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Time for a Change: Coolant System Maintenance

Time for a Change: Coolant System Maintenance

Field work is slowing, but it is a good time to schedule needed maintenance of cooling systems.

The seasonal slowdown is underway, at least for some of the farm’s rolling stock and motorized equipment. This does not equate to an idle period for the farm manager, who is responsible for maintaining the engines of agriculture production.

One of those maintenance chores is the servicing of engine cooling systems, a critical component to most power systems used in agricultural production. The right coolant/antifreeze is key to success with these systems.

The first step is to consult the vehicle’s maintenance chart in the owner’s manual to determine which antifreeze the manufacturer recommends. Equipment manufacturers have their own antifreeze formulas designed to work best with the metals used to build the engine and cooling systems.

Much research and effort has been focused on the peak performance of any individual cooling system by highly trained specialists. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations ensure getting the product which works best any particular engine system.

The coolant’s mixture with water should be kept at the manufacturer’s recommended ratio, commonly fifty percent distilled water and fifty percent antifreeze. Too much antifreeze in the mixture causes unnecessary wear on the water pump, since it is thicker than water and must work harder to pump a thicker mixture through the cooling system.

Having too much water can prevent the antifreeze from fighting corrosion and deposit buildup in the cooling and engine system. The result is a system which is constrained from proper coolant circulation.

Use only distilled water to dilute coolant. Tap and well water contains minerals which react with metals in the radiator and engine housing. The results will be mineral buildup in the cooling system and a clogged water pump.

Do not mix propylene glycol based antifreezes with ethylene glycol based products. The two chemicals will react with each other to create deposits and residue in the cooling system.

An obvious step in cooling system maintenance is to keep the radiator and any cooling units clear of dirt and debris. This material will reduce the air flow and retain excessive heat which will reduce the systems effectiveness.  However, do not clean with water unless there is enough time for thorough drying. Wet cooling fins quickly clog again with mud and rubbish.  An alternative is to use an air hose to blow out the debris. It is effective and allows for a quicker return to use in the field.

Checking the efficacy of antifreeze/coolant can be done with a hydrometer, a refractometer, or test strips. The cost of these test systems is inexpensive, especially when considered against the value of farm engines.  While ethylene glycol hydrometers are widely available and mass-marketed, they can give false readings at high temperatures. The specific gravity of propylene glycol solutions cannot be tested using a hydrometer.

Additional information can be found at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association site http://www.farmequip.org/

 

PG

Author: Les Harrison – harrisog@ufl.edu

Les Harrison is the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director, Agriculture and Natural Resources. He works with small and medium sized producers in the Big Bend region of north Florida on a wide range of topics. He has a Master’s of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics from Auburn University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism from the University of Florida.

Les Harrison

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/12/01/time-for-a-change-coolant-system-maintenance/