Why It's Key to Maintain the Check Valves in Compressors - Samco

Why It’s Key to Maintain the Check Valves in Compressors

Check valves are present in nearly every industrial equipment as non-return or one-way structures. These simple structures are primarily designed to perform a very simple function: to efficiently prevent reverse flows, which in turn prevents severe damage while ensuring smooth operations.

Different types of check valves exist for specific applications. Some of the standard check valves used today include:

  • Ball check valve
  • Tilting Disc check valve
  • Lift check valve
  • Top-hinged check valve
  • Swing check valve
  • Spring-loaded check valve
  • Stop check valve, etc.

If you work in natural gas processing, you probably know of the demands of storing and transporting gas. Gas usually pulses through a pipeline leading from a reciprocating compressor, meaning the media flow is not steady.

But the pulsating flow the reciprocating compressor creates causes the chattering of the discharge valves. This results in damage or wears to the check valve as well as other downstream components, leading to some costly headaches in the future.

Check valve and piping system problems – often after installing a reciprocating compressor – are recurring issues connected to the ever-increasing demand for natural gas worldwide.

This is why it is highly crucial to maintain the check valves in compressors in order to prevent extensive damage to the system. However, procuring high-quality components can be time-consuming, leading to hefty upfront costs.

But having the right components installed correctly in your system minimizes the time you spend on maintenance. It will also ensure less downtime as well as fewer future costs.

When discharge valves are ineffective as a result of undue wear, they tend to create issues. However, using check valves built with damped designs helps control the moving components of the valve.

Why Do Valves Fail?

Valves are highly delicate structures primarily designed to ensure proper operation and safety. So it shouldn’t be too strange why valve failure is common during compressor operation.

Several factors cause valves to fail unceremoniously when compressors are operating. Some of these factors include:

  • Debris inside the pipeline
  • Worn seal seats and elastomers
  • Improper installation of valves
  • Functioning in extremely high-temperature situations

Other factors of valve failure exist, but these are the most common ones you should know.

Signs of a Defective Check Valve

When a valve fails, it usually emits some warning symptoms you should be aware of. For instance, failing check valves start to vibrate and lose some internal components when problems arise.

Other signs that indicate a check valve has failed include excessive component damage, wear, and reverse flow.

When check valves start emitting noises as they break down, the situation is referred to as a ‘water hammer.’ This problem is generally caused by the slamming of the disk into the valve seat as a result of a pressure increase on account of a sudden change – or stop – in the direction of the fluid traveling through the valve.

Water hammers can bring about severe damage to fittings as well as ruptured pipelines. But installing a faster-closing check valve is recommended to prevent pressure surges.

Valves are also known to leak and stick when they start breaking down. Sticking is a phenomenon that occurs when a valve gets stuck in a particular position. This can only occur when debris finds its way into the body bore and disk. But leaking valves come about as a result of a damaged disk or seat or contaminants in the pipeline.

Preventive Maintenance of Check Valves

As mentioned earlier, defective valves can damage vessels and systems extensively. However, performing preventative tasks will go a long way in preventing valve failure while extending the life span of every valve within the system.

Considering the flow capacity is essential during installation. In addition, using valves of proper sizes is necessary in order to prevent performance problems. But oversizing can shorten the check valve’s lifespan and cause vibration damage.

Here are other measures to take that prolong the lifespan of check valves:

  • Lubricate Valves

Lubricating the valves is another essential way of extending their lifespans, especially if applied and reapplied from time to time. But ensure you only make use of the appropriate or recommended lubricant for the valves to boost performance and proper operation.

This action will prolong not only the lifespan of the valves but also that of the system the valves are working with.

  • Keep Every Valve Clean

Debris and contaminants within any system can result in severe valve issues and eventual failure. The most effective and easiest way to prevent this is by ensuring the systems are clean or free of debris or contaminants.

You can also prevent debris from entering the system by installing covers and filters at appropriate spots. Another way to keep the entire system clean is by flushing the pumps. But this is usually for liquid systems.

Moreover, a flush should only be performed right before shutdown to reduce contaminants’ buildup.

  • Replace Valves as Required

At times, valves may be so damaged or defective that replacing the faulty one with a good one is the only way to go beyond this problem. Moreover, replacing valves occasionally also ensures optimal operation and safety for the operators.

Therefore, as soon as the valve in your system starts showing signs of inadequacy or trouble, replace the valve with a new unit immediately. Ensure the new component is an OEM or aftermarket component, depending on the manufacturer’s specific recommendation.

  • Make Use of Valves as Directed by the Manufacturer

This is probably the most efficient and critical preventative measure that ensures every valve functions optimally as designed by the manufacturer.

Ensure that every valve is correctly installed and maintained the right way. It is also crucial to always select the most appropriate valve for every application. This helps prevent valve failure and severe damage to the entire system.


A failing check valve can cause highly catastrophic damage to any system or vessel. Spotting the symptoms of check valve failure is a good thing, but proper maintenance is crucial.

This is why maintaining check valves in compressors should never be overemphasized. Maintenance procedures make it easy to spot defective components, and a replacement would be done immediately in order to avoid extensive damage to the compressor down the road.

From industry standards like Ariel compressor parts to Ingersoll Rand and Worthington compressor parts, we carry compressor parts you can trust and the service you can count on.