EGR coolers are a well known fragile point on most diesel engines. It is important to take care of your truck's EGR exhaust cooling system and protect your engine.
What Does an EGR Cooler Do?
The cooler in your truck's EGR system works with the EGR valve to create a mix of air, fuel, and exhaust gasses that lower emissions. Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) lowers combustion temperatures by diluting the air/fuel mixture with a small amount of inert exhaust gas. This process has no effect on the performance of your truck but it does reduce the change of chemical reactions that form pollutants. That being said, it is far more effective if the exhaust gas is cool, not hot. That is where the cooler comes in. The flow of exhaust gases through the EGR cooler is controlled by the vehicle’s computer via the EGR valve. Since the EGR cooler connects the exhaust and cooling systems of your engine, failures inside the cooler may lead to coolant loss, overheating, and engine damage, among other issues.
How Do I Know My Cooler is Going Bad?
Complete failure of your EGR’s cooling system could cause major damage to your engine. If you know what to look for, you may be able to spot your cooler’s failure before it becomes disastrous.
The most common first sign of failure is white exhaust smoke. This “smoke” is really steam from boiling water or coolant. This steam can be caused by a head gasket failure, a cracked EGR cooler or condensation inside the exhaust system.
As with any coolant leak, you may start noticing a lack of coolant in your overflow bottle. If you have to keep refilling your coolant system, and you don’t notice any drips on the ground, that coolant may be exiting through the exhaust via a leaking cooler.
Severe failures can lead to more serious problems such as connecting rods to bend, stretch head bolts, or blow the head gaskets, all causing severe engine damage.
How Can I Clean My EGR Cooler?
Replacing a cooler can get expensive. Failure is probably unavoidable, you may be able to extend the life of this part by keeping it clean. Clearing out soot and debris can restore an even flow through the cooler, which can reduce internal pressures and improve cooling performance.
There are several methods for cooler cleaning, but they all boil down to the same steps:
- Remove the cooler from the vehicle.
- Fill the cooler with a detergent.
- Let the cooler soak in the detergent to dissolve deposits.
- Thoroughly rinse the cooler to remove the loose deposits.
- Let the cooler dry, then reinstall it.
To clean really dirty passages, some repair shops place EGR coolers inside an ultrasonic cleaner. The ultrasonic waves vibrate the carbon loss while circulating detergent through the passages. This can speed up the cleaning process.
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