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Maintenance Matters: Vacuum Pumps

Keeping your vacuum pump happy all comes down to regular maintenance.

Rachel Muenz

Rachel Muenz, managing editor for G2 Intelligence, can be reached at

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 Check for wear and tear on a regular basis

“Regularly maintaining your vacuum pump will help minimize downtime and ensure a long, trouble-free life,” says Roland Anderson, laboratory products manager at KNF Neuberger (Trenton, NJ). “Wearing parts should be monitored and replaced based on both their time in service and the specifics of the application. It’s important to identify maintenance issues before they lead to unexpected downtime.”

Jim Ramsden, scroll pump product manager at Agilent Technologies (Santa Clara, CA) agrees that simply doing the maintenance is the most important thing.

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“A lot of customers just see it [vacuum pump] as a black box that things go into and vacuum is created, but the vast majority of vacuum pumps do have some level of maintenance that needs to be done,” he says, adding that most vendors are making it easier for that initial vacuum pump maintenance to be done by users themselves.

Service Programs

  • KNF offers a free repair evaluation program for all their vacuum pumps and systems
  • For more difficult maintenance, most companies offer field engineers to go onsite to look after pumps, an exchange program where users can exchange their pump in need of maintenance for one that’s good to go, or a factory maintenance program where users send their pumps in for repairs

“Vacuum pump manufacturers are trying to move in a general direction of keeping the service intervals as long as they can,” Ramsden says.

“There’s a great desire to make sure that service intervals are longer than a year for the basic maintenance and moving towards two years for the basic when you can.”

How often you should perform maintenance on your pump comes down to the type of pump and the applications you’re using it for.

“Most vacuum pumps, for the first basic maintenance, it is about a one-year timeframe,” Ramsden says. “Some pumps, some types of pumping mechanisms, can go to a two-year maintenance cycle.”

Anderson says there are many clues that it’s probably time to do maintenance on your pump, including: elevated operating noise, elevated surface temperature, reduced vacuum and/or flow performance, difficulty starting, and contamination in the pumped media.

“With medium mechanical pumps, you’ll see the lowest pressure it can achieve slowly rise over time,” Ramsden adds of signs to watch for. “That’s usually an indication that it’s time to perform basic maintenance.”

He says such signs are harder to see with high vacuum pumps, so most users will do proactive maintenance.

“That’ll be dependent very much on the application of the pump,” Ramsden says, adding that creating a maintenance plan based on those applications is important for all pump types.

Additional Resources to Consult

  • Users'/service manual
  • Vendor's technical support
  • Contact the manufacturer for added guidance, reach out to the sales rep
  • Instructional videos and online resources
  • Word of mouth-colleagues, maintenance technicians, or knowledge leaders
  • Vendor training programs and seminars

As for things to be careful of when looking after your pump, Anderson mentions: over-tightening screws, not properly installing replacement parts, misplacing shims or spacers and incorrectly reassembling the pump components. Ramsden adds that users often buy a maintenance kit to do initial maintenance but won’t read the manual.

“They won’t do everything that’s recommended in the manual, including just cleaning the inside of the pump out,” Ramsden explains. “They’ll attack the big thing…but they won’t pay attention to the little things which are actually contributing to wearing down other parts of the pump.”

Some users will take on more maintenance they can handle or outsource that maintenance to third-party companies, which, while most provide excellent service for basic issues, aren’t always equipped to look after more advanced problems, Ramsden says.

Of course the biggest thing is just to remember your pump, Anderson says.

“Often, pumps are located out of sight (and out of mind). For this reason, as long as they work, they remain an afterthought,” he says. “It’s important to occasionally inspect your vacuum pump for signs of wear. The goal is to catch issues before they become problems. This way you can avoid unexpected downtime and costly repairs.”

For more information about vacuum pump maintenance check out this How it Works article from the folks at VACUUBRAND. Also be sure to take a look at Labconco’s How it Works in our April 2014 issue.