Diagnose the cause of water in tractor oil

Diagnose the cause of water in tractor oil
Aug 20, 2020

How to identify a blown head gasket

IN THE SHOP with Rachel

By Rachel Gingell

Water in your oil could be caused by a variety of things. A failure of the head gasket (commonly referred to as a blown head gasket) is the best-case scenario. While you have to tear the tractor down to the engine block to make this repair, the fix is straightforward and relatively inexpensive. 

Unfortunately, water in the oil can also be a symptom of a far more serious problem, such as a cracked engine block, a cracked cylinder head, or a leaky sleeve. These problems can be difficult to track down and expensive to repair.

Below, I outline four signs of a blown head gasket.

The first sign is the evident through the use of a chemical test solution. Many brands are available but look for one that allows you to put a few drops of antifreeze in the solution to check for carbon. If carbon is present in your antifreeze, most likely, the problem is with the head gasket rather than a crack in the engine block or cylinder head. 

The second sign is oil in the antifreeze. While not all blown head gaskets progress to this point before being noticed, some cases do. 

The third sign is pressure at the radiator cap. Loosely set the cap over the radiator to see if the cap moves up and down while your tractor runs. (Don’t put your hand over the opening.) A cracked engine block, cylinder head or leaky sleeve wouldn’t send pressure out the radiator, but a blown head gasket would. 

The final sign is coolant flowing down the engine block from the cylinder head area. 

Once you consider these signs, you can decide on your course of action. I recommend that you ask someone from a professional machine shop to confirm your suspicions. Be sure to purchase a high-quality replacement head gasket and use a sealant when making the repair.

Rachel Gingell (left) checks the oil on a Farmall Cub with her little helper Isabella.

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