Diesel Engines Cylinder Head Cleaning

Cleaning techniques depend on the available facilities. In the field, cleanup usually consists of washing the parts in kerosene or diesel fuel. Gasket fragments can be scraped off with a dull knife (a linoleum knife with the blade ground square to the handle is an ideal tool). The work can be speeded up by using one of the aerosol preparations that promise to dissolve gaskets. In general, it is not a good practice to use a wire brush on head and cooling system gaskets that, until recently, contained asbestos. Sealant, sometimes used in lieu of conventional valve cover and cooling system gaskets, can be removed with 4 in. 3M Scotch-Brite Surface Conditioning Discs, mounted on a high-speed die grinder. Use the coarse pad (3M 07450) on steel surfaces, the medium (3M 07451) on aluminum.

Carbon responds to a dull knife and an end-cutting wire wheel. Clean the piston tops, rotating the crank as necessary. Overhead camshaft drive chains will foul if the crankshaft is turned, and one cannot pretend to do much by way of piston cleaning on these engines.

Machine shops and large-scale repair depots employ less labor-intensive methods. Some shops still use chlorinated hydrocarbons (such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene) for degreasing, although the toxicity of these products has limited their application. A peculiar side effect of trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure is “degreaser’s flush.” After several weeks of contact with the solvent, consumption of alcohol will raise large red welts on the hapless degreaser’s face.

Once the head (and other major castings) are degreased, ferrous parts are traditionally “hot-tanked” in a caustic solution, heated nearly to the boiling point. Caustic will remove most carbon, paint, and water-jacket scale. Parts are then flushed with fresh water and dried. In the past, some field mechanics soaked iron heads in a mild solution of oxalic acid to remove scale and corrosion from the coolant passages.

Caustic and other chemical cleaners pose environmental hazards and generate an open-ended liability problem. The Environmental Protection Agency holds the producer of waste responsible for its ultimate disposition. This responsibility cannot be circumvented by contract; if a shop contracts for caustic to be transported to a hazardous waste site, and the material ends up on a country road somewhere, the shop is liable.

Consequently, other cleaning technologies have been developed. Pollution Control Products is perhaps the best-known manufacturer of cleaning furnaces and claims to have more than 1500 units in service. These devices burn natural gas, propane, or No. 2 fuel oil at rates of up to 300,000 Btu/hour to produce temperatures of up to 800 F. (Somewhat lower temperatures are recommended for cylinder heads and blocks.) An afterburner consumes the smoke effectively enough to meet EPA emission, OSHA workplace safety, and most local fire codes.

Such furnaces significantly reduce the liability associated with handling and disposal of hazardous materials, but are not, in themselves, the complete answer to parts stripping. Most scale flakes off, but some carbon, calcified gasket material, and paint might remain after cleaning.

Final cleanup requires a shot blaster such as the Walker Peenimpac machine illustrated in Fig, 7-20. Parts to be cleaned are placed on a turntable inside the machine and bombarded with high-velocity shot. Shot size and composition determine the surface finish; small diameter steel shot gives aluminum castings a mat finish, larger diameter steel shot dresses iron castings to an as-poured finish. Delicate parts are cleaned with glass beads.

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