Piston Slap: Do water jackets ever need a life jacket?
Is it possible for an engine’s water jacket to erode to a point that it will no longer transfer heat efficiently?
Possible? Sure, it’s totally possible.
Probable? Not likely, as there’s a lot of metal that has to corrode/erode under truly neglectful conditions before it can happen. Perhaps good examples are when someone doesn’t use the correct antifreeze in marine applications (i.e. automotive coolant isn’t gonna cut it), or avoids using an additive on diesel engines to avoid cavitation, or just fails to perform regular coolant services on most gasoline-powered vehicles with the correct fluid. That said, this is probably a good time to post a friendly reminder on how to check and test your engine’s coolant.
Perhaps a final point to make is for those looking at a neglected vehicle as a project car. If the vehicle is decades old, it’s a good idea to check the inside of the cooling system (open the radiator cap and get a scope in there, for starters) and check for corrosion, rust, or any sort of scale buildup. If you see issues in the cooling system—especially in the somewhat easily accessible thermostat housing—perhaps it’s a good idea to consider the vehicle more of a barn find with the possibility of a full engine teardown in the future. Not that it’ll be necessary, but it could be.
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