Don't Fail me Now
Tips for avoiding engine problems
By Morley Young
a logger has engine problems, he wants answers from an expert. Tom O’Callaghan,
operations manager of Lane Parts in Eugene, Ore., is one of those experts. He
manages the 12,000-square-foot shop, filled with state of the art engine
rebuilding machinery and which employs six ASE Master Certified Technicians.
In Tom's opinion, the most common cause of engine failure is maintenance abuse. This doesn’t just cover
changing the oil and filter regularly; air intake and cooling systems are
equally important, but often neglected, maintenance items.
“The quality of the air going into the engine is more important than most people
realize,” says Tom. “I’ve seen engines fail in very short hours from such simple
things as the top of a carburetor not being installed properly, or an air intake
not fitting tightly.”
In a summer logging operation, dust is the enemy. Pacific Northwest dust is of
mostly volcanic origin, with a high silica content. And silica is a great
abrasive When the dust gets into your expensive diesel or gas engine it can
rebore it. Dust can also be damaging to bearings as well.
With the high operating temperatures of modern engines, the entire cooling
system, not just the radiator, is more important than ever. A suspect radiator
should be immediately removed and tested for cooling efficiency. Compared to the
price of a new or even a rebuilt Cummins or Cat engine, a thorough check of a
radiator is a bargain.
A 50/50 antifreeze/water mix provides protection to 34°F, in addition to giving
you the greatest cooling capability. Never exceed an antifreeze/water ratio of
70/30, and always use a supplemental corrosion inhibitor. Cummins and John Deere
recommend DCA4, which is available at all Cummins dealers. This additive is
especially important in diesel engines. And Caterpillar has two types of
additive, depending on which coolant IS being used.
An engine with a nice thick insulating coat of oil and dust not only camouflages
new oil leaks, it impedes the escape of heat into the air. Don’t discount the
heat exchange that takes place from the surface of a clean block, pan, heads and
A small gas powered pressure washer should be in every logger’s equipment
inventory. Two 50-gallon drums of water and a pressure washer will fit nicely
into a pickup, with space to spare. Clean equipment lasts longer.
One of Tom’s peeves is operator abuse: “Diesels aren’t racing engines; the
slower they run, without lugging, the longer they’ll last.” An operator who runs
the engine right up to the governor all the time isn’t accomplishing any more
than the other operators, and he’s shortening the life of your engine. A quiet
operation is a good operation.
Occasional design issues
Product design is rarely to blame for engine failure, but it does happen.
Crankshafts have been known to break because the fillets were not machined
properly for the amount of stress that was being applied to the crank. The owner
or the operator can't do much about the original design, but if you get an early
failure, you should ask your rebuilder why it happened.
And don’t discount rebuilding an engine. “Rebuilt engines, when done right, can
be better and live longer than a new engine,” say Tom.
When all is said and done, keeping your engine clean and cool, and away from
lead-footed cowboys, is like putting money in your pocket.
service is temporarily unavailable