Shopping Cart

How Cooling Systems Affect Cylinder Liner Pitting & Cavitation

The cylinder is one of the fundamental parts of an engine block. It’s the space through which the piston travels while the engine is running. So, to put it simply, if you don’t have healthy cylinders, you don’t have a healthy engine. Some engine cylinders have a metallic liner that forms an inner wall and smooth surface over which the piston slides. Others are made of a coating applied directly to the engine block. What does your cooling system have to do with maintaining your cylinders? More than you might realize.

Cooling Systems and Diesel Engine Cylinders

The key connection between a diesel engine cooling system and the cylinder walls or liners has to do with proper coolant selection and maintenance. You can brush up on the different types of diesel engine coolant here, but the most important thing to know is that your engine coolant is a liquid mixture that helps transfer heat away from the engine, and prevents freezing in cold weather. Being a combination of antifreeze, water and additives means it’s possible for coolant with the wrong formula to cause problems for your engine.

Chief among those unintended effects are pitting and cavitation-erosion. These problems are as nasty as they sound, and are common causes of costly engine failure. Pitting can occur on the cylinder walls or cylinder liners. It is a type of corrosion that forms small pits in the metal surface. Of course, a pitted surface is not good for contact with a piston moving at over 1,000 rpm. What’s worse is that even small surface pits often hide much larger pits underneath. The integrity of the entire cylinder wall can be compromised over time.

Another type of diesel engine corrosion is cavitation-erosion. Cavitation starts with air bubbles degrading the protective oxide film on the cylinder wall. Without this protective coating, fuel combustion in the engine can cause the cylinder wall/liner to vibrate, which generates more air bubbles. As the bubbles implode on the outside of the cylinder wall, the metal will eventually corrode and form cavities. In the worst cases, these cavities can completely eat through the wall or liner, which then leads to coolant leaks and oil contamination.

How to Prevent Cylinder Liner Pitting and Cavitation

Corrosion is a chemical or electrochemical process. Fortunately, that means it can be prevented in part by carefully managing which chemicals are used in your diesel engine cooling system. Once pitting has begun, it is practically impossible to reverse, so the only effective solution is prevention. The best method of prevention is keeping your cooling system well maintained.

As mentioned before, the coolant you use is a big part of proper cooling system maintenance. Let a cooling expert advise you on what mixture is best for your specific diesel engine. Making an uneducated guess could lead to major problems down the road. It takes the right coolant formula with the proper initial fill amount, as well as periodic service checks, to protect the metal in your system from corrosion and erosion.

Leaking coolant and low cooling system pressure are also factors that can make the creation of harmful air bubbles in your cylinders worse. It’s safe to say that having a reliable source for diesel engine cooling service is a huge part of preventing pitting and cavitation from affecting your equipment. If you’d like to learn more, contact the experts at Industrial Radiator Service today.

Available to Serve 24/7

Contact us today to discuss solutions for your cooling system and hydraulic repair needs.


Service Center: (866) 296-8194

Sales Support: (972) 645-3290


2920 Sylvan Ave

Dallas, TX 75212