Frozen in time
After the 'big freeze' comes the inevitable 'big melt' - never more so than this Christmas and New Year when we had some of the coldest conditions ever experienced by many of us. The extreme cold is hard on man, animals and machines, and especially hard on man if the machines don't work.
As a rule, we experience relatively wet and miserable, but warm, conditions compared to many of our neighbours. Our moderate temperatures rarely have an effect on the functioning of tractors and equipment. As a result, we are often ill- prepared for the extremes.
It's all a bit retrospective at this stage, but it's certainly a worthwhile exercise for the future to take a look at what we can do to avoid damage in the extremes.
As stated in an earlier article on winterising sprayers, when water freezes it expands by about 10pc and is incredibly powerful, exerting destructive forces on whatever may try to contain it. Anti-freeze, or coolant, provides two functions: it stops the water freezing and provides a rust inhibiting function to the cooling liquid, which runs in a mostly metal/ cast iron environment.
Many may doubt the quality or effectiveness of the anti-freeze in their tractor or vehicle and, as a result, may drain and refill with new anti-freeze. To remove this uncertainty there are several different types of testers available. I bought the one featured here in the local auto factor for just €5. It is the latest hydrometer-type which features discs, which will float instead of the older graduated bulb type, which can be off-putting to some.
On the featured tester (right) the first coloured disc represents -70°C protection, the second -150°C, the third -230°C, and so on. To use, just squeeze the rubber head on the top to draw the vehicle's coolant liquid into it until the glass section is full. Hold it upright to allow the discs to float freely.
After the recent cold snap, you would require two floating discs to offer adequate protection. Testing several vehicles on the family's farm threw up a couple of surprises. A 1998 Nissan pick-up, with the original coolant, still floated three discs. One of the tractors only offered minimal protection during the recent freeze, floating just one disc -- as it turned out it had a slow water leak in the radiator and topping it up, rather than curing the problem, had thinned out the coolant's performance -- a good example of how easy you can be caught out.