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Diesel Engine Equipment in Cold Operating Temperatures

We all know that overheating is a big potential problem for diesel engines. But did you know that overcooling can be just as serious of a problem? Diesel engine care isn’t only about keeping cool, but regulating temperature precisely so that it stays warm enough to run efficiently. This is especially important for heavy equipment operating in harsh cold weather environments.

It is harder to start a diesel engine in cold weather, and it must be allowed enough time to warm up before operation. Components like the cylinder walls, coolant, electrical components and fuel are all sensitive to low temperatures and can have a negative effect on overall engine health without precautions.

Despite your best efforts to prepare your diesel engine cooling system for the cold, there are possible overcooling effects that you should keep in mind. In general, these issues can be avoided by keeping your equipment on a regular cooling system maintenance plan and always letting the engine warm up to its proper operating temperature.

Overcooling can cause sludge formation

If a diesel engine continually operates at cold temperatures, it can result in the formation of sludge in the crankcase. Sludge is created when oil solidifies or gels, and it can gum up important engine components like pistons, piston rings, valve lifters and valve stems. A nasty byproduct of sludge formation, especially when using fuel with high sulfur content, is the accumulation of sulfuric acid. This acid can lead to corrosion of the engine. In fact, corrosion in general is made worse by overcooling because of its connection to the buildup of other contaminants.

Carbon buildup resulting from cold temperatures

Diesel engine equipment operating in cold temperatures without proper temperature regulation can also lead to carbon buildup. If your equipment frequently generates thick black smoke, it could be a sign of carbon buildup. Maintaining the right temperature, which means not overcooling, helps minimize the carbon deposits that tend to form on engine valves, pistons and other parts. A secondary cause of this harmful buildup can be over-lubrication of the engine. Simple precautions like not letting your equipment idle for too long in cold weather helps the temperature control system do its job.

Many diesel engines have one or more thermostats to help with temperature control. These special regulators are built to work with certain types of radiators and are closely tied to the application of engine coolant, so make sure you have the right thermostat installed for your specific cooling system. The wrong regulator may allow too much coolant to flow while operating in cold weather, which may eventually lead to overcooling. 

There is no doubt that overheating is a major concern when it comes to diesel engine equipment maintenance. But when working in a cold weather environment, the crucial matter of temperature regulation is actually much broader. Keep these potential results of overcooling in mind during the fall and winter months, and contact Industrial Radiator Service to make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay prepared.

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