Fuel Transfer Pump Maintenance Tips and Troubleshooting Guide

Aviation Fuel transfer pump

Thanks to modern technology and decades of incremental improvements, the fuel transfer pumps of today are extraordinarily reliable and long lasting. Used by a diverse range of industries from agriculture to aviation, fuel transfer pumps made by brands like Gorman-Rupp are certainly designed to last - but even they have their limits.

A lack of maintenance can drastically shorten the lifespan of even the finest quality pump, as can failing to address technical faults when they present themselves. With that in mind, we’ve decided to put together a comprehensive guide to the maintenance requirements of fuel transfer pumps, along with tips and tricks to help you troubleshoot common problems.

What is a fuel transfer pump?

For those new to the industry, let’s first recap the role of fuel transfer pumps and how they work. As their name suggests, these specially-designed pumps are built to transfer fuel from a tank or container into either another container or a nozzle, allowing it to be dispensed into a vehicle.

Several different types of fuel transfer pump exist, though the most commonly used nowadays are self-priming centrifugal pumps. Because they’re self-priming, they require less maintenance and manual intervention than most other styles of pump. Plus, their self-lubricated seals are able to last for much longer than seals which have to be manually lubricated, thus extending the lifespan of the pump.

The importance of regular maintenance

Before we dive into specifics, let’s cover the importance of maintenance - and the consequences of delaying it or failing to carry it out entirely.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: prevention is better than cure. As with a vehicle or any other piece of machinery, regular servicing and inspections are essential if you want to maximise the lifespan of your pump. Not only can regular maintenance save you money in the long run, it can save you a whole lot of hassle.

Any downtime is bad news and, with poor maintenance, downtime will become a far more regular occurrence. Here are our top pump maintenance tips to help you stay one step ahead and keep your pump in fine fettle.

Identifying a suitable pump maintenance schedule

For starters, remember that each and every pump is different. Depending on the manufacturer and model, the maintenance requirements will vary - and they may vary further still depending on your specific application. What follows is a rough guide, and may not directly apply to your make and model of pump.

  • Daily maintenance should consist of checking the pump for obvious issues, like overheating. Listen to it carefully to see if it’s making any untoward noises - potential signs of cavitation or worn bearings. Finally, check that the motor is receiving the correct voltage and current.
  • Weekly maintenance is only a little more involved. Typically, we would recommend inspecting the pump for signs of leaks or corrosion. It’s also a good idea to check that it’s still generating the required amount of suction and discharge pressure.
  • Monthly maintenance may involve replenishing the pump’s lubricating oil and self-priming reservoir, depending on the style of pump you choose. Every month, we would also recommend giving it a more thorough visual inspection with the safety guards removed.
  • Annual maintenance usually takes a couple of hours as it involves carrying out a service, much like you would on a car. Depending on the pump you choose, you may need to replace some rubber parts (like discharge hoses or seals). It’s also important to check for play in the motor shaft and clean out any associated pieces of equipment, like piping and valves. Keeping these clean will allow the pump to work more efficiently, preventing it from overheating or wearing out prematurely.

Some manufacturers specify biennial servicing requirements, which are more in-depth again than the annual ones detailed above. Every two years, the pump should be fully dismantled to allow for a detailed inspection of the internal components, like O-rings, impellers and wear plates. If these look worn out, now is the time to replace them.

Troubleshooting common problems

Although servicing will help reduce the wear rate of internal components, it won’t prolong their lifespan indefinitely: there is always going to come a time when something fails and requires replacement. When you’re troubleshooting a problem, here’s what to look out for:

  • Loud noises: Knocking or rumbling sounds aren’t normal, and could point to the failure of an internal component like bearings. If you hear a crackling sound, this is most likely cavitation.
  • Vibration: Excessive vibration is another potential sign of internal wear. However, it’s often caused by an imbalanced impeller or poorly aligned motor and pump - two relatively simple fixes.
  • Leaks: Check each seal for any signs of leaks, and don’t forget to inspect the pipework and any auxiliary fittings too.
  • Heat: Is your pump operating at a higher temperature than normal? Check that it’s receiving the correct voltage and current and make sure it’s being operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. If it passes those tests, make sure the pump isn’t getting clogged and check that the internal components are in good condition. Worn components can create excessive friction, leading to a buildup of heat.
  • Rust: Corrosion is the enemy of any fuel transfer pump as, if it’s left for too long, it can spell the end of the pump entirely. If you see any signs of rust, make sure you address them as soon as possible.

Speak to the experts at Hydromarque today

Need advice on maintaining your fuel transfer pump? We offer industry-leading training and support to bring your engineers up to speed.

Delivered either at your own site or in our fully-equipped training facility, our courses have helped hundreds of engineers gain a clear understanding of the operational and maintenance requirements of pumping systems. Want to learn more? Get in touch with our team today.

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