DPF common queries
Why is this happening?
The Yorkshire DPF Centre has the equipment and expertise to repair and maintain your DPF to a high standard, but it never hurts to learn the reasons behind the failure, and how to prevent it. For this reason this section is designed to inform and educate you as to what a dpf does, why it does it, and what goes wrong during the process.
Answers to common questions
What is a DPF filter?
A diesel particulate filter (DPF) is a filter that captures and stores exhaust soot (some refer to them as soot traps) in order to reduce emissions from diesel cars. But because they only have a finite capacity, this trapped soot periodically has to be emptied or 'burned off' to regenerate the DPF.
This regeneration process cleanly burns off the excess soot deposited in the filter, reducing the harmful exhaust emission and helps to prevent the tell-tale black smoke you used to see from diesel vehicles, particularly when accelerating.
Euro 5 exhaust emissions legislation introduced in 2009 to help lower car CO2 emissions effectively made DPFs mandatory, and since then, around one in two new cars a year have been diesel-powered.
What causes a diesel particulate filter blockage?
Short journeys at low speeds are the prime cause of blocked diesel particulate filters.
This is why car makers often go as far as recommending city-bound short-hop drivers choose a petrol car instead of diesel (and it’s why diesels are something of a rarity in the city car sector).
Other things that are bad for DPFs include poor servicing. A diesel particulate filter on a poorly serviced car may fail sooner than a well maintained one, generally, they should last for at least 100,000 miles.
It’s important you use the right type of oil as well – some oils contain additives that can actually block filters, as can using low-quality fuel and even running the car frequently on a low fuel level as the car may avoid DPF regeneration in order to save fuel.
How do I maintain a diesel particulate filter?
The best way to maintain a DPF is to make sure it’s fully able to regenerate itself when it’s full of soot (when the warning light appears).
There are two types of regeneration: passive and active.
Passive regeneration occurs when the car is running at speed on long motorway journeys which allows the exhaust temperature to increase to a higher level and cleanly burn off the excess soot in the filter.
So it is advised that drivers regularly give their diesel vehicle a good 30 to 50 minute run at sustained speed on a motorway or A-road to help clear the filter.
However, not all drivers do this type of driving regularly – which is why manufacturers have designed an alternative form of regeneration.
Active regeneration means extra fuel is injected automatically, as part of the vehicle's ECU, when a filter reaches a predetermined limit (normally about 45%) to raise the temperature of the exhaust and burn off the stored soot.
Problems can occur, however, if the journey is too short, as the regeneration process may not complete fully.
If this is the case the warning light will continue to show the filter is still partially blocked.
In which case it should be possible to complete a regeneration cycle and clear the warning light by driving for 10 minutes or so at speeds greater than 40mph.
You will know whether active regeneration is taking place by the following symptoms:
* Engine note change
* Cooling fans running
* A slight increase in fuel consumption
* Increased idle speed
* Deactivation of automatic Stop/Start
* A hot, acrid smell from the exhaust
The Yorkshire DPF Centre
Call us now to speak in depth with one of our engineers who will happily talk with you at length.
What do I do if neither active nor passive regeneration work?
What do I do if neither active nor passive regeneration work?
If your warning light continues to stay on, turns red, or additional DPF lights come on, do not leave it too long before getting it checked out.
More damage can be caused this way and what could be an inexpensive fix can become something much more expensive.
Some garages can run a process called forced regeneration and, while it’s not a 100% guaranteed fix, it’s sometimes successful in removing the excess soot and allowing the DPF to work and automatically regenerate again. The Yorkshire DPF centre understand that this is not a complete repair, and as such we clean the DPF first under 5 bars of pressure, ensuring that your DPF is penetrated by our cleaning fluid, before we apply a flush solution to remove ash and cerium from the DPF BEFORE running a forced regeneration cycle to complete the repair.
It’s a failure to correctly regenerate that is the cause of most diesel particulate filter issues: they become blocked, which increases exhaust emissions, stifles engine performance and sometimes even puts the car into a restricted ‘limp-home mode’.
On some models the engine may not restart after a number of miles – again, consult your handbook for details.
Modern diesel car owners thus need to be conscious of the importance of maintaining their diesel particulate filter through driving habits and practices.
Do I need a diesel particulate filter to pass the MOT?
Do I need a A diesel particulate filter check has been part of the MOT test since February 2014. If a filter has been removed, the car will fail its MOT.
Removing the DPF will sometimes cause the warning light to glow – and this itself is an MOT failure point: no dashboard warning lights should remain on during the test.
What is the cost of a new diesel particulate filter?
Diesel particulate filters are very expensive. A new one from a car manufacturer can cost £1,000 and £3,500, potentially wiping out the cost savings associated with driving a diesel.
As cars age, the cost of the replacement DPF could be more than the value of the car – and it is older, higher mileage cars that are most likely to require a new DPF.
There are now other suppliers of diesel particulate filters that charge less, but be careful here: they must still have the correct Type Approval or they may not work correctly and end up costing you more in repairs. Most import DPF filters we have seen do not operate correctly.
Tell me in more depth!
DPF's in depth explanation
Mode of Action
Wall-flow diesel particulate filters usually remove 85% or more of the soot, and under certain conditions can attain soot removal efficiencies approaching 100%. Some filters are single-use, intended for disposal and replacement once full of accumulated ash. Others are designed to burn off the accumulated particulate either passively through the use of a catalyst or by active means such as a fuel burner which heats the filter to soot combustion temperatures. This is accomplished by engine programming to run (when the filter is full) in a manner that elevates exhaust temperature, in conjunction with an extra fuel injector in the exhaust stream that injects fuel to react with a catalyst element to burn off accumulated soot in the DPF filter, or through other methods. This is known as filter regeneration. Cleaning is also required as part of periodic maintenance, and it must be done carefully to avoid damaging the filter. Failure of fuel injectors or turbochargers resulting in contamination of the filter with raw diesel or engine oil can also necessitate cleaning. The regeneration process occurs at road speeds higher than can generally be attained on city streets; vehicles driven exclusively at low speeds in urban traffic can require periodic trips at higher speeds to clean out the DPF.If the driver ignores the warning light and waits too long to operate the vehicle above 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), the DPF may not regenerate properly, and continued operation past that point may spoil the DPF completely so it must be replaced.Some newer diesel engines, namely those installed in combination vehicles, can also perform what is called a Parked Regeneration, where the engine increases RPM to around 1400 while parked, to increase the temperature of the exhaust.
Diesel engines produce a variety of particles during combustion of the fuel/air mix due to incomplete combustion. The composition of the particles varies widely dependent upon engine type, age, and the emissions specification that the engine was designed to meet. Two-stroke diesel engines produce more particulate per unit of power than do four-stroke diesel engines, as they burn the fuel-air mix less completely.
Diesel particulate matter resulting from the incomplete combustion of diesel fuel produces soot (black carbon) particles. These particles include tiny nanoparticles—smaller than a thousandth of a millimeter (one micron). Soot and other particles from diesel engines worsen the particulate matter pollution in the air and are harmful to health.
New particulate filters can capture from 30% to greater than 95% of the harmful soot. With an optimal diesel particulate filter (DPF), soot emissions may be decreased to 0.001 g/km or less.
The quality of the fuel also influences the formation of these particles. For example, a high sulfur content diesel produces more particles. Lower sulfur fuel produces fewer particles, and allows use of particulate filters. The injection pressure of diesel also influences the formation of fine particles.
DPF and NOx emissions strategies greatly increased fuel consumption in 2007 model year diesel engines, the addition of DEF fluid has reduced fuel consumption, but fuel consumption is still higher than in pre-emissions engines.
History of the DPF
Diesel particulate filtering was first considered in the 1970s due to concerns regarding the impacts of inhaled particulates. Particulate filters have been in use on non-road machines since 1980, and in automobiles since 1985. Historically medium and heavy duty diesel engine emissions were not regulated until 1987 when the first California Heavy Truck rule was introduced capping particulate emissions at 0.60 g/BHP Hour. Since then, progressively tighter standards have been introduced for light- and heavy-duty road going diesel-powered vehicles and for off-road diesel engines. Similar regulations have also been adopted by the European Union and some individual European countries, most Asian countries, and the rest of North and South America.
While no jurisdiction has explicitly made filters mandatory, the increasingly stringent emissions regulations that engine manufactures must meet mean that eventually all on-road diesel engines will be fitted with them. In the European Union, filters are expected to be necessary to meet the Euro.VI heavy truck engine emissions regulations currently under discussion and planned for the 2012-2013 time frame. In 2000, in anticipation of the future Euro 5 regulations PSA Peugeot Citroën became the first company to make filters standard on passenger cars.
As of December 2008 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) established the 2008 California Statewide Truck and Bus Rule which—with variance according to vehicle type, size and usage—require that on-road diesel heavy trucks and buses in California be retrofitted, re-powered, or replaced to reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions by at least 85%. Retrofitting the engines with CARB-approved diesel particulate filters is one way to fulfill this requirement. In 2009 the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided funding to assist owners in offsetting the cost of diesel retrofits for their vehicles. Other jurisdictions have also launched retrofit programs.
Inadequately maintained particulate filters on vehicles with diesel engines are prone to soot buildup, which can cause engine problems due to high back pressure.
In 2018 the UK made changes to its MOT test requirements, including tougher scrutiny of diesel cars. One requirement was to have a properly fitted and working DPF. Driving without a DPF could see drivers hit with a £1000 fine.
Variants of DPF's
Unlike a catalytic converter which is a flow-through device, a DPF retains bigger exhaust gas particles by forcing the gas to flow through the filter; however, the DPF does not retain small particles and maintenance-free DPFs break larger particles into smaller ones. There are a variety of diesel particulate filter technologies on the market. Each is designed around similar requirements:
Minimum pressure drop
Mass production suitability
Cordierite wall flow filters
The most common filter is made of cordierite (a ceramic material that is also used as catalytic converter supports (cores)). Cordierite filters provide excellent filtration efficiency, are relatively inexpensive, and have thermal properties that make packaging them for installation in the vehicle simple. The major drawback is that cordierite has a relatively low melting point (about 1200 °C) and cordierite substrates have been known to melt during filter regeneration. This is mostly an issue if the filter has become loaded more heavily than usual, and is more of an issue with passive systems than with active systems, unless there is a system break down.
Cordierite filter cores look like catalytic converter cores that have had alternate channels plugged - the plugs force the exhaust gas flow through the wall and the particulate collects on the inlet face.
Silicon carbide wall flow filters
The second most popular filter material is silicon carbide, or SiC. It has a higher (2700 °C) melting point than cordierite, however, it is not as stable thermally, making packaging an issue. Small SiC cores are made of single pieces, while larger cores are made in segments, which are separated by a special cement so that heat expansion of the core will be taken up by the cement, and not the package. SiC cores are usually more expensive than cordierite cores, however they are manufactured in similar sizes, and one can often be used to replace the other. Silicon carbide filter cores also look like catalytic converter cores that have had alternate channels plugged - again the plugs force the exhaust gas flow through the wall and the particulate collects on the inlet face.
The characteristics of the wall flow diesel Particulate filter substrate are as follows: broad band filtration (the diameters of the filtered particles are 0.2–150 μm); high filtration efficiency (can be up to 95%); high refractory; high mechanical properties. high boiling point.
Ceramic fiber filters
Fibrous ceramic filters are made from several different types of ceramic fibers that are mixed together to form a porous media. This media can be formed into almost any shape and can be customized to suit various applications. The porosity can be controlled in order to produce high flow, lower efficiency or high efficiency lower volume filtration. Fibrous filters have an advantage over wall flow design of producing lower back pressure. Ceramic wall-flow filters remove carbon particulates almost completely, including fine particulates less than 100 nanometers (nm) diameter with an efficiency of greater than 95% in mass and greater than 99% in number of particles over a wide range of engine operating conditions. Since the continuous flow of soot into the filter would eventually block it, it is necessary to 'regenerate' the filtration properties of the filter by burning-off the collected particulate on a regular basis. Soot particulates burn-off forms water and CO2 in small quantity amounting to less than 0.05% of the CO2 emitted by the engine.
Metal fiber flow-through filters
Some cores are made from metal fibers – generally the fibers are "woven" into a monolith. Such cores have the advantage that an electrical current can be passed through the monolith to heat the core for regeneration purposes, allowing the filter to regenerate at low exhaust temperatures and/or low exhaust flow rates. Metal fiber cores tend to be more expensive than cordierite or silicon carbide cores, and generally not interchangeable with them because of the electrical requirement.
Disposable paper cores are used in certain specialty applications, without a regeneration strategy. Coal mines are common users – the exhaust gas is usually first passed through a water trap to cool it, and then through the filter. Paper filters are also used when a diesel machine must be used indoors for short periods of time, such as on a forklift being used to install equipment inside a store.
There are a variety of devices that produce over 50% particulate matter filtration, but less than 85%. Partial filters come in a variety of materials. The only commonality between them is that they produce more back pressure than a catalytic converter, and less than a diesel particulate filter. Partial filter technology is popular for retrofit.
Keeping your DPF in tip top condition
Why do i have to maintain my DPF?
Filters require more maintenance than catalytic converters. Ash, a byproduct of oil consumption from normal engine operation, builds up in the filter as it cannot be converted into a gas and pass through the walls of the filter. This increases the pressure before the filter. Warnings are given to the driver before filter restriction causes an issue with drive-ability or damage to the engine or filter develop. Regular filter maintenance is a necessity
DPF filters go through a regeneration process which removes this soot and lowers the filter pressure. There are three types of regeneration: passive, active, and forced. Passive regeneration takes place normally while driving, when engine load and vehicle drive-cycle create temperatures that are high enough to regenerate the soot buildup on the DPF walls. Active regeneration happens while the vehicle is in use, when low engine load and lower exhaust gas temperatures inhibit the naturally occurring passive regeneration. Sensors upsteam and downstream of the DPF (or a differential pressure sensor) provide readings that initiate a metered addition of fuel into the exhaust stream. There are two methods to inject fuel, either downstream injection directly into the exhaust stream, downstream of the turbo, or fuel injection into the engine cylinders on the exhaust stroke. This fuel and exhaust gas mixture passes thru the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) creating temperatures high enough to burn off the accumulated soot. Once the pressure drop across the DPF lowers to a calculated value, the process ends, until the soot accumulation builds up again. This works well for vehicles that drive longer distances with few stops compared to those that perform short trips with many starts and stops. If the filter develops too much pressure then the last type of regeneration must be used - a forced regeneration. This can be accomplished in two ways. The Vehicle operator can initiate the regeneration via a dashboard mounted switch. Various signal interlocks, such as park brake applied, transmission in neutral, engine coolant temperature, and an absence of engine related fault codes are required (vary by OEM and application) for this process to initiate. When the soot accumulation reaches a level that is potentially damaging to the engine or the exhaust system, the solution involves a garage using a computer program to run a regeneration of the DPF manually.
The DPF has had a patchy safety history in its early days with many manufacturers suffering from failure all the way to fire! BMW suffered from a similar problem which is now addressed where by they would sometimes catch fire whilst regenerating due to the extreme temperatures required for the burn cycle.
In 2011, Ford recalled 37,400 F-Series trucks with diesel engines after fuel and oil leaks caused fires in the diesel particulate filters of the trucks. No injuries occurred before the recall, though one grass fire was started. A similar recall was issued for 2005-2007 Jaguar S-Type and XJ diesels, where large amounts of soot became trapped in the DPF.
In effected vehicles, smoke and fire emanated from the vehicle underside, accompanied by flames from the rear of the exhaust. The heat from the fire could cause heating through the transmission tunnel to the interior, melting interior components and potentially causing interior fires.
Regeneration is the process of removing the accumulated soot from the filter. This is done either passively (from the engine's exhaust heat in normal operation or by adding a catalyst to the filter) or actively introducing very high heat into the exhaust system. On-board active filter management can use a variety of strategies:
Engine management to increase exhaust temperature through late fuel injection or injection during the exhaust stroke
Use of a fuel borne catalyst to reduce soot burn-out temperature
A fuel burner after the turbo to increase the exhaust temperature
A catalytic oxidizer to increase the exhaust temperature, with after injection (HC-Doser)
Resistive heating coils to increase the exhaust temperature
Microwave energy to increase the particulate temperature
All on-board active systems use extra fuel, whether through burning to heat the DPF, or providing extra power to the DPF's electrical system, although the use of a fuel borne catalyst reduces the energy required very significantly. Typically a computer monitors one or more sensors that measure back pressure and/or temperature, and based on pre-programmed set points the computer makes decisions on when to activate the regeneration cycle. The additional fuel can be supplied by a metering pump. Running the cycle too often while keeping the back pressure in the exhaust system low will result in high fuel consumption. Not running the regeneration cycle soon enough increases the risk of engine damage and/or uncontrolled regeneration (thermal runaway) and possible DPF failure.
Diesel particulate matter burns when temperatures above 600 degrees Celsius are attained. This temperature can be reduced to somewhere in the range of 350 to 450 degrees Celsius by use of a fuel borne catalyst. The actual temperature of soot burn-out will depend on the chemistry employed. The start of combustion causes a further increase in temperature. In some cases, in the absence of a fuel borne catalyst, the combustion of the particulate matter can raise temperatures above the structural integrity threshold of the filter material, which can cause catastrophic failure of the substrate. Various strategies have been developed to limit this possibility. Note that unlike a spark-ignited engine, which typically has less than 0.5% oxygen in the exhaust gas stream before the emission control device(s), diesel engines have a very high ratio of oxygen available. While the amount of available oxygen makes fast regeneration of a filter possible, it also contributes to runaway regeneration problems.
Some applications use off-board regeneration. Off-board regeneration requires operator intervention (i.e. the machine is either plugged into a wall/floor mounted regeneration station, or the filter is removed from the machine and placed in the regeneration station). Off-board regeneration is not suitable for on-road vehicles, except in situations where the vehicles are parked in a central depot when not in use. Off-board regeneration is mainly used in industrial and mining applications. Coal mines (with the attendant explosion risk from coal damp) use off-board regeneration if non-disposable filters are installed, with the regeneration stations sited in an area where non-permissible machinery is allowed.
Many forklifts may also use off-board regeneration – typically mining machinery and other machinery that spend their operational lives in one location, which makes having a stationary regeneration station practical. In situations where the filter is physically removed from the machine for regeneration there is also the advantage of being able to inspect the filter core on a daily basis (DPF cores for non-road applications are typically sized to be usable for one shift - so regeneration is a daily occurrence).