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Tip of the Day

Assessing A Used Tractor - Coolant Systems
(30 March 2023)

A careful inspection of the radiator fill area may reveal several inferior conditions. Creamy white deposits on the underside of the cap are signs that exhaust gases or oil may be leaking into the coolant system, possibly through a head gasket leak or water jacket leak in the block. If paint in the area of the cap is discolored or flaking, the engine may have overheated somewhere along the line. Overheating could have been due to coolant loss, a plugged thermostat, a plugged radiator, a collapsed hose, a faulty water pump, or a major head gasket leak.

If the radiator looks like this externally, it is probably ready for the scrap heap. Here, the cores leaked, so the fins were pried away to provide room for soldering. Red, blue, or green stains along the fins indicate a leak. Maybe it is just a pinhole leak now, but vibration and 10 to 15 psi pressure could create a larger leak and ruin the radiator.

Regardless of the season, stay away from machines which have not contained antifreeze. In addition to lowering the freezing point of water in a radiator, antifreeze contains rust inhibitors and buffers to neutralize acid accumulations and protect the radiator.

Radiators are not cheap to replace. Any corrosion in a radiator, as pictured here, is a bad sign. Many of the cores may be nearly plugged with deposits that reduce cooling capacity. Corrosion of this magnitude may mean the radiator will need to be replaced. Radiator flush compounds may remove the deposits but can cause leaks. In the example shown, the damage has been done already, probably by infrequent coolant changes or by using hard or dirty water in the radiator.

Make sure the radiator is not hot, then squeeze radiator hoses to see if they are weathered and cracked. Very spongy hoses should be replaced. Sponginess on the suction side, usually the lower of two hoses, signals possible hose collapse when the engine is operating. It is difficult to find problems by feel wire-reinforced hoses, so try twisting the hose. This stretching will collapse the hose and show cracks if it is near failure.

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