Common Failure Modes of Valves

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Introduction to the common failure modes of valves

Valves, integral components in controlling the flow of fluids in various systems, can experience multiple failure modes. Understanding these failures is essential to ensure the safety and efficiency of operations. Here are some common failure modes of valves:


  • External Leakage: Escape of fluid outside the valve, often from the stem seal or body gasket.
  • Internal Leakage: Fluid seeping through a closed valve due to degraded or damaged seating surfaces.

Sticking or Binding:

  • Cause: Contamination, corrosion, or improper lubrication.
  • Effect: The valve becomes difficult to operate, or it may become entirely immobile.


  • Cause: High-velocity flow or presence of abrasive particles in the fluid.
  • Effect: Wear and tear of valve components, especially the seating surfaces, leading to leakage or valve malfunction.


  • Cause: Rapid changes in fluid pressure, leading to the formation and collapse of vapor bubbles.
  • Effect: Pitting or damage to the valve components, especially in areas with high fluid velocities.


  • Cause: Reaction between the valve material and the fluid or external environment.
  • Effect: Weakening and degradation of valve components, potentially leading to leaks or failure.

Stem Failure:

  • Cause: Excessive torque, misalignment, or corrosion.
  • Effect: The stem may break, leading to loss of control over the valve position.

Packing Failure:

  • Cause: Incorrect packing material, overtightening, or normal wear and tear.
  • Effect: External leakage around the valve stem.

Actuator Failure:

  • Cause: Electrical, pneumatic, or hydraulic issues in automated valves.
  • Effect: Inability to open, close, or modulate the valve.

Thermal Expansion or Contraction:

  • Cause: Rapid temperature changes in the system.
  • Effect: Misalignment or binding of valve components.


  • Cause: Sliding contact between metallic surfaces without proper lubrication.
  • Effect: Wear and potential seizing of the valve components, such as between the stem and the body.


  • Cause: Exposure to pressure beyond the valve’s rated capacity.
  • Effect: Potential deformation or bursting of the valve body.

Elastomer Degradation:

  • Cause: Exposure to temperatures or chemicals beyond the elastomer’s capacity in seals and gaskets.
  • Effect: Seal failures leading to internal or external leakage.

Seat Wear or Damage:

  • Cause: Regular operation, debris in the fluid, or cavitation.
  • Effect: Compromised sealing capability, leading to internal leakage.

Improper Installation:

  • Cause: Misalignment, incorrect gasket selection, or wrong installation practices.
  • Effect: Reduced valve efficiency, increased wear, or leakage.

Material Incompatibility:

  • Cause: When pressure vessel manufacturers don’t adequately consider the media or environment in which the valve operates.
  • Effect: This can lead to accelerated corrosion, erosion, and wear. For instance, a valve designed for water service might fail prematurely if exposed to acidic or basic solutions.

Design Flaws:

  • Cause: Pressure vessel manufacturers may sometimes overlook specific application requirements, leading to design inadequacies.
  • Effect: Such oversights can result in issues like turbulence, premature wear, or even catastrophic failures if the valve can’t handle the system’s pressures.

Inadequate Testing:

  • Cause: Insufficient quality control by the pressure vessel manufacturer during the production phase.
  • Effect: Valves might have hidden defects or weaknesses that only manifest under operational conditions, leading to unexpected system downtimes or safety concerns.

Maintenance Overlook:

  • Cause: Neglecting regular inspections and maintenance, sometimes due to a false sense of security provided by high standards set by pressure vessel manufacturers.
  • Effect: Wear and tear go unnoticed, and the likelihood of failure increases.

Improper Sizing:

  • Cause: A mismatch between the valve’s size and the system’s requirements, which can arise if a pressure vessel manufacturer doesn’t provide clear specifications or if the end-user misinterprets them.
  • Effect: Reduced flow efficiency, excessive pressure drops, or even valve damage due to over-pressurization.

Faulty Actuation Mechanisms:

  • Cause: Defective or inadequate actuators provided by the pressure vessel manufacturer.
  • Effect: Automated valves may not operate as required, leading to control issues or safety hazards.

Environmental Factors:

  • Cause: External conditions like high humidity, saline environments, or temperature extremes, which might not be factored in by the pressure vessel manufacturer.
  • Effect: Accelerated corrosion, elastomer degradation, or mechanical failures due to material contraction/expansion.

Operational Errors:

In the realm of pressure vessels, the quality, reliability, and durability of valves are paramount. Faulty valves can compromise the integrity of the entire pressure system, posing potential safety risks. Hence, pressure vessel manufacturers must place significant emphasis on the design, production, and testing of valves. Additionally, end-users and maintenance teams should be well-informed and trained about proper installation, operation, and upkeep practices. Collaborative efforts between pressure vessel manufacturers and users can ensure that valves function optimally, thereby safeguarding the longevity and safety of the entire system.

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FAQ: Common Failure Modes of Valves in Pressure Vessels

What are the most common reasons for valve failure in pressure vessels?

Valve failure in pressure vessels often occurs due to factors like corrosion, improper installation, material fatigue, and operational errors. Corrosion can weaken valve components, leading to leaks or breaks. Improper installation might result in misalignment or undue stress on valve parts. Material fatigue happens over time due to repeated stress, while operational errors can include incorrect handling or exceeding operational limits of the valves.

How does corrosion impact valve performance in pressure vessels?

Corrosion is a significant threat to valve integrity in pressure vessels. It can lead to the deterioration of metal parts, causing leaks or blockages in the valve mechanism. Corrosion typically occurs due to chemical reactions between the valve material and the substances inside the pressure vessel or environmental factors. Regular inspection and using corrosion-resistant materials are key to mitigating this risk.

Can improper installation lead to valve failure?

Yes, improper installation is a critical factor in valve failure. If a valve is not aligned correctly or is installed without proper seals, it can lead to leaks or pressure imbalances. This misalignment can also cause undue stress on certain parts of the valve, accelerating wear and tear. Ensuring that valves are installed by experienced technicians following manufacturer guidelines is essential for their longevity.

What role does material selection play in preventing valve failure?

Material selection is crucial in preventing valve failure. The materials used for valves must be compatible with the contents of the pressure vessel and the operating environment. For instance, valves in vessels containing corrosive substances should be made of corrosion-resistant materials. Similarly, high-pressure applications require materials that can withstand significant stress without deforming or breaking.

How can operational errors lead to valve failure in pressure vessels?

Operational errors, such as exceeding the designed pressure limits, rapid cycling, or incorrect handling, can lead to valve failure. Exceeding pressure limits can cause stress beyond what the valve is designed to handle, leading to material failure. Rapid cycling can result in excessive wear and tear, while incorrect handling might involve using the wrong valve type for specific applications, leading to malfunction.


In the realm of industrial solutions, Red River emerges as a pioneer, offering a diverse range of custom-engineered products and facilities. Among our specialties is the design and production of Custom/OEM Pressure Vessels, meticulously crafted to meet individual client requirements, ensuring performance under various pressure conditions. Our expertise extends to the domain of prefabrication, where Red River leads with distinction.

The company excels in creating prefabricated facilities, modules, and packages, reinforcing its stance as a forerunner in innovation and quality. This proficiency is further mirrored in their Modular Skids offering, where they provide an array of Modular Fabricated Skid Packages and Packaged equipment. Each piece is tailored to client specifications, underlining their commitment to delivering precision and excellence in every project they undertake.

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