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Leak Testing

Containers, vessels, enclosures, or other fluid system are sometimes tested for leaks - to see if there is any leakage and to find where the leaks are so corrective action can be taken. There are several methods for leak testing, depending on the situation. Sometimes leakage of fluid may make a sound which can be detected. Tires, engine radiators, and maybe some other smaller vessels may be tested by pressurizing them with air and submerging them in water to see where air bubbles come out to indicate a leak. If submerging in water is not possible, then pressurization with air followed by covering the area to be tested with a soap solution is done to see if soap bubbles form, which indicate a leak. Other types of testing for gas leaks may involve testing for the outleaking gases with sensors which can detect that gas, for example - special sensing instruments for detecting natural gas. U.S. federal safety law now requires natural gas companies to conduct testing for gas leaks upstream of their customer's gas meters. Where liquids are used, special color dyes may be added to help see the leakage. Other detectable substances in one of the liquids may be tested, such as saline to find a leak in a sea water system, or detectable substances may even be deliberately added to test for leakage.

Newly constructed, fabricated, or repaired systems or other vessels are sometimes tested to verify satisfactory production or repair. Plumbers often test for leaks after working on a water or other fluid system. A vessel or system is sometimes pressure tested by filling with air and the pressure monitored to see if it drops, indicating a leak. A very commonly used test after new construction or repair is a hydrostatic test, sometimes called a pressure test. In a hydrostatic test, a system is pressurized with water to look for a drop in pressure or to see where it leaks out. Helium testing may be done to detect for any very small leakage such as when testing certain diaphragm or bellows valves, which are made to be practically leak-proof. Helium and Hydrogen have very small molecules which can go through very small leaks.

Leak testing is part of the non-destructive test NDT portfolio that can be applied to an art to verify its conformity; depending on material, pressure, leak tightness specifications, different methods can be applied. International standards has been defined to assist in these choices. For example BS EN 1779:1999; it applies to assessment of leak tightness by indication or measurement of gas leakage, but excludes hydrostatic, ultrasonic or electromagnetic methods.