They say that a radiator is only as good as its maintenance schedule. That’s why it is crucial to regularly clean and inspect your Mesabi radiator. OEM Applications Engineer Tim Cass, who has worked with L&M Radiator for more than 40 years, offers his top nine tips on how to reduce downtime and extend the life of your radiator by reinforcing the importance of regular maintenance.
The power of a genuine Mesabi® radiator is not only in its inimitable durability but in its unique ability to be swiftly cleaned and repaired in the field. A well-maintained Mesabi® radiator is designed to last the life of a machine (which means multiple engine lives, depending upon the operating conditions), saving mines and oil and gas companies hundreds of precious hours on downtime (and cost savings to match). But, don’t be entirely fooled by the ease of maintenance, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about cleaning your Mesabi® radiator.
If you’re feeling unsteady on your feet about radiator maintenance best practices – don’t fret. OEM Applications Engineer Tim Cass offers more than four decades of experience assisting owners of Mesabi radiators with effective maintenance and problem-solving.
“Over the years I’ve seen many different tough applications and mistakes customers have made in maintaining their cooling systems,” said Cass. “I’ve seen a radiator in use on a landfill coated in thick paint pigment. I have pulled fast food wrappers and newspapers out of radiators. Once, a mouse even built a nest inside of a radiator, plugging off coolant flow. Between those extreme examples of radiator failure to the more mundane ones, it is all preventable. Sites can save so much time and money by taking preventive measures instead of emergency ones.”
To optimize your heat exchanger to its fullest extent, expert Tim Cass offers these nine tips:
- Know how often to clean your radiator – How often you clean your cooler core will largely depend on the type of application — haul truck, dozer, loader, drill, etc. For example, landfill, waste, and forestry operations that handle sticky or abrasive material might require more consistent cleaning than a surface mining operation that encounters dust and mud.
Though a Mesabi radiator will not require cleaning as often as a conventional radiator, it is important to understand your machine’s needs and maintain a consistent cleaning
schedule based on that information. If you are waiting until your machine starts having problems, you are waiting too long.
“The more often you clean your radiator, the easier it is to clean,” said Cass. “If you’re waiting until the equipment overheats, you will be putting undo stress on your engine and cooling system.”
- Use high-pressure wash – With all that your machine has been through, it’s simply not good enough to give your radiator a quick rinse. That’s why Cass insists that maintenance personnel use high-pressure water (at least 1,200 PSI) at a one to three-inch distance (that is not a typo!) from the core for the most optimal cleaning.
Before you begin your wash, use a high-pressure air gun first to blow out any dust. And while it’s not necessary, hot water will be much more effective than cold water. Also, when life gives you lemons, don’t clean your radiator with them, but do consider introducing a citrus-based soap solution to your pressure washer for an even better clean. Citrus-based soaps are especially popular because they are environmentally friendly.
- Stand perpendicular to the core – It won’t do you or your radiator any favors to spray the core at any random angle. According to Cass, the wand should be perpendicular to the face of the core at all times, meaning you might need to move your body along with the wand to stay in the right position.
“Unlike a conventional radiator, you won’t hurt a Mesabi® radiator by getting up close and using high pressure,” said Cass. “In some cases, you will have to remove grills to get closer to the core with the spray nozzle. It is not effective to be any further than 3 inches away from the core while cleaning.”
- Clean water, clean radiator – While some sites use salt water, aggressive groundwater, or even acidic water to clean their radiators, Cass insists that this is one of the worst things you can do to your machine.
“I once worked with a mine that was going through battery charging alternators every 90 days because the saltwater they were using to clean was very aggressive,” recalled Cass. “It would eat up even chrome-plated hydraulic cylinder rods and rip up the seals. Parts of the machine were just disappearing – literally dissolving. The aluminum castings on the engine dissolved after six months.”
The moral of the story is: unless you have brass tubes in your radiator, which are built to withstand aggressive conditions, it’s best to use clean water when pressure washing your radiator.
- Consider investing in a Mesabi cleaning tool – To remove the pressure of getting the technique right, L&M Radiator has designed Mesabi® cleaning tools (Part number 120983 and part number 123168). Part number 120983 is equipped with rollers that keep the nozzles at a consistent 90-degree angle to the core, while part number 123168 uses a skid design. Both tools are a fool-proof way to ensure you clean your radiator the correct way every time.
“With your standard pressure washer, it’s up to the operator to keep the nozzle at 90 degrees to the core and spaced appropriately,” said Cass. “Our cleaning tool keeps the nozzles aimed in the right direction and at the right distance, so it isn’t up to the operator to maintain the correct position to the core. All you do is move the tool across the core and you’re golden.”
- Monitor your coolant use – Internal contamination is a serious problem and doesn’t bode well for any machine. One of the most common ways that a core becomes contaminated is due to mixing two incompatible coolants. This can happen by mixing coolants intentionally, or by neglecting to drain the entire system before switching to a new coolant type.
“If you mix two incompatible coolants, it can cause some of the critical components that make up the coolants to drop out of solution. They precipitate out as a gel or muddy-looking substance that then adheres to the sides of the tubes, which can eventually plug the tubes entirely,” said Cass. “Most engine manufacturers have their own brand of coolant, whether it is ethylene glycol, SCA, or a long-life organic acid coolant, and most of them will say very prominently on the packaging if it is compatible with any other kind.”
If you see a gel-like substance forming in your radiator tubes, it is likely that you have combined two incompatible coolants. Contact L&M Radiator customer service representatives or your local field representative immediately for assistance on how to clean your radiator internally.
- Be wary of SCA coolant overtreatment – As an SCA coolant ages, the additives that prevent internal corrosion can dissipate over time. This means it is necessary to periodically test your SCA coolant to see if you need to add more.
The problem arises when operators overcorrect their SCA levels after testing by adding too much SCA. Overtreatment can also occur by changing the water filter too often or using the wrong filter entirely. According to Cass, this can cause the SCA to precipitate out and interfere with the cooling ability of your machine. This is why it is crucial to use exactly the right amount of SCA.
- Learn how to properly inspect your tubes – Another way that systems can become contaminated is when an engine or transmission oil cooler fails and leaks oil into the cooling system. If you suspect that your cooling system is contaminated, or if you are undergoing an engine overhaul, Cass recommends checking the core of the radiator for contamination. This can be accomplished by pulling one or two tubes out of the radiator, cutting them lengthwise, parallel to the flats on the tube, and inspecting the inside of the tube for any gel-like substance or oil on the tube’s interior.
If you do find evidence of contamination, Cass recommends contacting an L&M Radiator representative to assist with the problem. Some contamination can be resolved by using a simple radiator flush, while other cases are more severe. For more in-depth information on how to check your tubes for contamination, view this service bulletin.
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