Nov Dec, 2003





Don't Fail me Now

Tips for avoiding engine problems

By Morley Young

When 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.

Continual maintenance
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.

Too hot
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.

Oil leaks
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 valve covers.
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.

Avoid abuse
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.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004