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Do Your Own Coolant Flush

In this Shop Class installment, instructor Marty Zuzens from Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Man., focuses on engine cooling systems and explains what it takes to keep an engine from losing its cool.

Pay close attention to what you pour in the radiator, Zuzens advises. Using the wrong coolant spells trouble for an engine. For diesels, heavy-duty diesel antifreeze is the only option, not an automotive type or anything containing silicate.

Silicate is an additive that searches out internal aluminium engine components and covers them, preventing erosion from acids, Zuzens says. Gasoline car engines have a lot of aluminium components. But diesel engines have very few, so the silicate has nothing to cling to. It then collects in the radiator and heater core causing trouble. This is known as silicate fall out.

On the other hand, specialized diesel antifreeze does not contain silicate and can be harmful to gasoline-fuelled automotive engines. As always, refer to operator’s manuals for proper coolant recommendations.

Many modern diesel engines have a coolant filter, which must be changed annually. And when checking the freeze point, use a refractometer, which is much more accurate than squeeze bulb testers. Refractometers can be purchased at a dealer or automotive supply store.

It’s important to run at least a 50-50 antifreeze-water mixture. Never use pure water or pure antifreeze. Besides freezing and cracking the head or block, pure water will rust internal engine components. Conversely, pure antifreeze will jell in the system. Either way, your engine will end up out of service. For the cold Prairie climate, 60 per cent antifreeze, 40 per cent water is the best choice.

When adding or changing coolant, mix the antifreeze and water in a separate jug, then add it to your radiator or fill tank. Don’t rely on them mixing properly inside the system.

It is very important to check coolant regularly to determine its additive make up. Test kits are available for just that purpose. It is actually hard to find “good” water to mix in your cooling system. That is why manufacturers have come up with long-life, premixed coolant, which is ready to use and

Whi le proceeding through our harvest frenzy this year we discovered two new uses for the magic stuff, duct tape. First is the cup and phone holder. Second is for bearing repair.


For underprivileged farmers like me, this is quite helpful. Most of our machinery was made before the era of cup holders as a factory installed accessory. Our Massey 750 combines were built in this ancient time. Duct tape to the rescue.

Of course, as our son Dan took over the machine it was converted into a phone holder for his cell phone. Perhaps there are more uses. Here are the instructions for this installation:

1. Take wrapper off roll of tape.

2. Find flat surface.

3. Lay roll on surface.

4. Install cup or phone.


I did try shaft repairs with duct tape a couple of years ago but that one didn’t make it through the Ancient Acres Testing Ground before it failed. However the bearing repair has held up for over 50 hours in dusty harvest conditions.

Here was the problem: The seal fell out of a bearing on the shaker shoe on my combine. Both of my Massey combines have had these bearings. They just sit there and the shaker shoe shaft just goes back and forth all day long inside the bearing. It never makes a full revolution. It likely only moves one eighth of a turn. However this bearing was the one they put on the combine first and built the rest of the combine around it. We were 20 miles from home when our son Ben noticed the seal hanging on the shaft.

“You know,” he says, “one of our parts combines had that seal held in with silicone. Maybe we could do that, too.”

Well, we had no silicone but we had — drum roll please — duct tape!

On close inspection, I saw that the bearing was completely dry, but the bearing cage was still holding the ball bearings in their appointed places. So I gobbed some grease on my finger tip and reloaded the bearing. After it was full of grease I cleaned off the adjacent areas and taped the seal back in place with duct tape. Voila!

This should hold things together until we have time to do the proper repair job with silicone — or perhaps even install new bearing.

Ron Settler, his wife, Sheila, and their sons Ben and Dan farm and run a repair and salvage business at Lucky Lake, Sask.

About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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