Gas Engine Magazine


By Staff

The following comes from a recent topic on SmokStak, which can
be found on the Internet at: smokstak.cgi. As
ever, various individuals started, commented on and concluded the
following bulletin board thread.

I’ve been to several engine shows so far this summer and
noticed some guys use antifreeze in their cooling hoppers. I was
curious if anybody had any thoughts about the advantage or
disadvantage of using water versus antifreeze in hopper-cooled
engines. Also, if water is being used, should the hopper be drained
after each run? I don’t know if this affects the proper cool
down period of the piston and cylinder, but I always drain my
engines immediately after they have been used. – Mike

You should always use a 50/50 mix with water and antifreeze as
it provides better cooling than just water alone, but most
importantly it acts as a rust inhibitor. I leave the mix in all the
time for this reason. You should not drain the liquid until the
engine has cooled down. – Steve

You need some water, and be sure to add more from time to time,
otherwise the heat will build up. The main way that water cools
hopper-type engines is by evaporation. If you don’t have any
water then you’ve lost a lot of your cooling. Antifreeze will
eventually evaporate some but at a much higher temperature than
water. – Leonard

What about using a wood block in the hopper? It is usually to
keep the splashing to a minimum. Maybe something other? I use plain
water and add a small amount of ‘cooling system conditioner and
water pump lubricant.’ It’s cheaper than antifreeze and it
prevents rust. I think it is a form of water-soluble oil.- Gary

Just a technical note, antifreeze added to water decreases the
ability of the coolant to dissipate heat. A 50/50 mixture, although
not as efficient at removing heat, does have corrosion inhibitors,
lowers the freezing point and increases the boiling point of the
coolant. Modern antifreezes are primarily designed for closed,
pressurized cooling systems. – Richard

Straight water will dissipate heat way better than any mixture
of water and antifreeze. Once you start to add antifreeze to water,
its cooling ability will be less. The best coolant is straight
water. – Bill

Keep in mind that antifreeze is extremely poisonous. Not
following instructions for proper disposal may result in the death
of a family pet or other critters. – Eugene

How about RV antifreeze? Besides, it is non-poisonous.-

Allen, I tried RV anti-freeze. I found that it evaporates faster
than water. – David

In my engines that I store at a friend’s barn, I use RV
antifreeze. The directions on the bottle say to drain it before and
replace with regular antifreeze before use. So far, I have had no
problems with those engines. I also do the same thing for water
pumps that I display; fill with RV antifreeze over the winter when
not stored in a heated building. The RV antifreeze that I got is
nontoxic (at least that is what the bottle says). Its main use is
to winterize RV plumbing so it won’t freeze and bust their
pipes out. I do run my hopper-cooled engines on water. – Steve

I use an antifreeze solution in my 10-20 Titan, (and the rest of
my tractors too) which can evaporate a lot of water! I called an
antifreeze manufacturer to ask if I only needed to replenish the
lost water of if the antifreeze would boil off too. I was told to
just add water. – Craig

When these engines were built water was all they had. It works
for me and there is nothing poisonous to worry about. – Patrick

I agree with Patrick. Water is a better coolant than antifreeze
50/50 and who cares about the rust? It seals cracks and leaks. Why
bother restoring an engine to the nines so that even the correct
police won’t comment and then add a glaring green 21st century
coolant. – Garry

I like to use a 50/50 mix of antifreeze in my kerosene burners
because the antifreeze doesn’t carry the heat away as fast and
the engine runs hotter with no load. It also boils at a higher
temperature so that raises the hopper temperature also. Using the
antifreeze while burning kerosene will let it idle all day without
fouling a plug or blowing black smoke. Oh I love the smell of those
engines running on kerosene. – Bill

I keep antifreeze in my engines while storing them in winter.
It’s cheap insurance just in case I don’t get all the water
out of them. – Dave

Antifreeze may work okay if you are not taking your engine to
shows. How do you keep it from spilling while loading and unloading
and bouncing down the road on your trailer? It might work if you do
not keep the hopper full. I use water and drain before I load on my
trailer. Besides, that’s less weight to carry with an empty
hopper or tank. – John

WATER! WATER! WATER! These engines were made to run with water
in the hoppers. Water will boil off at 212 degrees and evaporation
is how these engines are cooled. Antifreeze can get upwards of 230
or so before it boils. Besides antifreeze is nasty on paint. As far
as leaving water in the hoppers for an extended period of time, it
doesn’t really hurt anything. I will run my engines for four
days at a show on the same water. As long as you get it out before
it freezes, it shouldn’t be a problem. – Joe

I use water in the summer and antifreeze for insurance in the
winter. I let my engines set for about five minutes after I shut
them off, then drain the water. If you drain the water this way the
moisture left in the hopper will evaporate quickly and the water
hopper will be dry. Just a note, I have a Fairbanks-Morse Model D
that I run a Baker fan with and it will use 5 gallons of water to 1
gallon of gas. – Gary

Use water – they were made for water so let’s use water.
/And like Joe said antifreeze is hard on paint. My Stover’s
paint was all dull and chalky because of antifreeze. – Chase

I’m not sure how the order of events goes, but if you store
your engine outside or in a barn that is somewhat open to the
elements, mud dobbers can build a nest inside the hopper. This can
get wet and not dry right away after an engine was drained or it
might prevent complete drainage. This will freeze and can cause a
crack. I’ve seen it happen. There might be other junk in a
hidden area of the hopper or head that could do this also. For that
reason I like the idea of keeping some antifreeze in the engine
when stored. – Ed

With all of my old marine engines that have been run in salt
water, I fill the water jackets full of straight antifreeze and cap
off the inlet and outlet pipes or just run a hose from one to the
other. This seems to keep the salt crystals in the pores of the old
cast iron from drying out and splitting the castings, and the lack
of air exposure seems to lessen the corrosive activity. I have done
this with some engines over 25 years and it works well.

I now add an anti-electrolysis additive to the antifreeze to
help stop this type of corrosion caused by dissimilar metals
connected together in a cooling system. When nothing is done to
preserve them I have seen many of these old marine engines decay
and turn to rusted hulks in a matter of 10 years or so. And not
only in private collections but many of them in the hands of our
maritime museum collections, which seems contrary to their primary
purpose of preserving these very artifacts. – Richard

I guess I’ll throw my hat into the ring and add that
antifreeze is the best way to not have to say ‘I’m
sorry’ to your engine after a cold winter and a fit of
forgetfulness. I’ll take the advice of the writer who said to
only add water to the mix. My condenser Type ZC-52 uses only about
a pint of water a year (200 hours or so of running time) but after
a few seasons of evaporation, the mixture is probably getting
pretty heavy on the antifreeze side. Now, where did I put that
antifreeze tester! – Elden

As a few have mentioned the wooden block in the hopper is used
to stop the water from splashing out and it works very well. After
spending many hours restoring an engine and doing the paint work
you don’t really want water splashing over the sides and
leaving nasty white marks from the minerals in the water.

As for letting the water out of engines, it’s best to leave
them for at least 10 minutes before draining to allow the engine to
cool down somewhat. However letting the water out when it is still
warm will help the dregs evaporate. Antifreeze to me is a waste of
time and money. If you want your water to look a different color
get some food coloring. Water makes the engines heavier and more
difficult while traveling, especially when you are the guy behind
in a new four-wheel-drive and you’re getting splashes of
antifreeze all over your new four-wheel-drive! – Adam

‘ . . . antifreeze is the best way to not have to say
‘I’m sorry’ to your engine after a cold winter and a
fit of forgetfulness.’

SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with
over 50,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series
of Web sites that started in 1995 as ‘Harry’s Old
Engine.’ Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and
gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota,

  • Published on Oct 1, 2003
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