The Gasket Lifeline: To Reuse or Not to Reuse?08 December 2016
Gaskets are among the hardiest of products, so why not reuse an old one if it’s doing nothing else? It’s a tempting proposition, especially since these seals are fabricated from indefatigable materials. But doesn’t it make more sense to spend a few dollars on a replacement? The answer to that important question isn’t quite as clear-cut as you’d suppose, and here’s why.
The Usability Factor
If a previously used gasket still appears functional, the product could very well be pressed back into service. The material on this hypothetical seal is dimensionally unaltered and physically undamaged, so why shouldn’t it be inserted between two new mating surfaces? If it’s still compressible and still retains its original thickness, then reuse is possible but not certain.
The Uncertainty Principle
Reliability ranks just as highly as usability as a determining factor, but there’s no real way of assuring this condition. The component looks as structurally viable as ever. It compresses and seats flawlessly, but looks can be deceiving. High temperatures may have adversely influenced the material, weakened the fabric until it no longer satisfies its original product specs. On the other hand, if the previous joint didn’t experience intense thermal spikes or encounter chemically reactive substances, then there’s every chance it will work according to its original design specifications. In the end, we’re looking at a judgment call.
Apply a Differential Approach
Resolve the matter by playing devil’s advocate for the day. In taking on both sides of this debate, you compare the benefits associated with both options. In the reuse corner, this economical solution is advocated when the product isn’t damaged or structurally altered. There’s no way to ensure structural viability, but a look at the original application does tilt the case in favour of reuse if high temperatures and caustic chemicals weren’t part of the processing setup. If the gasket is suspect, then replace it. Suspect products are those that have been used in abrasive environments, or they’re obviously damaged, swollen, or material-fatigued.
This is a subjective topic, but a healthy pinch of objectivity is helpful. Yes, reuse the gasket if it’s structurally intact, but also address the application domain question. Next, replace the part if fluid saturation problems are obvious. Then, as far as final recommendations go, gauge the quality of the seal while keeping a rein on subjective thinking. Act objectively, and make the final choice based on collected application data, an impartial evaluation that inspects every aspect of the potentially reusable gasket.
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