump disassembly means that you will have to do the alignment
- Both rotating a stationary versions of split seals are
- The seals can often be installed on shafts or sleeves that
have been damaged by packing or mechanical seals that frett
shafts. The split seals are installed between the stuffing box and
the bearing case where we seldom find any damage.
- Split seals are located closer to the bearings making them
less sensitive to radial movement of the shaft.
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