Keep Your Engine Cool to Prevent Summer Engine Failure And Downtime
The heat is on, and there’s plenty of hot summer weather still ahead. You can’t do anything about that, but you can take deliberate steps to keep your engine cool, and that will keep your heavy-duty trucks on the job and earning money, instead of risking costly summer engine failure.
When it’s hot, trucks can suffer right along with people. Excess heat causes stress, and that can lead to problems. Your first line of defense against heat-related breakdown is ensuring your engine’s cooling system is properly maintained. That includes testing the antifreeze/coolant (AF/C), to ensure it is properly formulated to handle the heat.
AF/C works differently in summer than in winter.
When it’s cold, your goal is to increase the percentage of antifreeze concentrate in the coolant mixture. But in hot weather, that higher concentration is less efficient – so much so it can put undue stress on your engine’s entire cooling system. That can bring on serious problems.
The wrong AF/C formulation can not only cause summer engine failure, it can cause a domino effect of other problems including over-stressing your truck’s other vital fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid and power steering fluids. If inhibitors precipitate out, your engine’s metal components are vulnerable to premature wear. They could fail, too. On top of that, today’s heavy-duty trucks often incorporate numerous lightweight metal parts – that’s great for overall weight reduction and improved fuel economy, but those lighter weight components are also more vulnerable under higher operating temperatures.
What should you do?
Follow your OEM’s recommendations carefully. Typically, an even proportion of coolant to water will create the desired boiling point of 265o. If you’re operating at elevations above 5,000 feet, you’ll want to alter that so you’re using 55-60% concentrate instead of an even 50%. This will help reduce risk of your coolant mixture boiling over.
Along with proper dilution, the water you use to create the mixture matters, too. The AF/C contains specially-blended inhibitors – to ensure proper chemical reaction you should use good quality water. This isn’t always easy to assess, given variances in water quality from one location to the next.
It’s also important to keep testing your coolant to be sure the concentrate-to-water ratio is correct, so you’re confident your heavy-duty truck is protected against possible boil-over. You can do this by using a hydrometer, a hand-held refractometer or test strips, but be aware you’re really only testing the boiling point and freezing point, not the level of inhibitor protection. There are test strips available you can use to test AF/C inhibitor levels, and you can also use a qualified independent testing lab to test samples.
Testing enables you to focus on preventive maintenance, by altering the coolant’s concentration if needed before problems develop. There are special testing kits and tools on the market that help make this easier and more convenient and also help you detect issues like component wear or contamination. Taking measures to keep your engine cool will make your fleet more reliable. You’ll be able to extend drain intervals without worry and keep your fleet working with minimal downtime.
Whether the summer heat is relentless where your fleet is working this season or extremely high temperatures come and go, making every effort to keep your engine cool will help you avoid summer engine failure.