Skip to content
How to Spot and Replace Worn-Out Seals and Gaskets in Construction Equipment

How to Spot and Replace Worn-Out Seals and Gaskets in Construction Equipment

A man displaying a case of rubber seals

How to Spot and Replace Worn-Out Seals and Gaskets in Construction Equipment

Reading time: 5 min

Seals and gaskets play the vital role of sealing components in heavy equipment, ensuring that hydraulic systems, engines and various other components remain operational. Seals are designed to provide a dynamic barrier between moving parts, whereas gaskets provide a barrier between non-moving parts.

When seals or gaskets within heavy equipment fail or become damaged, the repercussions can be severe. Leaks can result in a loss of hydraulic power, lubrication or cooling, leading to reduced performance and increased operating temperatures.

The failure to spot and address a compromised seal or gasket promptly can result in costly repairs and downtime, disrupting construction schedules and budgets.

In this guide, we’ll explore the common signs of seal/gasket wear and damage, how to identify when replacement is necessary and the steps involved in the replacement process. 

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to spot a seal or gasket that needs replacing, avoiding unnecessary breakdowns.

Common Types of Seals and Gaskets in Construction Equipment


O-rings are classic, donut-shaped seals made of rubber or elastomeric materials. They’re designed to fit into grooves or between two mating surfaces to create a tight, circular seal.

Dust Seals

Sometimes called wiper seals or scraper seals, dust seals keep contaminants like dirt, dust and debris out of critical components like hydraulic cylinders. These seals have a lip or scraping edge that removes debris and contaminants from the piston rod of a hydraulic cylinder as it retracts into the cylinder.

Cover Gaskets

Cover gaskets are flat, thin pieces of material, often made of rubber with a metal core. They are placed between two mating surfaces, like an engine cover and its housing.

Muffler Gaskets

Muffler gaskets are typically made of heat-resistant materials like metal or fiber. They are installed at the connection points between the exhaust manifold and the muffler or other exhaust system components. 

Symptoms of Worn or Damaged Seals and Gaskets

Obvious Signs a Seal/Gasket Needs to Be Replaced

While it can be challenging to tell when it’s time to replace a seal or gasket, there are a few obvious signs to watch out for.

  • Fluid Leakage: One of the most common and obvious signs a gasket or seal needs replaced is fluid leakage. If you notice puddles of oil, hydraulic fluid, coolant or other fluids under or around the machine, it’s a clear sign that a seal or gasket needs to be replaced.
  • Visible Wear or Damage: Visible wear, cracks, tears or deformation are all signs a seal/gasket needs to be replaced. Over time, seals can degrade due to friction, heat or exposure to harsh conditions. Damaged or worn seals may appear flattened, distorted or have visible signs of deterioration, like chunks missing from rubber seals.
  • Reduced Performance: A sudden drop in equipment performance, such as decreased hydraulic power, engine efficiency or cooling capacity can be linked to seal or gasket issues. Reduced performance may result from fluid leakage or improper sealing, causing a loss of pressure or fluid flow.
  • Unusual Noises: Unusual noises, like hissing sounds or high-pitched squeals, can be indicative of air or fluid escaping from a compromised seal. These noises may be particularly noticeable in hydraulic systems or areas where pressure is critical.
  • Overheating: Equipment overheating, especially in the engine or hydraulic systems, can be a sign of coolant or hydraulic fluid leakage due to a failing gasket or seal. Overheating can lead to serious damage if left unaddressed.
  • Inconsistent Operation: Seals and gaskets play a crucial role in maintaining consistent and controlled operations. If you notice erratic or unpredictable behavior in your machine, such as erratic hydraulic movements or engine misfires, it could be linked to seal or gasket issues affecting fluid flow or pressure.
Signs a Seal/Gasket May Need to Be Replaced

While many of the signs above strongly indicate that a seal/gasket needs to be replaced, other signs are less obvious. The following signs may indicate that a seal or gasket somewhere in your machine needs to be replaced. 

  • Loss of Pressure: A gradual loss of hydraulic or pneumatic pressure can be a less obvious but critical indicator of seal or gasket deterioration. If your machine’s performance is not up to par, it may be due to a failing seal affecting pressure retention.
  • Increased Fluid Consumption: If the equipment consumes fluids such as oil, hydraulic fluid or coolant at a faster rate than usual, it could be a sign of an internal leak through a compromised seal or gasket.
  • Unexplained Vibration: Excessive vibration or unusual vibrations in the equipment can sometimes be attributed to irregular fluid flow or pressure imbalances caused by seal or gasket issues.
  • Reduced Efficiency: A decrease in fuel efficiency or energy consumption can be a less apparent sign of a seal or gasket problem. When seals are not functioning correctly, the equipment may require more energy to operate efficiently.
  • Reduced Handling Precision: In hydraulic systems, seals and gaskets are essential for precise control. If you notice a decrease in control accuracy or responsiveness, it may be linked to a seal problem, affecting fluid flow regulation.
  • Increased Noise Levels Over Time: While unusual noises are generally noticeable, a gradual increase in noise levels, especially in hydraulic systems, may indicate internal leaks caused by seal degradation.

How to Evaluate the Condition of a Seal Component

Inspections are key to evaluating the condition of your machine’s seals and gaskets. Start with a visual of your machine’s sealed components, checking for wear, cracks or fluid leakage. If a seal or gasket is worn out, you may notice fluid leaking around the seal. Cracked and worn seals/gaskets should be replaced as soon as possible. By establishing a regular inspection schedule, you can identify worn-out seals and gaskets before they become problematic.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining your heavy equipment’s seals and gaskets isn’t just good maintenance, it’s crucial to ensuring the reliability and longevity of your machine. By identifying and replacing worn or damaged gaskets before they become problematic, you can prevent costly breakdowns, downtime and potential safety hazards.

The EquipmentShare Online Shop is your one-stop shop for OEM and aftermarket seals and gaskets from a variety of heavy equipment manufacturers. If you’re in need of a replacement component or want to keep extras on hand for later use, we’ve got you covered. Can’t find the specific seal or gasket your equipment needs? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts and get personalized assistance.

Back to Machine Maintenance

Are you signed up for our newsletter?

We'll send you a monthly email covering everything from specialty parts to machine overviews, packed with tons of knowledge from our industry pros and no filler.


Building Blocks Blog
Previous article Battery Maintenance for Heavy Equipment: Best Practices for Longevity
Next article What Different Diesel Engine Smoke Colors Can Reveal About Your Construction Equipment