Industry Articles

Avoiding Coolant-Related Heavy-Duty Engine Failures - Complete Guide

Written by the Brant Jones Team

Cooling system maintenance needs are evolving due to more sophisticated engines and cooling systems. Service technicians and fleet managers should assess their preventive maintenance (PM) plan and make necessary modifications to keep these sophisticated technologies running smoothly.

A cooling system circulates a cooling liquid that absorbs and releases heat from the engine via a heat exchanger (radiator or cooler). If a malfunction with the cooling system prevents the heat from being removed from the engine, it will cause equipment problems and, finally, engine failure. The cooling system is thought to be the source of 40% of all engine issues.

What exactly is the function of coolant?

One of coolant’s key roles is to regulate heat inside the cylinder head and engine block. The heat is picked up by the coolant and sent to the radiator. Coolant also protects cylinder liners and the engine block from freezing, boiling, corrosion, and pitting.

The coolant or antifreeze itself is one of the most critical aspects of cooling system maintenance. It's crucial to maintain the proper water-to-glycol ratio. Using water instead of coolant, you risk corroding the cooling system. If coolant isn't available and water must be used, a corrosion resistor should be utilized. Also, do not use tap water in a cooling system.

Minerals and other pollutants in tap water are harmful to the cooling system. Only deionized water should be used. If you must use tap water in an emergency, ensure that the system is flushed and the coolant is replaced quickly.

Heavy-duty engine problems caused by coolant

According to filter manufacturers, 53 percent of catastrophic, early diesel engine failures are directly attributable to incorrect cooling system maintenance practices and habits. The importance of filtration in coolant maintenance cannot be overstated.

Scale, leakage, and erosion in the cooling system may all be avoided using the proper coolant filter. The filter collects harmful contaminants that may cause water pump leakage, hot surface scaling, and particulate-driven erosion. A comprehensive preventative maintenance program includes using a high-quality, wholly formulated coolant that satisfies all of the engine manufacturer's specifications and excellent coolant filtration to eliminate debris and impurities that accumulate over time in coolants.

A regular service filter interval is less than 500 hours or 25,000 miles as a rule of thumb. Extended service interval filters are intended for use on engines with coolant systems up to 20 gallons for up to one year, 150,000 miles, or 4,000 hours, whichever comes first.

Nonetheless, utilizing a coolant system test kit, it is critical to regularly monitor the coolant concentration and follow the pace of additive depletion. If you don't have access to the engine or truck manufacturer's sample procedures, a basic rule of thumb is to test the coolant twice a year.

While coolant filters collect big impurities and release SCA into the system, silt may build in the coolant system and serve as an insulator, impeding heat dissipation. Periodic draining and flushing is suggested in addition to routine coolant testing.

Maintenance best practices for cooling systems

Although routine maintenance recommendations differ from one engine manufacturer, specific fundamental cooling system maintenance rules are to follow. Checking coolant and cooling systems with frequent oil changes is a good idea.

Here are a few more cooling system maintenance things to consider:

Check that the cooling system is full of coolant and that the freeze protection level is appropriate for the climate. Corrosion and overheating might occur if the cooling system is underfilled. When the coolant freezes and expands, it might shatter lines or channels if the freeze protection level is insufficient. 

Many failures occur due to head gasket leaks, in which coolant seeps into the engine cylinder and contaminates the engine oil. Check for leaks in the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and nitrogen reduction system (NRS) coolers on Tier IVi and Tier IVF engines. There is no evidence of these leaks, such as white exhaust smoke or signals in your engine oil analysis. They manifest themselves as a gradual but steady loss of coolant. However, if the leaks persist, the intake, intake valves, and the diesel particle filter (DPF) may be harmed.

For top-offs, use the same coolant that was used in the engine. Mixing coolant kinds is not a good idea. You can check the concentration and level of radiator fluid. Check for leaks and the condition of the radiator cap. At the specified intervals, you need to examine coolant samples. You may cross-check with the supplier of coolant to get more information. 

When changing the coolant, thoroughly clean and flush the system. While cleansing the system is a good idea, specific coolant issues, including corrosion, deposits, pitting, and erosion, cannot be solved by flushing. Flushing should not be the sole method of maintenance.

Maintenance experts should regularly evaluate the coolant's composition and follow rigorous and precise drain and refill intervals. Your coolant provider should be an excellent source of information for confirming your preventative maintenance procedures.

Analyze the coolant

By detecting issues before they cause harm, coolant analysis may help you better manage your cooling system and the health of your equipment. Engine failure may be avoided by maintaining correct coolant levels and qualities. As part of a standard PM plan, coolant analysis is advised. Simply replacing your coolant regularly will not aid in detecting cooling system issues.

Final words 

Coolant is required in the cooling systems of your equipment to avoid freezing, corrosion, cavitation, and rust. Regularly performed coolant checks may provide vital information regarding the condition of your equipment. Make sure that you pay attention to these facts and ensure that coolant problems would not keep you stranded in the middle of the road. 

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