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September 21, 2016 9:00 AM, EDT

Engine Coolants Hot Topic at Technology & Maintenance Council Meeting

TT File Photo

RALEIGH, N.C. – The increasing use of lightweight aluminum in engines will likely bring with it a conversion to nitrite-free, organic acid technology coolants, according to a maintenance executive at an industry meeting here.

Aluminum is replacing steel because its high-strength, low-weight properties help truck makers meet federal greenhouse gas emission standards by boosting fuel economy. At a Sept. 20 meeting here of the Technology & Maintenance Council, Homer Hogg, manager of technical development for TA Truck Service, said the switch in metal should be coupled with a change to OAT-NF coolants.

“It’s just a matter of weight,” Hogg told Transport Topics.

Coolants are now called upon to protect more aluminum than steel, Hogg said, so the industry is transitioning to the OAT-NF coolants. He said nitrites have been removed from new coolants in order to adjust to some manufacturing processes and benefit more aluminum in engines.

The servicing industry must react to that quickly because it can be very costly, he said. “In fact, it can take your entire engine down $50,000-plus per engine… if you do not get this right.” Hogg was one of the speakers on the panel at the session, titled “The Evolution of Engine Coolants.”

Coolants feature many technologies and colors, and knowing the difference between them is important for maximum coolant system protection, according to the meeting program.

OAT-NF coolants are quickly becoming the preferred specification among manufacturers and fleets, the meeting program says.

If a fleet has different types of vehicles, it doesn’t want to be responsible for managing multiple types of antifreeze, said Hogg, who develops technical solutions for TA Truck Service’s coast-to-coast network primarily in the truck shop division.

“It would be challenging on your inventory and challenging on your training programs so you try to have one consistent type of coolant,” Hogg said.

That is what many in the industry are struggling with, he said, noting many of the questions at the session concerned whether one antifreeze can be used for all of a fleet’s engine platforms. The answer, he said, is yes, for the nitrite-free coolants.

Over the past year or so, the transition to nitrite-free occurred on a broad scale in the industry, Hogg said. Not everyone has moved to this type of coolant, but the majority has, he said.

The new coolant is required by some of the engine manufacturers, such as Daimler, Hogg said. Other manufacturers are recommending it.

TMC is a division of American Trucking Associations. Its fall meeting continues through Sept. 22.