If your diesel engine is less than 10 years old, you can bet it contains a diesel aftertreatment system that includes a parts such as a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and a diesel exhaust filter, also known as a diesel particulate filter, or DPF.
The diesel exhaust filter is just one component of this system that traps particulates in the exhaust stream, soot and ash. The ash is trapped in the filter and the soot is captured there before being regenerated, harnessing additional energy and reducing emissions.
The DPF not only improves the economy of the engine but keeps it compliant with emissions regulations.
Like all other components of your engine, routine maintenance will keep the diesel exhaust filter operating properly and extend its service life.
With that said, here are some pointers to follow to extend your DPF’s lifespan.
Extend Life, Keep It Clean
- Increase engine load (drive faster)
One of the most straightforward ways to keep your diesel exhaust filter in good condition is to increase the engine load wherever possible.
Higher engine loads cause the engine to reach and maintain higher temperatures and RPM necessary for regeneration, which is the process by which soot is completely oxidized, releasing additional energy.
Regeneration also keeps the filter clear by preventing it from becoming prematurely obstructed by soot and ash.
- Avoid city driving where possible
This is in line with our first suggestion, but wherever possible, you should avoid short trips (which keep the engine cool) and city driving, because stop-and-go driving prevents the engine from reaching the temperatures necessary to sustain regeneration.
Plan your trips wisely. Naturally, you may not be able to avoid urban driving all the time, but the less you can encounter it, the better for your DPF. You can also plan to take on a long stretch of highway after running through an urban center to help burn off some of the accumulation in your filter.
- Use appropriate fuel additives that accelerate the burning of particulate matter
Don’t rely on them entirely, but there are fuel additives you can buy that are designed to help purge soot and ash from your DPF, even at lower temperatures. One well-known option is K2 DPF, but there are many others. Ask your mechanic for suggestions about fuel treatments that may be able to help extend the service life of your diesel exhaust filter.
- Run biodiesel
If you have the option, you might also want to consider running biodiesel through your engine, even if only part of the time.
Biodiesel is a renewable, synthetic fuel created from organic sources, such as grease, animal fats, and vegetable oils.
Not only do these alternatives to traditional diesel produce fewer emissions in their own right, but they’ve also been linked to incurring a lower load on diesel exhaust filters.
They burn a lot cleaner, and produce anywhere from 50% to 60% fewer particulate emissions than traditional diesel made from crude oil. As a result, they also require less frequent regeneration cycles from the DPF.
If that weren’t news enough, biodiesels are associated with higher cetane concentrations and greater lubricity than traditional diesel, improving ignition quality and reducing strain on the engine.
- Use the right oil
Believe it or not, much of the ash that ends up in the DPF is not a product of the diesel itself, but of the engine lubricant. Of this, a large portion arises from engine oil that ends up in the fuel stream.
Engine oil that burns during combustion results in particulates that will clog the diesel exhaust filter and diminish engine performance, so it’s important to use the right oil and monitor oil consumption as well.
Stick to recommended oil drain intervals to make sure that engine oil is fresh, which in turn will result in less wear on the pistons and rings, and always make sure to use an oil that is recommended by the manufacturer.
- Consider a coolant heater
Some engines are compatible with coolant heaters, which heat coolant and circulate that through the engine in order to preheat it.
Preheating the engine warms up the oil, resulting in less wear on the engine and in turn, a lower load on the diesel exhaust filter. It also eliminates cold-start idling and improves fuel economy.
- If your engine has EGR, have the valve checked
Many diesel engines feature a technological advancement known as “exhaust gas recirculation,” or EGR, in which exhaust gases are recirculated back into the intake. This helps to minimize emissions by burning off some of the particulate matter in the engine before it even gets to the DPF.
However, the kingpin of the EGR system is the EGR valve, which can become obstructed or stuck open, in which case the system either will not recirculate as intended, or will recycle back too much soot and ash into the engine.
Neither condition is good. A faulty EGR valve should cause your check engine light to come on but you should still have the valve checked periodically, regardless.
- Have the diesel exhaust filter cleaned/serviced on a routine schedule and document it
Last but not least, it’s important to have your DPF removed and cleaned, professionally, from time to time.
How often your DPF should be professionally cleaned depends on the model and your engine, as well as on your engine loads.
While you should always stick to official manufacturer recommendations, generally accepted good practice indicates that you should always have your diesel exhaust filter cleaned at least once every 150,000 to 200,000 miles.
Regular cleaning will help remove ash deposits before they completely obstruct the filter, enabling it the engine to run more efficiently while also safeguarding the lifespan of the DPF itself.
Professional Diesel Exhaust Filter Cleaning Services and DPF Replacements
At Filter Service and Supply, we carry a wide range of Skyline Emissions DPF filter replacements for popular diesel engines, including but not limited to Isuzu, Cummins, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Detroit Diesel engines.
We also offer professional DPF cleaning services. If you have questions about any of our replacement diesel exhaust filters, about DPF maintenance, or about our DPF cleaning services, please contact us at 760-355-8900.