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Old 09-19-2017, 01:44 PM   #1
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coolant age/viability

As we are getting ready to take the boat to the Bahamas from Norfolk, VA, I am going over the engines with a fine tooth comb.

My question concerns coolant. I have no record from the previous owner of coolant being changed. The mechanic who adjusted the valves told me that the boat's blue coolant was extended life, which was good for 10 years. I question how he knows that. The boat has 1250 hours and was commissioned in 2003. The engines are Cummins 6BTA5.9.

How do I tell if the coolant is still good, or whether I need to change? Obviously not changing coolant would save some work and mess. I can by test strips but am unsure what numbers I should be looking for.

Thanks in advance,
Gordon
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Old 09-19-2017, 01:54 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Gordon J View Post
As we are getting ready to take the boat to the Bahamas from Norfolk, VA, I am going over the engines with a fine tooth comb.

My question concerns coolant. I have no record from the previous owner of coolant being changed. The mechanic who adjusted the valves told me that the boat's blue coolant was extended life, which was good for 10 years. I question how he knows that. The boat has 1250 hours and was commissioned in 2003. The engines are Cummins 6BTA5.9.

How do I tell if the coolant is still good, or whether I need to change? Obviously not changing coolant would save some work and mess. I can by test strips but am unsure what numbers I should be looking for.

Thanks in advance,
Gordon
If it were me, I would change it out and then you know the age of the coolant. It isn't a big of a job to do.
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Old 09-19-2017, 01:56 PM   #3
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Yup that is an option, however sticking a test strip in coolant and reading the results is even easier, if that is a viable option.
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Old 09-19-2017, 02:47 PM   #4
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Penrite make test strips for all coolants including long life types. They test for concentration, pH, and alkalinity. Instructions are fairly simple and included with the kit.

Penrite Oil | COOLANT TEST STRIPS
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Old 09-19-2017, 02:52 PM   #5
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Would anyone consider looking in the engine manual for a coolant change interval? Nobody knows what the engine needs better than the manufacturer and trying to save the few dollars a coolant change costs is foolish if you are risking a $25K (or more) engine.

My coolant is supposed to be changed every two years so that's what I do.
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Old 09-19-2017, 03:15 PM   #6
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Would anyone consider looking in the engine manual for a coolant change interval? Nobody knows what the engine needs better than the manufacturer and trying to save the few dollars a coolant change costs is foolish if you are risking a $25K (or more) engine.

My coolant is supposed to be changed every two years so that's what I do.
The certified Cummins mechanic told me that in my year engine that the company was using extended life coolant. Two years is how long you get off the green stuff. Current extended life coolant in stores claims to be good in cars for 120K miles or five years. I used to own a trucking company and learned to change fluids when the fluids were worn down/diluted or had some other issue. Testing can point you in the right direction.

While in the Army, we regularly tested oil in all diesel engines. Sometimes trucks would only get a couple thousand miles a year on them and with testing, we would learn that we could go often for years without changing.

I test oil now, but still change at the 250-hour interval as stated in the manual.

Gordon
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Old 09-19-2017, 03:18 PM   #7
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Penrite make test strips for all coolants including long life types. They test for concentration, pH, and alkalinity. Instructions are fairly simple and included with the kit.

Penrite Oil | COOLANT TEST STRIPS
AUSCAN,

Thanks. It appears the strips are only sold in California. I am sure I can find an American version somewhere. The instructions were much clearer than I seen on another product.

gordon
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Old 09-19-2017, 04:28 PM   #8
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The certified Cummins mechanic told me that in my year engine that the company was using extended life coolant. Two years is how long you get off the green stuff. Current extended life coolant in stores claims to be good in cars for 120K miles or five years. I used to own a trucking company and learned to change fluids when the fluids were worn down/diluted or had some other issue. Testing can point you in the right direction.

While in the Army, we regularly tested oil in all diesel engines. Sometimes trucks would only get a couple thousand miles a year on them and with testing, we would learn that we could go often for years without changing.

I test oil now, but still change at the 250-hour interval as stated in the manual.

Gordon
The difference between land based engine applications and marine is that the marine engine coolants can easily be contaminated by raw water leaks within the X-changer over time.
Even longer life coolants are not recommended for the same duration of service in marine diesels.
Please consult a Cummins engine manual and or take a look over at sbmar(dot)com.
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Old 09-19-2017, 04:40 PM   #9
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How about Cummins Coolant Test Strips? They might work pretty well in Cummins diesels

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Old 09-19-2017, 06:22 PM   #10
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Using a certified Cummins (or any brand) mechanic is fine but he is a mechanic who went to factory school, not one of the engineers who designed the engine. There will be a factory specification or maintenance interval for coolant type and change intervals.

The cost of coolant changes is minor compared to the potential for engine damage.
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Old 09-19-2017, 06:34 PM   #11
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If you ask the right questions and understand what the engine requires for coolant....it isnt complicated.

Yes if you are using a specified coolant per instructions and test it using certified test strips...you can feel safe your engine is protected.

Except in a few instances, coolant is not one of those things that will kill an engine quickly.
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Old 09-19-2017, 07:35 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by WesK View Post
Would anyone consider looking in the engine manual for a coolant change interval? Nobody knows what the engine needs better than the manufacturer and trying to save the few dollars a coolant change costs is foolish if you are risking a $25K (or more) engine.

My coolant is supposed to be changed every two years so that's what I do.
Gordon,

A bit of drift towards WesK's point - I have a crankcase breather on my Volvo Penta. It costs around $125, and VP now recommends a 100-hour interval, reduced from 200-hours when the manual was printed. Replacement of the engine is in the neighborhood of $40,000 for the block, plus labor. One can find pages and pages of internet discussion about how to clean and reuse this $125 crankcase breather, which is amusing to me. I once read some advice like WesK offers - that the crankcase breather is darn cheap compared to an engine replacement because a clogged oil nozzle allowed a catastrophic failure. I choose to follow this advice. There is a cost to run these machines properly. When I sell this boat, the fact that the 5000-hour engine has been maintained meticulously will add value. When I buy our next boat, proper maintenance wil be a primary consideration.

I suspect you would not regret renewing the coolant, as well as anything else in question, prior to your offshore voyage.

I just changed my green coolant last week. VP calls for a 2-year renewal interval.

Best Wishes,

Jeff
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Old 09-19-2017, 08:23 PM   #13
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I use what LarryM suggested.. only way to know for sure.
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Old 09-19-2017, 08:32 PM   #14
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All the large diesel engine manufacturers have test strips and coolant change intervals and other good guidance. No voodoo or opinions, just read the manuals.
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Old 09-19-2017, 09:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by smitty477 View Post
The difference between land based engine applications and marine is that the marine engine coolants can easily be contaminated by raw water leaks within the X-changer over time.
Even longer life coolants are not recommended for the same duration of service in marine diesels.
Please consult a Cummins engine manual and or take a look over at sbmar(dot)com.
Wouldn't leaks in a heat exchanger show up when testing the coolant? I actually looked at SBmar.com and did not see anything on coolants. Maybe I missed it.
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Old 09-19-2017, 09:31 PM   #16
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If you ask the right questions and understand what the engine requires for coolant....it isnt complicated.

Yes if you are using a specified coolant per instructions and test it using certified test strips...you can feel safe your engine is protected.

Except in a few instances, coolant is not one of those things that will kill an engine quickly.
Changing coolant every couple of years is essential for any engine, especially marine engines due to the fact that many boat engine rooms run hotter than they should due to poor or even no engine room ventilation and it all adds up to degradation earlier than later,

For the doubting few below is from a Volvo exhaust manifold sitting for two years only (in a hot engine room in a hot climate, you can clearly see where the seal area's have been eaten away (Two years!!) as i fitted this manifold brand new so know the history,

Cheers Steve
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Old 09-19-2017, 09:45 PM   #17
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For the doubting few below is from a Volvo exhaust manifold.....
Volvo?
That says it all doesn't it? :-)
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Old 09-19-2017, 10:20 PM   #18
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I tend to agree (known as the Green Death for just that!), but in this case Aluminium is Aluminum and new Aluminium as that, the coolant by the way was the newer (Long Lasting Type) color red from memory,(NOT GREEN)
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Old 09-20-2017, 05:17 AM   #19
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Many of the modern engines need SCA , to prevent the cylinders from being holed by cavitation.

Be sure the test strips will test for acid , not just SCA levels.
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Old 09-20-2017, 06:40 AM   #20
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Many of the modern engines need SCA , to prevent the cylinders from being holed by cavitation.

Be sure the test strips will test for acid , not just SCA levels.
Before you may ask SCA is :
QUOTE:
Supplemental Coolant Additives
are vital for the health and longevity of any diesel engine. Diesels, particularly the Ford Power-stroke, are prone to a problem called cavitation (or liner pitting). Both cavitation and corrosion can result in shorter engine life if the SCA level of your coolant is not monitored and maintained. The proper level of a chemical concentration of 1.5 - 3.0 UPG (Units Per Gallon) should be maintained in your cooling system at all times. For maximum protection be sure you begin with high quality make-up water (test with the ACU5050 CTS-5 Cool Check water test) and then check your SCA level every four months using Acustrip CTS-3 or CTS-4 test strips.

It's based on the principal the pistons in your engine move up and down about 2,000 times a minute. While they move vertically, the crankshaft is performing a completely different movement by rotating horizontally. These contradictory movements will cause your engine's liners in some cases to vibrate a lot. Although the outer wall of the liner is surrounded by cooling fluid, its inertia creates tiny vacuum pockets, causing bubbles of vapor to form on the liner wall. When the liner vibrates back, these bubbles collapse under an enormous pressure and take small chunks out of the liner. Eventually you may have a liner/ block failure,

Saying all that in 100's of strip and rebuilds I personally have only ever seen a handful cases, but when it does happen it looks like borer have attacked a portion of the liner (normally small in diameter) and if I didn't know better would have said a poor quality casting!, as above for what ever reason some engines are more prone than others?

In some engines it shows up as tiny bubbles in the fresh water system which is commonly miss-diagnosed as a leaking head gasket,the small (tiny) hole allows air into the water but not big enough (at first) to let water into the liner,

Cheers Steve
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