Reciprocating Engine Lubrication Systems – Oil Coolers

in Lubrication and Cooling Systems

The cooler, either cylindrical or elliptical shaped, consists of a core enclosed in a double-walled shell. The core is built of copper or aluminum tubes with the tube ends formed to a hexagonal shape and joined together in the honeycomb effect. [Figure 6-11] The ends of the copper tubes of the core are soldered, whereas aluminum tubes are brazed or mechanically joined. The tubes touch only at the ends so that a space exists between them along most of their lengths. This allows oil to flow through the spaces between the tubes while the cooling air passes through the tubes.

Figure 6-11. Oil cooler.

Figure 6-11. Oil cooler.

The space between the inner and outer shells is known as the annular or bypass jacket. Two paths are open to the flow of oil through a cooler. From the inlet, it can flow halfway around the bypass jacket, enter the core from the bottom, and then pass through the spaces between the tubes and out to the oil tank. This is the path the oil follows when it is hot enough to require cooling. As the oil flows through the core, it is guided by baffles that force the oil to travel back and forth several times before it reaches the core outlet. The oil can also pass from the inlet completely around the bypass jacket to the outlet without passing through the core. Oil follows this bypass route when the oil is cold or when the core is blocked with thick, congealed oil.

Oil Cooler Flow Control Valve

As discussed previously, the viscosity of the oil varies with its temperature. Since the viscosity affects its lubricating properties, the temperature at which the oil enters an engine must be held within close limits. Generally, the oil leaving an engine must be cooled before it is recirculated. Obviously, the amount of cooling must be controlled if the oil is to return to the engine at the correct temperature. The oil cooler flow control valve determines which of the two possible paths the oil takes through the oil cooler. [Figure 6-12]

Figure 6-12. Control valve with surge protection.

Figure 6-12. Control valve with surge protection. [Click image to enlarge]

There are two openings in a flow control valve that fit over the corresponding outlets at the top of the cooler. When the oil is cold, a bellows within the flow control contracts and lifts a valve from its seat. Under this condition, oil entering the cooler has a choice of two outlets and two paths. Following the path of least resistance, the oil flows around the jacket and out past the thermostatic valve to the tank. This allows the oil to warm up quickly and, at the same time, heats the oil in the core. As the oil warms up and reaches its operating temperature, the bellows of the thermostat expand and closes the outlet from the bypass jacket. The oil cooler flow control valve, located on the oil cooler, must now flow oil through the core of the oil cooler. No matter which path it takes through the cooler, the oil always flows over the bellows of the thermostatic valve. As the name implies, this unit regulates the temperature by either cooling the oil or passing it on to the tank without cooling, depending on the temperature at which it leaves the engine.