Setup and maintenance: precharging
On newly repaired bladder accumulators, the shell ID should be lubricated with system fluid before precharging. This fluid acts as a cushion, and lubricates and protects the bladder as it unwinds and unfurls. When precharging begins, the initial 50 psi of nitrogen should be introduced slowly.
Neglecting these precautions could result in immediate bladder failure. High-pressure nitrogen, expanding rapidly and thus cold, could channel the length of the folded bladder and concentrate at the bottom. The chilled brittle rubber expanding rapidly could rupture in a starburst pattern, Figure 10(a). The bladder also could be forced under the poppet, resulting in a C-shaped cut in the bladder bottom, Figure 10(b).
The fluid side of piston accumulators should be empty during precharging so that gas-side volume is at a maximum. Little damage, if any, can take place during precharging.
Too high a precharge pressure or reducing the minimum system pressure without a corresponding reduction in precharge pressure may cause operating problems or damage to accumulators. With excessive precharge pressure, a piston accumulator will cycle between stages (e) and (b), Figure 2, and the piston will range too close to the hydraulic end cap. The piston could bottom at minimum system pressure to reduce output and eventually cause damage to the piston and its seal. The bottoming of the piston often can be heard; the sound serves as a warning of impending problems.
Too high a precharge in a bladder accumulator can drive the bladder into the poppet assembly when cycling between stages (e) and (b), Figure 2. This could cause fatigue failure of the spring and poppet assembly, or a pinched and cut bladder if the bag gets trapped beneath the poppet as it is forced closed. Too high a precharge pressure is the most common cause of bladder failure.
Too low a precharge pressure or an increase in system pressure without a compensating increase in precharge pressure also can cause operating problems, with possible accumulator damage. With no precharge in a piston accumulator, the piston likely will be driven into the gas end cap and probably will remain there. A single contact is unlikely to cause damage.
For bladder accumulators, too low or no precharge can have severe consequences. The bladder may be crushed into the top of the shell, then may extrude into the gas valve and be punctured. One such cycle is sufficient to destroy a bladder. Piston accumulators, therefore, are more tolerant of improper precharging.