The importance of vacuum pump maintenance

1. Inspect the surrounding environment

Vacuum pumps require the right conditions to operate at their best. In the worst conditions, they have a greater chance of breaking down and creating a gridlock in your operations.

The airflow around your pump can be critical to its optimal performance. When the pump was first installed, the airflow might have been excellent. Check this frequently for any changes.

Are there any other contaminants in the area - vapors, solvents, acid - that could be of concern? If so, determine whether they are impacting your pump's integrity and performance.

Changing weather can also be an issue. If you're near an outside wall or running heat in the building, condensation can build up in your pump and create problems. The ambient temperature in the surrounding environment is essential.

2. Conduct a visual pump inspection

Most vacuum pumps come equipped with a sight glass. This makes frequent visual inspection of the oil inside the pump a simple matter.

Clean oil will appear about the same color as vegetable oil, which is nearly opaque. As the oil collects contaminants, it will get darker. Highly contaminated oil will be dark brown or even black. By the time it turns this color, the integrity of your pump may be compromised, and it could need off-site servicing.*

Visual inspection is not just about the pump itself, but the area around the pump. Do you see oil or water leaking in the area around the pump? Have you been going through more rags or sorbents than usual? These could be signs that an issue is on the horizon.

Beyond a visual inspection, other signs that it's time to perform some maintenance on your pump include unusual sounds coming from the unit or a drop in performance.

3. Do regular oil & filter changes

According to Blower and Vacuum Best Practices, dry pumps typically require an oil change in the gearbox about once per year. You may need to do this twice annually for heavy usage. In comparison, an oil-sealed pump could require an oil and filter change up to monthly depending on their usage and application.

This is also the proper time to check and change oil filters if equipped. When in doubt about the process, parts to use, or timing of oil and filter changes for your vacuum pump, refer to the owner's manual for your specific model or contact the manufacturer.

4. Perform leak testing

By leak testing your pump system periodically after it's been installed, you can ensure that there is a vacuum-tight seal though the various connections. Eliminating these leaks can prolong the life of your pump and improve the quality of the work it produces. 

Keeping foreign elements out of your vacuum pump is critical. This includes debris, moisture, and oxygen, which are all contaminants that can compromise the integrity of your unit and reduce its effectiveness.

5. Create some leeway in your process

Every pump requires maintenance and downtime to operate at peak performance. Ignoring this fact is asking for trouble, and you'll likely find that your pump quits on you at the worst possible time for your business.

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, a better plan is to build some leeway into your process. Have a spare pump on hand that can pick up some of the slack while you perform routine maintenance, or while the pump is sent to the OEM for additional work.

Pump efficiency is essential to the successful operation of your business. When your vacuum pump fails or is down for repairs, your entire operation might be at a standstill if you don't have a backup on hand.

While some of these simple maintenance tasks can be done in-house, others can be more involved or accomplished faster by a professional. Leybold has local field service technicians on hand that can visit your location and deliver expert customer service, minimizing your downtime.

And if your vacuum pump needs repairs, Leybold can help with that as well. We'll even look up your warranty coverage to see if it is still active. Our team can make recommendations for improvements to your set-up as well as maintenance plans to ensure you are getting the most value and productivity out of your vacuum pump