Piston Cooler Failure Analysis

You're at the shop, and the technician tells you that the problems in your diesel engine include a failed piston cooler. But what could have caused that? 

A lot of times, a failure in the piston cooler is caused by contamination in your oil system. Contaminated oil can be a big problem for your entire engine, and can cause premature issues throughout the system, so you want to make sure you're doing what you can to help prevent it before it happens. 

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Piston Cooler Failure Caused by Contamination in the Oil System

As we mentioned, there's a good chance your piston cooler failure was caused by contamination in the oil system.  A number of things could contaminate your oil, including coolant, air, or fuel. These alter the viscosity of the oil, and how it flows in the engine. To find out more about problems with your oil, read our post.

In the example below, though, you'll notice that the contamination was caused by engine debris.

Contamination left in the oil system from an engine overhaul plugged the piston cooler and caused the cylinder kit to seize from overheating. In the image below, the material pictured below the cooler was determined to be gasket material.


piston cooler failure oil contamination | Highway & Heavy Parts

Preventing Oil Contamination

One big thing you can do to help prevent your oil from becoming contaminated is ensuring cleanliness when you work on your engine. This helps keep dirt, debris, and other contaminants out of your engine as you work on it. 

By maintaining good cleanliness practices when you work on your engine, you significantly lower the chance of something entering the oil system that shouldn't be there. This includes ensuring that your work area is clean, cleaning parts as you remove them, steam cleaning your engine, and using the right kind of engine cleaner. For more tips on cleanliness in diesel engine repair, read our article. 


Oil contamination can be a big problem for your engine. Don't let it stop you in your tracks!

Problems with your piston cooler? Our ASE Certified Technicians are here to help you get what you need to get your diesel engine up and running again. Call them at 844-304-7688, or request a quote online!

Originally Posted November 17, 2015; Edited March 13, 2020

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