Keeping Cool When the Heat is On – Chevron Lube Matters
With all the emphasis placed on protecting moving engine parts with lubrication, it might surprise you that a large number of engine failures are caused by problems with the cooling system. Often, those problems are caused by the coolant either becoming contaminated or breaking down.
That’s why it’s important to check your coolant regularly. And by “check your coolant,” we don’t mean just making sure you have enough in the tank. We’re talking about running regular tests twice a year for contamination, deterioration or indicators of other problems in the systems such as rust and corrosion.
Protecting your cooling system means ensuring that the corrosion inhibitor levels in your coolant are adequate. The use of extended life coolants with Organic Additive Technology (OAT), can provide this protection for up to 8 years because of the longevity of the corrosion inhibitor additives. This, in turn, helps prevent corrosion particulates from flowing through the system’s pumps and hoses, which are vulnerable to wear and abrasion.
Twice a year you should test for coolant concentration to be sure you have the right balance between the water, base fluid and corrosion inhibitors. Often you can tell right away if there are problems by the color or clarity. If the coolant sample has turned or is turning brown, it’s a sign of possible rust, corrosion or coolant breakdown. The coolant should be flushed out and replaced. If there is no obvious difference in color, using a refractometer to measure ethylene glycol concentration will yield the most accurate indication of freeze protection.
At these same intervals, you can test for carboxylates (OAT’s), the organic inhibitors that protect metal surfaces from corrosion. You should also test for pH levels or acidity. High acidity is a sign that the coolant is degrading, which increases the risk of corrosive damage.
Although the trend in on-highway vehicles is toward nitrite-free coolants, off-road equipment may still require a coolant with nitrites for added cylinder liner cavitation protection. If you use one of these coolants, you’ll want to check to make sure you have the right concentration of nitrites at the same time you are performing these other tests.
As part of a coolant maintenance program, make sure the tank is always full and not allowing any air into the system, which can cause overheating. And finally, check that the radiator cap is in good condition and able to maintain adequate pressure. If the radiator seal is old or compromised in any way, it can allow evaporation of water, leaving an imbalanced level of water to ethylene glycol in the system. Maintaining the proper cooling system pressure will raise the boiling point of the coolant so it can continue to perform as the engine reaches higher temperatures.
Testing is fairly quick and easy – a small amount of prevention to help avert big problems down the road. The main point with cooling systems is to avoid the all-too-common tendency to “fill it and forget it.” Proper coolant system function is critical to the life of the engine, and it starts with a clean and stable coolant.
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