Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Low Down On The Low Coolant Alert

Mile Markers detail happenings in our family, travels and our ministry. Fortunately or Unfortunately that includes bus drama! If your eyes gloss over when I post technical "stuff" about the BoggsMobile, stand up now and go get another cup of coffee, you may need it today. If you come here for bus "stuff", hang on, you are going to love this.

I told you we had a little bus drama on the way to Central City. The sky was not falling, there were no conniption fits or hysterics, no small children or animals harmed in any way, but when antifreeze is dripping from under the bus 30' forward of the engine, it is a little exciting.

We were traveling west from London, Kentucky Saturday when I watched my "low coolant alert" come on. The sensor is at the bottom of the coolant surge tank so the alert is a very early signal.

The engine temp was showing fine and I was able to pull to the shoulder quickly. By the time I was stopped, the low coolant alert was off and the temp was about 200, which is OK. I put Kelly in the driver's seat, left the engine running and I ran outside to check the engine.

All looked good at the engine and I noticed the radiator fan seemed to be idling, confirming the engine temp was good. I went back to the passenger side and as I approached the front, I noticed coolant dripping along the passenger side of the bus. The shoulder of the highway was leaning heavy toward the grass and the coolant running out told me the leak was probably in the lines running to the Aqua Hot.

Kelly Jo shut down the bus. As she shut down, the low coolant alert was back on, but the engine temp was still good. I went to the rear driver's side and closed the valves going to and from the Aqua Hot. While doing that I blistered my thumb and two fingers. Bad toad!

Next I opened the first bay forward to check on the sound equipment. Some of the bay carpet was wet with coolant but none of the equipment seemed to be in danger. Whew!

I realized immediately that a decision I made 18 months ago probably contributed to this problem. The Aqua Hot system was bad and we removed it "temporarily" hoping it could be rebuilt or replaced. There are coolant lines from the engine toward the front of the bus to the Aqua Hot. I looped those together and allowed the coolant to flow through them.

I could have shut the valves on these lines 18 months ago, but I left them open. My thinking was that if I replaced the Aqua Hot in the future, the coolant in the lines would be fresh and the hoses would not be gummed up. I now think I should have shut those valves off.

While on the side of the road I had no idea how much coolant was lost, but I suspected several gallons. I poured two gallons of warm water into the expansion tank. Then I had Kelly Jo crank the bus, watch the gauges and let me know when the low coolant alert went off.

The bus temp stayed slightly above 195 while I added water. I added 7 1/2 gallons before the low coolant alert went off. I added another 1 1/2 gallons for a total of 9. 

Once inside the bus I would have liked to have relaxed and breathed a little bit, but we had already been sitting one foot from traffic for long enough. It was time to move on. I put the bus in gear and drove while Kelly Jo was trying to nurse by blistered hand. It was right then that I came to a startling realization. 

I had not ran around the broken down bus saying, "Thank God I am not pastoring a church." What? How could I have missed that? Hmmmmm. Is there some significance in that little omission from my normal breakdown routine? Am I getting soft in my old age?

I think the key is that even though we were broken down beside the road, the stress level stayed remarkable low. I did not have to remind myself how good I had it since it really did not seem to bad.
🤔 🤣 

I drove 100 miles before stopping and let it idle while I ate in the bus. While stopped, the low coolant alert flashed twice. I really expected it would do that while driving, since I suspected I might have some air pockets. I added another gallon and hoped it was full and no air pockets.

Now I need to make a decision. The 50/50 ratio of water and quality antifreeze is blown to smithereens with 10 gallons of London, Kentucky city water in there. The best way to correct that is to have the whole system flushed and filled. Also, the chemical make-up of the coolant needs to be at a certain level in a Detroit diesel or it can cause damage to the metal.

The coolant has to have a certain level of SCA to prevent the coolant from damaging the engine. I have the SCA level checked each time the oil is changed. It is important that the level be good, not too high or too low. It is almost certainly low now. 

How quickly can damage happen?

What I am hearing from guys that know much more than me is that I must take care of this now, as in right now. I am formulating a plan as I type this. I will update later.

Yesterday, Monday, I pulled most of the things out of the second bay where the Aqua Hot used to be. The hose that I suspected was the culprit was indeed busted open. It is little wonder I lost so much coolant in a short time.

Yesterday was taken up with investigating the source of the leak and taking the Green Machine to Evansville, Indiana for a planned visit to Bro. John Eaton's shop in Mt. Vernon. Today I will work on cleaning the bays and putting a plan in place to get going again.

Oh, the blisters on my fingers and thumb looked pretty bad Sunday. I was careful not to burst them. By Monday afternoon, they were looking great! Praise the Lord!

Thanks for reading today.


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