What Happens If You Don't Clean Your DPF Filter?

Since 2007, diesel particulate filters (DPFs) have been a requirement on medium and heavy-duty diesel trucks. But while these filters have gone a long way towards improving diesel vehicle emissions, they've also proven unpopular with truck drivers due to performance and fuel economy penalties.

DPFs also require time for regeneration, a process that essentially burns trapped carbon until it exits the exhaust as carbon dioxide. The filters also need actual hands-on cleaning to remove leftover ash. So what happens when these important tasks are left undone?

Warning Lights as Your First Warning Sign

Whenever your diesel vehicle needs regeneration, a warning light may appear in your instrument cluster informing you of ongoing passive regeneration or a need for active regeneration. Either way, it's a warning sign you shouldn't ignore. In most vehicles, a solid DPF status light provides the first warning.

Ignore it for long enough and the DPF status light may start flashing. You may also see a "Check Engine" light appear in your instrument cluster in addition to the current DPF warning. You may also see diagnostic codes pertaining to your emissions system and DPF if the filter isn't regenerated or cleaned when required.

More Buildup Means More Back Pressure

Ash is a common byproduct of the DPF process. As the DPF burns away the carbon, engine oil and diesel fuel, it also creates ash deposits that accumulate inside the DPF. Since these deposits can't be burned away, they'll need to be removed with specialized DPF cleaning equipment. Simply banging the expensive DPF on the shop floor won't get the job done, plus you'll wind up destroying the relatively delicate filter in the process.

The more ash builds up without a proper DPF cleaning, the greater the amount of exhaust back pressure you'll start seeing from your vehicle. This can negatively impact your vehicle's performance as well as its fuel economy.

Expect an Automatic Shutdown

While some engines operate under reduced power whenever regeneration is needed, others may shut down altogether in order to keep the DPF and other engine and exhaust components from being damaged. In other words, continuing to ride around with a dirty DPF could leave you stranded on the side of the road, depending on the type of vehicle you're driving. Once your engine shuts down, you'll need to have it towed to the nearest diesel vehicle specialist to have the DPF examined and cleaned. 

For more information or assistance, contact companies like Regeneration Services LLC.