SIM­PLE LEAK DE­TEC­TION

Successful Farming - - SERVICE TEAM - By Ray Bo­hacz

Leaks are an un­wanted vis­i­tor that will even­tu­ally af­fect most ma­chines, en­gines, or driv­e­lines. Not only are leaks un­sightly but the es­cap­ing fluid at­tracts dust that finds its way into the sys­tem and can at­tack other com­po­nents.

The first step is to iden­tify the es­cap­ing fluid. The best method for this lies in your sense of sight, smell, and feel. Though color is a good in­di­ca­tor, de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion of the leak, the ap­pear­ance may be­come skewed by mix­ing with dirt or an­other for­eign sub­stance. The smell, its lu­bric­ity, and con­sis­tency when rubbed be­tween two of your fin­gers is highly ac­cu­rate, though.

More than one sys­tem can em­ploy the same fluid. It is im­por­tant to try to nar­row that down to which fluid is leak­ing by wash­ing the com­plete re­gion with a mild wa­ter-based de­greaser and let­ting it dry.

Also, keep in mind that a leak can be af­fected by the wind (from trav­el­ing down the road) or the draft of a cool­ing fan. This move­ment can de­ceive you from deter­min­ing ex­actly from where a leak is orig­i­nat­ing.

start with a good cleanup

Wen I’m chas­ing a leak, I wash down the en­tire en­gine, trans­mis­sion, or hy­draulic unit. As an aside, when I wash a piece of equip­ment or a ve­hi­cle, I al­ways clean the en­gine and un­der­car­riage. I like clean equip­ment. It runs bet­ter and is eas­ier to work. Plus, it alerts me to the be­gin­ning of the slight­est of weep­ing.

An ex­cel­lent method to help iden­tify a leak site is to em­ploy a dye and black light. The dye is added to the fluid and the en­gine or the equip­ment is run. Then you use the black light to eas­ily iden­tify the prob­lem area. Un­der the black light, the dye will pro­duce an irides­cent glow. A starter kit with a black light, dye, and safety glasses is of­fered by most larger auto part stores for around $60. Sub­se­quently, all you would need to in­vest in is the dye (which re­tails for around $5 a bot­tle). There are dyes for petroleum-based flu­ids such as en­gine and hy­draulic oil, coolant, and fuel. The fuel dye is es­pe­cially good at iden­ti­fy­ing a leak­ing in­jec­tor or line in a diesel that is di­lut­ing the en­gine oil. There are also dyes for air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems.

Most leaks are due to a loose sheet metal part (i.e., an oil pan, a hy­draulic line that needs to be snugged, or a sim­ple gas­ket or O-ring). The lo­ca­tion of the leak de­ter­mines the ac­tion re­quired.

steps to stop­ping leaks

Sheet metal en­clo­sures are sealed with a gas­ket and over many ther­mal cy­cles and through vi­bra­tion, the fasteners re­lax. This is of­ten a nui­sance leak that first ap­pears as an oc­ca­sional drip. When you snug the bolts, do not over­tighten them or you will warp the rail of the pan and com­press the gas­ket and ruin it. Al­ways al­ter­nate the tight­en­ing of the bolts and do not go around the perime­ter at first. This path­way should be your fi­nal tight­en­ing se­quence.

Most pumps do not use any gas­ket but have per­fectly ma­chined mat­ing sur­faces for the join­ing parts. If the pump is leak­ing, the bolts are usu­ally just slightly loose.

A hy­draulic line may be­come por­ous from age and will only leak when the pres­sure in the sys­tem reaches a cer­tain value. The same holds true for the lines used in an air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem. Work the hy­draulic sys­tem to raise the pres­sure to the up­per range. When check­ing an air con­di­tioner, tem­po­rar­ily block the air­flow across the con­denser (in front of the ra­di­a­tor) with a piece of card­board and run the sys­tem at high idle for around two min­utes with the hood closed. Shut the en­gine down and search for the leak with the black light.

If the rear main crankshaft seal ap­pears to be the cul­prit, be­fore you con­sider tak­ing the en­gine apart, check the op­er­a­tion of the crank­case ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem. If weak or de­fec­tive, the oil pan will be­come pres­sur­ized and push oil out of the rear crankshaft seal.

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