Air Control Valve Maintenance
As the name implies, air control valves, or pneumatic valves, control or divert the flow of compressed air or other gasses within an operating system. With this controllable power source, the valves can be used to drive other components such as an actuator, gripper, hand tool or other device. They are also used to pilot other valves.
Because the air control valve is so important to the smooth functioning of a system, regular maintenance is crucial. The importance of air control valve maintenance can be summarized with a phrase from auto mechanics, “If you take care of the valves, they will take care of you.”
With proper maintenance, most air control valves are capable of performing their jobs quite efficiently for long periods of time. However, as with all parts, the amount of wear and tear, use, vibration, and environmental factors can reduce the valve’s efficiency. Here is how to perform maintenance that will keep valves functioning at their highest levels:
- Establish a Regular Preventive Maintenance Schedule: Preventive maintenance is the regular maintenance of air control valves in order to keep them running efficiently. It also helps to prevent costly unplanned downtime from unexpected equipment failure. The goal here is to spot and prevent problems before they occur.
- Perform a Visual Inspection: A knowledgeable technician should periodically perform a visual check of air control valves to look for deterioration, leaks and sticking stems. If a valve is not closing tightly, it may indicate wear or contaminant build-up.
- Clean The Equipment: If the inspection discloses that the valves are dirty, they may simply require a good cleaning. Be aware that valve disassembly and repair for the purpose of cleaning, however, may require special tools. For a solenoid valve, remove the top coil first and then the guide tube. Check the plunger and spring inside the tube for solid particles, and then clean the area with solvent and compressed air. For a diaphragm valve, remove the valve’s upper body screws, check the diaphragm for debris or damage, and clean all parts inside the valve. Once the cleaning is finished, reassemble the valve. You can also contact JHFOSTER for specific cleaning instructions based on the type of valve and the nature of the dirt (oil, dust, chemicals, etc.)
- Check Valves Periodically for Leaks: When a valve will not stroke efficiently, check for a sticking valve stem. Depending on surrounding noise, you may be able to simply listen for escaping air. In other cases, the application of soapy water or some type of commercially available leak detecting liquid might reveal the presence of leaks. There are also ultrasonic leak detection instruments which can be used to detect leaks.
- Keep a Maintenance Checklist: Maintenance is not a one-and-done proposition. Depending on your system, operating environment, and capacity, maintenance may need to be performed monthly, bi-yearly, or yearly. Set up a chart so everyone will know whether the necessary checks have been performed.
- Keep Spare Valve Repair Kits: Sometimes the inspection may reveal that the valve is malfunctioning, but can be repaired. Have plenty of valve repair kits on hand so production won’t be slowed down.
- Keep Spare Valves: On some occasions, the inspection may reveal that it is time to replace the valve. With today’s supply chain disruptions, it is wise to have spare valves on hand so you won’t have to wait for replacement parts.
Pneumatic valves are used in a wide variety of applications because they are so reliable, but a valve that is not working properly can cause the system to malfunction, leading to production delays and time-consuming repairs. Your entire pneumatic system can also be adversely affected by a variety of factors. The lack of a regular maintenance schedule may result in the premature wear of moving parts controlled by the valve, the loss of air, pressure drops leading to insufficient power abilities, and increased downtime of pneumatic components. Work stoppages are very costly.
If you would like to have more resources at your fingertips, JHFOSTER offers a compressed air system assessment or preventive service program. For more details or answers to your questions, please call us at 855-688-0043.
Headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota, JHFOSTER provides a wide range of reliable pneumatic valves for an array of applications. The JHFOSTER team can be your partner in choosing the right components, in the right systems, for the right applications every time. Contact us online, request a quote, or call 855-688-0043 today to discuss your air control valve maintenance needs.