Maintenance in the World of Pumps

Chuck Martin – President, FELUWA Pumps USA Inc.

Posted 2/15/2024

Maintenance in the world of pumps is basically no different than any other machinery-based industry. It requires the same common sense and good practices that make any machine with moving parts run, accomplish goals, run with great dependability and most importantly, make the owner money. Most every pump manufacturer provides a book of words, and perhaps photos commonly known as an Installation, Operation, and Maintenance Manual. (I, O & M Manual). This book contains technical data, parts drawings with part names, pump nomenclature, startup and shutdown procedures, trouble-shooting guidelines, general safety guidelines, even the types and quantities of lubrication fluids to use, etc.

A good manual may have colored safety labels and diagrams and not be overly complicated for the sake of being technical. In any case, there are many types of pumps that have specific startup and shutdown procedures with most requiring a water or clean fluid flush of some sort once the pump is shut down and will be dormant for a time. What is being pumped is called media. This media can set-up in the pump and either solidify or create solid, and even slowly eat away at components over time faster than if the pump was shut down and flushed.

Pick the Right Pump

When selecting a pump, there are several factors, but at the core of most are: flow, (measured usually in GPM or gallons per minute), (GPD, or gallons per day), and even GPH, (Gallons per hour), when metering liquids. Pressure is measured in Ft. per head when using a kinetic or centrifugal pump and PSI when using a positive displacement pump. Efficiency points. Proportionately, when pressure goes up, fluid throughput goes down. What you are pumping. (This question is usually asked as the first question because the type of fluid and the way that it is being used will generally determine what kind of pump to use. There could be a possibility of a few types of pumps that would work for a given application, but the right one will work correctly and run with greater efficiency and less problems. 

Typical sideview of the “wet end” or fluid working end of the Hose-Diaphragm pump from an I, O & M Manual

A question when it relates to what you are pumping is asked to determine what material of elastomers will be used, whether they are in the mechanical seal, gaskets, O-rings, or even the pump housing or driver parts such as an impeller, gear or diaphragm. Another good question to determine a good maintenance starting point is what kind of pump is in use currently and how it is performing? Having the wrong pump type can require more maintenance. For new applications, the use is generally engineered to the point where they know very much which kind of pump and what materials of construction are the best for the conditions of operation will be because the pump type and requirements are specified.

There are several monikers to which these basic protocols are made:

Preventive Maintenance, Predictive Maintenance, and No Maintenance

maintenance technician doing pump maintenance

Preventive Maintenance

Commonly known as a “PM Plan”, this plan or list of maintenance procedures should list all the things that can be done to the pump to prevent the most common breakdowns from happening to the degree that we can through good practices. (Lube grease joints, check and or change belts, check elastomers or even change them, check bearings, and even just change parts after a certain number of hours of operation in a preventive manner. Some pump users deviate from this and do PM by a calendar instead of working hours, to which most manufacturers do not recommend. For most Positive Displacement pumps, PM should be conducted about the 3,000 to 6,000 hour point, (Depending upon the manufacturer). During this time, the pump can be shut down on purpose and a dedicated timeframe devoted for this maintenance just in case any other issues are found. This is the time when you should change everything and anything that would require changing to stay on track for usage hours.

So to be technical about it, there are elements of Preventive Maintenance that take from or supersede Predictive Maintenance, and it should because your going by the clock and not taking educated guesses. Typically, you should be able to run between 10-16 weeks between Preventive Maintenance in the pump world depending upon the severity of duty due to what you are pumping and local conditions. Some would argue that it should or would be less, and some more, but for informative purposes, this is a generalization of many. Lastly, items covered during Preventive Maintenance would be mostly focused on the wet-end of the pump since this is the most common area of more wear than the drive end of the pump generally speaking if the pump is operating correctly. Common, non-emergency PM also usually consists of all of the small parts anyways.  

Example of an I, O & M Manual page recommending inspection and Pump Maintenance
Example of an I, O & M Manual page recommending inspection and Preventive Maintenance

A “PM Meeting” should be held prior to shutting down the pump if there are not any disrupt conditions

Predictive Maintenance

This may refer more towards the various pump condition monitoring systems or electronic switches. Many pumps currently offer these monitoring systems for the pump that alert of, and even predict upset conditions. The monitoring game has even gone thermal, vibratory and acoustic. With sensors on the pump that report to the control system or panel and alarm or turn off the pump completely. Current technology even provides for monitoring remotely in real time, logging users and password protected settings from another building or place as the pump. These operational and condition monitoring systems will all help with both preventive and predictive maintenance. The pump, and even equipment in general, have undergone a maturation to the point to where there is very little new to be discovered on the mechanical side, and more newer developments on the controls, sensing, and monitoring side of the house than we have ever thought of.

Now add Artificial Intelligence, (AI) to the mix and the tie-in with preventive and predictive maintenance seems to come together as one but will never quite be the same thing though. In many ways Predictive Maintenance and Preventive Maintenance have many of the same elements. Wear from either the drive or (Dry side of the Pump), or the Fluid handling, (Wet End), is not always proportionate when it comes to general wear, and therefore there is no real equation or ratio when considering Predictive Maintenance. The Wet end may have more parts intensive than the drive side, but the drive side may be more expensive when it comes to replacement or complete rebuild if necessary. The adage of something as opposed to nothing in the ways of maintenance is always better than waiting for a storm that you know is coming and doing nothing about it.

Just because it’s common sense, doesn’t mean it’s common practice.

Will Rogers

No Maintenance

This seems out of sorts for an article that describes very organized and properly labeled maintenance terms, but believe it or not, there are pump users that have capitalized millions in equipment and have no PM plan for their pumps, let alone for their plant, with no spare parts on the shelf. With good maintenance people becoming harder to find, this can make a recipe for pump failure. You should take the attitude that the sound of a properly running pump system just humming along is the sound of revenue. Unplanned silence, scavenging for parts and being at the mercy of unpredictable supply chains is the nightmare that no one in their right minds wants. The ways of old still linger as the rest of the industry in general modernizes almost to the point of not needing people in general. 

acoustic sensor for pump maintenance

Pulsation dampening, piping manifolds and acoustic sensors can affect pump performance greatly when they are ignored or adapted without properly examining first.

There are numerous ancillary devices and equipment that the pump requires to work, or there is no pumping or maintenance to consider. Electric motors, pulsation dampening system, (Mostly when dealing with Positive Displacement pumps), Piping layout, valves and or monitoring equipment on the pipe stream. All of these require maintenance and upkeep. The electric motor comes with its own manual and also has technical reference within the pumps I, O & M Manual, even with basic electrical wiring diagrams. Any condition monitoring equipment such as pressure switches, etc. that come with the pump are included and designed by the pump manufacturer.

The overall piping, process design, and placement is usually designed by Engineers or the EPC’s and not the pump manufacturers, since every system is different. So many applications seem to deviate from proper flow and design layouts over time as they are adapted to meet space requirements and the addition of sensors and monitoring equipment. Some pump users simply ignore the original parameters of the pump and try to run faster or change piping in order to get more flow and longer hours of operation from the pump. For a piece of equipment that is sized to include several fixed operational data points, that now change when major elements of the system are also changed, adapted or modified. 

pressure sensing for pump maintenance

Condition monitoring and pressure sensing are vital in all types of maintenance and predictive behavior.


Good Preventive Maintenance, (Continually keeping things well maintained by the book), and good Predictive Maintenance, (Educatively guessing what is the most likely to go wrong) should be the cornerstone of every pump maintenance operation. Sounds cliché? It is, but these good practices not only save money, time and heartbreak, they make operating and using the pump and pump system a pleasure instead of a burden. Following some sort of maintenance schedule according to the manufacturer can also benefit a pump user in the best way possible if defects and or breakdowns turn out to be under warranty. Stocking your own parts can also offset emergencies and eliminate some supply chain or delivery issues that plague a pump user that operates until the next emergency. Running a pump until failure and not verifying whether it is sized and utilized correctly takes the biggest gamble of all when it comes to not only downtime but also workers safety.


Chuck Martin

Chuck Martin

Chuck is Currently the President of the new division of FELUWA Pumps USA based in Houston, TX. With over 32 years in the pump industry as both sales and management in distribution and in manufacturing. A veteran of the United States Air Force and part-time author with 3 published books and contributions to various Industry related magazines and blogs over many years.