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Why do expansion joints fail?

Failures can occur for many reasons, but experience has shown that certain causes of failure fall into fairly distinct categories.

  • Shipping and handling damage. Examples: Denting or gouging of bellows from being struck by hard objects (tools, chain falls, forklifts, adjacent structures, etc.); improper stacking for shipping or storage; insufficient protection from weather or other adverse environmental conditions.

  • Improper installation and insufficient protection.

  • During and after installation.

  • Examples: Joints with internal liners installed in the reverse direction with respect to flow; installing an expansion joint in a location other than as prescribed by the installation drawings; premature removal of shipping devices; springing of bellows to make up for piping misalignment; insufficient protection from mechanical damage due to work in the surrounding area; insufficient protection of bellows during nearby welding operations and failure to remove shipping devices before placing system in operation.

  • Improper anchoring, guiding and supporting of the system.

  • Anchor failure in service.

  • Bellows corrosion, both internal and external.

  • System over-pressure (in-service or hydrotest). Bellows vibration (mechanical or flow-induced resulting in high cycle fatigue).

  • Excessive bellows deflection (axial, lateral, angular deflections greater than design values).

  • Torsion.

  • Bellows erosion.

  • Packing of particulate matter in the bellows convolutions which inhibits proper movement of the bellows.
Failed Competitor Expansion Joint


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What is the failure mode of bellows?

The failure mode of bellows could be any of a variety of things including erosion, corrosion, cyclic fatigue or thermal creep at elevated temperatures.

Failed expansion joint
Universal Metallic Expansion Joint from Competitor with Squirm Damage
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