Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Never that simple! (Part 2)

Friends who know nothing about narrowboats are often amazed when we describe Erin Mae. They are surprised that we have a shower, a flushing toilet, a proper oven, grill and hob, not to mention a washing machine. When we tell them we have radiators as well as a solid fuel stove they're ready to move in!

The radiators are powered by a small Webasto diesel-burning unit that sits in the engine compartment. We have to use antifreeze / coolant rather than just water in the pipes and radiators, and that was replaced two years ago. I noticed that it needed to be topped up so we dropped into Halfords in Stafford – which was when the fun started. "Which car is it for, sir?" They have their databases and charts and can tell you what you need for a 1987 East European banger or a 2009 Audi, but they somehow didn't include a narrowboat central heating system. I knew enough to know that there are problems with mixing different types of antifreeze, but even that seemed to mean I knew more than the staff serving me.

I rang the boatyard who'd put in the antifreeze and found out what sort it was (Rock Oil Red), then started my research on the web. The Rock Oil website said nothing about antifreeze so I gave them a ring. The receptionist promised to find out all the details and email me a data sheet. I'm still waiting. The Wikipedia article was very informative in a general sense, but of course said nothing about Rock Oil Red. It did say enough to emphasise the dangers of mixing types. Various sites and forums added to my sense of the complexity of the topic, without giving definitive information pointing to what I needed to buy. The blurb on the antifreeze on sale in our marina added little – but it was blue and with a 2-year life expectancy, rather than red with a 5-year life expectancy.

It became clear that the main issue is around the corrosion inhibitors the antifreeze contains. Different types don't play well together. Some last longer than others. The type is colour coded with a small amount of added dye, but the coding is not entirely consistent. In the end I found an online supplier of LandRover spares selling Rock Oil Red for a reasonable price, rang them up, and it should arrive in a couple of days. Meanwhile, my education proceeds apace.

So if you want some interesting info on organic acid corrosion inhibiting technology, just get in touch. Erin Mae probably doesn't know how blessed she is.

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