What is DPF Cleaning, And is it Worth it?

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Here at Collect Service Go, we like to keep things in top working order. We know how important it is to keep your engine parts clean so that you can get the most out of your vehicle, even when it comes to often-overlooked DPFs. In this article we’re going to break down exactly what a DPF is, and most importantly – why you need to make sure you’re keeping yous clean.

Firstly, What is a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter)?

DPF stands for diesel particulate filter, and as you might assume from the name, they are important features in diesel vehicles. They’ve been fitted in diesel-fuel cars for over the past 2 decades, but vehicle owners often overlook them during maintenance checks, despite the fact that there could be serious consequences to not keeping them clean.

The purpose of a DPF is to reduce emissions from diesel cars, collecting soot produced by diesel engines. This soot is collected over time and then when your vehicle reaches a certain mileage checkpoint (often around every 300 miles), the DPF will ‘regenerate’.

DPF regeneration is when the vehicle heats the particulate filter to such a high temperature that the excess soot burns away into a more harmless form of ash which is then dispelled through the filter in a finer format. But despite all of this passive regeneration, there is still residual soot leftover after the process. As your vehicle racks up miles, this residue can build up and run the risk of not only harming your vehicle but also the environment if the DPF fails to serve its purpose as a result of being clogged.

How Can I Tell if My DPF is Clogged?

If your DPF filter is clogged or blocked an illuminated DPF warning light on your dashboard is the most common and obvious indicator. It will likely look something like this:

If you see this light then that means that ‘passive regeneration’ has failed (which is what your engine performs automatically) and you’ll need to get your DPF ‘actively regenerated’ instead. 

So, What Happens When The DPF is Passively Regenerating?

If your diesel car is trying to actively regenerate whilst you’re driving then you could notice some of the following things:

  • Increased fuel consumption
  • Heightened sound of cooling fans
  • Change in engine sound
  • A hot smell from the exhaust
  • Increased engine drive

If you experience these symptoms then it’s likely your DPF is working hard to burn off excess soot and residue to make sure your DPF filter is clear and performing properly. But be cautious of your journey length in this instance, if you are only doing a very short journey then this could lead to incomplete regeneration. 

And What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your DPF?

The more soot and ash that is clogged in your DPF, the more black exhaust fumes you’ll see coming off your vehicle as you drive, as well as an increase in pressure on your exhaust. This can not only lead to decreased fuel economy, but you will likely also notice a deterioration in your vehicle’s performance. 

If the build-up becomes extreme, you might experience a complete vehicle shut down as your car tries to protect your engine and the DPF filter from any permanent damage.

What Does A Professional DPF Cleaning Process Involve?

First and foremost, a diagnostic test needs to be performed to understand the current condition of your engine and DPF before the DPF is removed from the vehicle. At this stage, the filter would be internally examined for any signs of damage that aren’t visible on the first inspection. To access the extent of any blockage, a pressure test is performed at this point. 

After this, a pressurised multi-way water wash targets the filter to fully remove any residue and entirely erase build-up. The process is then complete with a very thorough drying process and another pressure test to ensure the job has been done successfully.

After a final in-depth inspection, the DPF can be re-installed back into the vehicle ready for immediate use.

How Do You Avoid DPF Problems?

The main culprit of DPF issues is only doing short journeys at low speeds. This is because there isn’t enough time or heat built up in the engine for any excess residue to be burned away so that the DPF can regenerate itself. This is a common problem for diesel car owners that live in city centres, which is why we always recommend petrol cars for city-dwellers. 

But if you do have a diesel vehicle and think it isn’t getting as much use as it should, it’s important to get regular service checks to make sure that your engine is it good health and that any issues are diagnosed sooner rather than later. 

DPF Frequently Asked Questions

An illuminated DPF light on your vehicle’s dashboard is indicative that your ‘passive regeneration’ hasn’t worked, so you’re going to need ‘active regeneration’ at a garage, also known as forced regeneration. This is where your engine has failed to burn off sufficiently excess soot itself so intensive cleaning needs to be done by trained professionals to burn off all residue.

Whilst there is no immediate risk to your safety by driving with your DPF light on, the longer you wait before getting it checked out, the higher the risk of potential damage to your engine. As with any warning light, we recommend that you don’t delay finding a solution, so the sooner you get in touch with a professional, the better.

Whilst this varies depending on the condition of the DPF, an active (manual) regeneration at a service garage can take between 1 and 2 hours. Or when driving, a passive regeneration will take only 10 to 15 minutes.

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