Until an engine starts overheating, a machine bogs down from the heat, or parts start showing strain, the cooling components on construction equipment can be an often neglected system of a machine. When a worksite gets busy and jobs keep coming at a rapid pace, taking time to perform maintenance can seem like an unnecessary slowdown, but paying a little extra attention to one important part of the cooling system — the radiator — can often lead to longer uninterrupted periods of smooth running.
To help with your radiator maintenance, we’ve put together these six, quick tips for keeping your radiator running its best.
❱❱ Keep Cooling Fins and Other Components Free of Debris
Everybody probably knows that one person who will pop a maintenance door and be confronted by a jack-in-the-box blast of debris spilling out. And while most people go wide-eyed when they see that person pushing into dangerous territory, many would be surprised how much even the smallest amount of debris can affect the machine.
Frequent breaks to wipe down guards and cooling fins and to clean out areas around the radiator can keep air flowing easily and allow the entire machine to run efficiently. An expert operator will identify dusty and debris filled conditions that will lead to increases in material collecting around the radiator and pay additional attention to keeping the system clear.
Often hot summer days are when we think most about our cooling system, but dry conditions in the fall when the air is increasingly filled with desiccated plant materials and smoky or dusty air can allow a fan to pull in perfectly-sized debris to collect around the radiator and create issues.
❱❱ Check Fluid Routinely
The operator’s guide for your machine will have a schedule for how often coolant must be changed on your equipment, but routinely checking coolant for color and consistency is a good way of spotting issues early.
Adding a coolant check to your routine maintenance will only add a few minutes to your routine but it can often stave off larger problems. If you do identify issues in your coolant it can be a clue that there’s trouble brewing elsewhere and with a little investigation allow you to find and fix minor problems before they develop into something larger.
Beyond issues in the coolant, one major issue to spot and the one that leads to the biggest problems is the easiest to discover when you routinely check your coolant — missing or low levels of coolant. When you take a minute to check your coolant and suddenly discover it's extremely low, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief that you caught the problem before it manifested elsewhere.
❱❱ Use the Correct Fluid
Just like with coolant changing schedules, the operator’s manual for your machine will provide advice on what fluid to use for different conditions. It can seem overly simple and straightforward, but ensuring the right fluid is pumping through your machine can be one of the most direct ways to keep your coolant system and your entire machine running its best.
❱❱ Ensure Thermostat is Working Properly
The thermostat on most radiators isn’t overly large or complex, but when it malfunctions it can lead to some frustrating, headscratch-inducing issues. A sticking thermostat can show up as wild fluctuations in temperature as the thermostat becomes stuck open or closed and doesn’t allow the radiator to properly regulate the temperature of the coolant.
Allowing the machine to warm and run for a period of time while keeping an eye on temperature gauges for drastic swings in temperature can help you spot thermostat issues. Once you notice issues, you can swap out the thermostat when the machine is in an ideal location or in for routine maintenance and avoid the issue coming to the forefront at the most inopportune times.
❱❱ Watch for Coolant Leaks
Not every coolant leak is easy to spot, and even the smallest coolant leaks can lead to trouble over time or even swiftly develop into large, troublesome leaks. Taking time to inspect the connections, hoses, cap, and plugs in a radiator and throughout the cooling system can lead to discovering leaks and allow you to put a stop to them before they develop.
Coolant leaks can occur nearly anywhere in the cooling system, but paying extra attention to areas where parts are clamped together or different materials have been joined can help you spot leaks faster.
❱❱ Replace A Poor Performing Radiator
Every part on your machine has a working life and in construction equipment tough conditions can mean a part is put to the test, day in and day out. A radiator is central to keeping your machine working well. Repeated small fixes to a radiator, downtime during repairs, and the loss of efficiency from a poorly performing radiator can be good indications that a wholesale radiator swap would be beneficial.
If you’ve done the math and determined a complete radiator change is in store for your machine, planning that repair to align with other repairs can ensure the machine is down for the minimal amount of time and when it's back up and running it's running at its best.
A well-working and properly maintained radiator is at the core of keeping your machine running at optimal temperatures and avoiding overheating. But even beyond major issues, when a radiator and cooling system are functioning properly they can lead to better efficiency for the machine and less wear on parts. The simple takeaway: a few extra minutes of radiator and cooling system maintenance can keep money in your back pocket.