O-Ring Care and MaintenanceCourtesy of Gates Underwater Products
like many owners of underwater video or camera equipment, you may
wonder: just how does one provide proper care to the o-ring seals
that keep water safely away from my expensive electronics? This
is an excellent question. The answer seems to pervade the world
of SCUBA, passing from mouth to mouth, but there seems lacking a
consolidation that brings all that useful advice together. Well,
this brief guide will help de-mystify o-rings, their proper care,
and provide a good useful summary information.
What is an O-Ring?
An o-ring is really nothing more than a thick rubber band! They
are almost always round, or O-shaped, but can be rectangular,
oval, trapezoidal, or any shape required to establish a watertight
In cross section, they are almost always perfectly circular, although
some + shaped o-rings are being used today as well.
O-Rings are always made of an elastomeric material, which is a fancy
way of saying they can stretch and deform. They can be made of natural
rubber, latex, silicone, viton, or many other stretchy materials.
This is an important feature of o-rings as it provides the means
by which a watertight seal is formed.
How do O-Rings work?
O-Rings are installed where two mating surfaces come together and
a watertight seal is required. Looking at two such mating surfaces
(like a housing) in a cross-sectional view, with water on the outside
and your electronics on the inside.
When the housing is submerged, pressure is exerted on all sides
of the o-ring exposed to the water. The o-ring is then squeezed
toward its only side not exposed to the water, which is into
the o-ring groove created where the surfaces mate. The water itself
is pushing the o-ring tight against the mating surfaces, locking
itself out so it cannot enter the other side. The greater the pressure,
the better the seal. This is how an o-ring seals! Rather
simple and ingenious, and quite effective.
How Do I Care for O-Rings?
As you may have reasoned, o-rings must be free of dirt and debris
to work. Any foreign material that compromises the o-ring being
squeezed into the o-ring groove will allow water to enter. This
is bad. Fortunately, its very easy to maintain the integrity
of this seal by simply inspecting, cleaning and lubricating the
o-rings when required.
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