How to Solve 13 Common Plunger Pump Application Problems

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Plunger pumps cover a lot of different applications and industries where high pressure is needed.

From industrial cleaning and corrosion protection to internal tank and vessel cleaning and much more, we’ve been successfully solving various sealing issues for over 30 years.

Working with pump design engineers, maintenance managers and innovation teams across the UK, US and EU markets; the FTL team are to hand with full sealing design expertise as well as technical back up.

But what are the 13 common problems that occur with plunger pump applications and more importantly, how can FTL Technology solve them?

Common Issues

There are various problems that can arise, which is why proper installation and maintenance is so crucial. Some can happen more so than others but fundamentally they can all result in significant cost outlays, poor efficiency, high downtime and operator frustration.

1. Location Logic

Where is the pump located? An ill-considered placement can cause tremendous trouble in the future, as extreme temperature fluctuations can affect pump performance.

2. Suction Piping

Suction difficulties can occur due to undersized suction piping or blockage, or restrictions in the suction line.

3. Pump motor fails to start

There are various causes that can result in the motor failing to start such as motor damage, blown fuse, low line current, open thermal overload or open circuit in limit switches and timers.

4. Pump runs but fails to deliver

Why is the pump running but failing to deliver? This could be because the valve has been installed incorrectly, check valves are worn or dirty, insufficient hydraulic oil, the suction or discharge line is blocked, or the pump is not primed etc.

5. Pump delivers low capacity

Similar to the above, causes can include worn or dirty check valves, liquid viscosity too high, leaky suction piping, starved suction, insufficient hydraulic oil, excessive suction lift, liquid close to boiling point or incorrect capacity setting.

6. Pump operates erratically

Before connecting a pump, it’s also advised to flush the suction piping thoroughly. Never use pipe that is smaller than the suction connection and always use a strainer in the suction line to prevent debris from entering the pump during installation.

7. Pump delivers too much capacity

There could be too much suction pressure or insufficient discharge pressure.

8. Noisy pump

What can cause a noisy operation? Worn bearings, improper lubrication or excessive gear wear.

9. Motor overheating

Causes can include hydraulic oil too viscous, the motor operating over the pump discharge pressure rating, improper wiring or low voltage or high ambient temperature.

10. Leaking of oil

Causes can include diaphragm head bolts not being tightened, the pump being overfilled with oil, the oil plug being loose or the breather cap being loose or missing completely.

11. Discharge piping

Always ensure the discharge pipe is sized correctly for the application and to the right pressure rating in excess of the pump’s design.

12. Auxiliary equipment

Just like the pump, accessories should be accurately sized too including the pulsation dampeners, back pressure and safety relief valves, the calibration cylinders and controls.

13. Reliability

Most importantly, engineers/operators can lose confidence that the old seal designs will last a suitable length of time. This can bring about a lot of fear that the solution in place will fail or not work very well.


And whilst it’s not specifically an issue, it’s also important to note the term ‘plunger pumps’ has many synonyms it is commonly referred to. Depending on the application, they can also go by the terms Ultra High Pressure plunger pumps (UHP), High Pressure plunger pumps (HP), Triplex pumps or Quintuplex pumps.

What kind of industries and applications can these problems occur in?

Our technical engineers have extensive knowledge and experience in an assortment of environments from underwater applications and concrete rehabilitation to pavement maintenance and ship/steel descaling etc.

Industrial and Cleaning

  • Forging and Extrusion Presses
  • Tank and Vessel Cleaning
  • Drain and Sewer Cleaning
  • Ships and Submarine Decaling
  • Mining Roof Supports


  • Coke Oven Door Cleaning
  • Hydromechanical Descaling (during hot rolling)
  • Fire Resistance Fluids

Oil & Gas

  • Umbilical Flushing
  • Hydrostatic Units
  • Descaling
  • Glycol/Methanol Injection

So, how can FTL help solve some of these problems?

There are various benefits that an FTL system offers which can resolve some of the aforementioned issues:

  • Improved reliability
  • Reduced downtime
  • Lower maintenance cost
  • Self lubricating properties and dry running capabilities
  • Improved product enhancement
  • Reduced low pressure leakage
  • Controlled wear loss
  • Longer service life, unlike conventional packings and chevron seals

If you would like examples of some of the issues we’ve helped, please take a look at some of our Case Studies on Live Loaded Sealing Solutions and Custom Kitting of Plunger Pump Spares.

For more information on plunger pump seals and plunger pump packing, give us a call on 0113 252 1061 or get in touch with an FTL engineer today. Alternatively, use our Online Chat service to see how we can help.

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