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​How to Keep Your Diesel Particulate Filter Clog Free and Clean

Jan 7th 2022

air pollution from a vehicle

If your diesel engine or vehicle was made after 2009, you’ll need to clean what’s known as the diesel particulate filter (DPF). It filters the soot out of the exhaust gas to improve air quality, but the DPF will clog over time as you continue running the engine. This increases the chances of respiratory and cardiovascular illness as soot builds up in the filter. Learn how to stop the DPF from clogging up to keep the air as clean as possible.

What Does the Diesel Particulate Filter Do?

Diesel vehicles are known to create a lot of soot, a particulate matter that spreads easily through the air. When the soot comes out of the exhaust, it poses a direct threat to your health. It can enter the body via inhalation, ingestion or the eyes and skin. Exposure can lead to a variety of health conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, coronary heart disease, and even cancer.

The diesel particulate filter is designed to reduce the amount of soot in the air, but only if the filter stays clean. It’s made of cordierite, silicon carbide, or a ceramic monolith that removes the soot from the exhaust before it gets released into the air. The aim is to collect around 80% of all particulate material, but it depends on how much soot is already in the filter.

If your exhaust gas recirculation system isn’t working properly, the filter will clog more easily. Find replacement EGR coolers online to keep the exhaust gas the right temperature.

Passive and Active Regeneration

The DPF is cleaned regularly via a process known as regeneration. The engine increases the temperature of the exhaust gas to burn off the excess soot that’s been collecting in the filter. This turns the soot into ash, which can’t be removed unless you manually remove the filter.

Diesel Particulate Filter Exhaust System

Regeneration can happen in one of two ways:

Passive regeneration occurs when you are driving as you normally would. The exhaust gas will need to burn hot enough to burn the soot, but most vehicles won’t get there on their own.

Active regeneration is when the vehicle purposefully adds fuel to the exhaust gas mixture to increase the temperature of the exhaust gas, thus burning away the excess soot. This usually occurs every 300 miles. The process usually takes between five and ten minutes. However, you could interrupt the process if you aren’t taking the vehicle that far. Other types of engines require a special regeneration additive that allows the soot to be burned at lower temperatures.

Shop Diesel Particulate Filters

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How to Manually Clean the DPF

Regular regeneration will help keep the DPF from clogging up, but the ash will still need to be removed. You should either clean or replace the DPF every 75,000 to 100,000 miles. It’s not recommended that you clean the DPF yourself. Most homes and drivers don’t have the necessary equipment to safely remove the ash, so it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Most companies and drivers send their DPFs to experts that specialize in the service.

There are two ways to manually clean a DPF.

Thermal

This approach requires a large industrial oven, not the kind that you keep in your home. The filter is placed on a rack in the oven. The filter is then baked at extreme temperatures, which oxidizes the soot. The oven also uses compressed air to blow away the ash.

Aqueous

Others will use a special surfactant, which reduces the surface tension of the liquid, to make the ash easier to dissolve. They will then wash the ash out of the substrate of the filter. It is then dried in a special cabinet before being reinstalled.

Not cleaning the DPF can result in a range of issues behind the wheel. All that excess ash can clog the filter, leading to a sudden loss of power, black smoke coming out the tailpipe, and other performance woes. If you notice similar issues and the filter is clean, your injection pressure regulator valve may also be a part of the problem. It controls the pressure of the oil moving through the injectors in the Powerstroke engine. Find new IPR valves online to solve the issue.

If your filter is dirty, simply removing it isn’t an option. Your engine needs to comply with the latest diesel exhaust emissions standards, which means using a clean, reliable DPF. Some filters may be beyond repair if the material has eroded. Shop for diesel particular filters online to find a replacement.