Spiral Failure

Spiral failure of an O-ring is often found on long stroke hydraulic piston seals and to a lesser degree on rod seals. This type of O-ring failure is caused when the seal becomes "hung-up" at one point on its diameter (against the cylinder wall) and both slides and rolls at the same time. The resultant twisting of the O-ring as the sealed device is cycled finally causes the seal to develop a series of deep spiral cuts (usually at a 45" angle) on the surface of the seal.


As stated above, spiral failure is generally caused by an O-ring both sliding and rolling at the same time. Conditions which may cause this to occur are as follows:

  1. Eccentric components.
  2. Wide clearance combined with side loads.
  3. Uneven surface finishes.
  4. Inadequate or improper lubrication.
  5. O-ring too soft.
  6. Stroke speed (usually too slow).
  7. Improper installation (O-ring pinched or rolled).

Suggested solutions to the causes of Spiral Failure are as follows:

  1. Improve surface finish of sealed assembly at dynamic interface (Cylinder Bore, Piston Rod).
  2. Check for Out-of-Round components (Cylinder Bores especially).
  3. Provide proper lubrication. Consider the use of internally lubed O-rings.
  4. Increase hardness of O-ring material.
  5. Consider use of alternate seal shapes. For example, the Parker T -seal is specifically designed to prevent spiral failure and its use will allow for increased tolerances because of built-in anti-extrusion back-up rings. Parker T -Seals are available to fit a number of standard AS568A O-ring grooves and may directly interchange with O-rings in most cases.
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