Directions: Don't Overlook Leaking Door Closers

More than maintenance is at stake when standard hardware gets messy.
More than maintenance is at stake when standard hardware gets messy.

Directions: Don’t Overlook Leaking Door Closers

Directions: Don't Overlook Leaking Door Closers

By Matthew T. Orcutt
Published in the August 2006 issue of
Today’s Facility Manager

There are many reasons why it makes good sense to check door closers when performing any service on a lock or other door hardware. Mechanisms that have oil leaking from the cylinder may present a risk to personnel and should be replaced. Facility managers should become aware of the possible risks associated with leaky closers.

The Problem with Leaks

An obvious problem with a leaking closer is the potential hazard it presents to those entering and exiting a doorway. The oil inside the closer drips down and can make floors extremely slick. It can also stain clothing and personal belongings of those passing beneath the closer.

More importantly, when the oil drains from the cylinder, the closer’s ability to control the door is lost. If total leakage were to occur, the door would swing freely, possibly leading to injuries as well as costly damage to the door and frame.

Once a closer has begun to leak, there is limited field service that can repair it. In other words, a leaking closer should be completely replaced. This is because leaks typically occur in two forms: o-ring malfunction or cylinder cracks.

The first type of o-ring malfunction results from excessive use or abuse of the opening and can cause the o-ring seal to wear, thus creating a leak point. A second way the pinion seal can malfunction is most commonly found in aluminum closers with steel pistons. The rigid steel piston can wear on the softer aluminum body, creating tiny metal contaminants. These abrasive fragments can quickly wear an o-ring and create a potential leak point.

Another potential malfunction is cracking in the closer cylinder body. Excessive use or abuse can create excess internal pressure in the closer, which can cause the cylinder body to crack.

These cracks are often undetected by the naked eye, but over time, oil will begin to seep through. Again this condition is not correctable in the field, and the closer must be replaced.

If leaks occur, several options exist to solve the problem. One is to move to a more durable material structure such as cast iron. Another option may include moving to the next model size in durability.

Solve The Problem

Reduced door closer function often creeps up gradually. Facility managers may not even realize this until loss of door control happens suddenly.

Many closers are not built with the heavy duty construction and materials needed to withstand the constant use of the applications where they are installed. Take a look at the door closer the next time a door is serviced. Touch the area where the arm connects with the body. If oil is leaking, the closer should be replaced. The cost to replace a leaky closer is relatively small and can be done quickly; 15 to 20 minutes could do the trick. Closers made of heavy duty cast iron can be the best type to stand up to the toughest applications and help prevent leaks.

Orcutt is LCN product manager with Carmel, IN-based IR Security & Safety. For questions regarding this article, call (317) 805-5680 or visit

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