Monthly Archives: April 2016

20 Facts You Need To Know About Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)

dsThe Environmental Protection Agency was created in the footsteps of the Clean Air Act of 1970. For 46 years the EPA has been constantly evolving and enacting laws to address the environmental needs of this country. For many years owners of three-quarter and one-ton light duty pickup trucks enjoyed no additional smog equipment on their vehicles. All of that changed in 2008 with the EPA required the use of diesel particulate filters on all three-quarter-ton and larger trucks as well as required biannual smog tests which included a visual inspection of the vehicle to make sure the DPF parts were still on the truck. In 2010 the regulations got even tighter.

Many thought that the era of big power and torque were over and vowed to never purchase a new truck ever again. However, something spectacular happened and the complete opposite thing occurred. It turns out that Americans truly do adapt and overcome. Every one of the manufacturers figured out a way to cut down on the NOx levels all the while making more horsepower and torque than ever before. Innovation is bread out of strife.

The engineering breakthrough came through the use of the selective catalytic reduction. The vast majority of these systems use diesel exhaust fluid (mixture of urea and deionized water) sprayed into the exhaust system to break down the generated NOx into harmless nitrogen and water molecules. Since the DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) is introduced in the exhaust, also called after-treatment technology, the manufacturer is free to build as much power as they want. The DEF is stored in a separate tank which is insulated and heated and is marked by a blue filler cap.

Still there are two factions of diesel guys out there; those who have accepted to the EPA changes and those who are still vehemently against any regulations whatsoever despite the work around technological advancements. For those not willing to accept the changes there has been a shift to older used diesel engines or remanufactured diesel engines that have been grandfathered in. This article aims to go over the cold hard facts about DEF and educate the populace into making smarter diesel operator decisions.

1. What exactly is Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)?

From a strictly chemical disposition DEF is a mixture of 67.5% deionized water and 32.5% urea. Urea is a compound in Nitrogen that turns to ammonia when heated and is used in a variety of industries. Urea is technically derived from a byproduct of urine but for mass production purposes it is synthetically made. Most DEF products are regulated by the American Petroleum Institute. Lets take a look at the science behind DEF when mixed with exhaust. Chemically, DEF is firstly comprised of (NH2)2CO; and when injected into the hot exhaust gas the water evaporates leaving ammonia and isocyanic acid.

STEP 1: DEF Becomes Ammonia and Isocyanic Acid: (NH2)2CO → NH3 + HNCO

STEP 2: The Isocyanic Acid chemically breaks down with water into Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia:
HNCO + H2O -> CO2 + NH3 overall which is this: (NH2)2CO + H2O -> 2NH3 + CO2

STEP 3: At this point during the chemical reaction Ammonia will, in the presence of oxygen and a catalyst, will reduce nitrogen oxides:
2NO + 2NH3 + ½O2 -> 2N2 + 3H2O and 3NO2 + 4NH3 -> 7/2N2 + 6H2O

STEP 4: The overall reduction of NOx by urea is:
2(NH2)2CO + 4NO + O2 -> 4N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2 and 2(NH2) 2CO + 3NO2 -> 7/2N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2

2. How Often Do You Need To Fill Up the DEF Tank?

That question specifically depends on miles per gallon and usage of the diesel truck in question. No matter how heavy the load, according to the OE manufacturer, the typical average light duty truck will consume 2-3 gallons of DEF per 800 miles. However, most new trucks with an average miles per gallon rating of 20+mpg will go roughly 8,000-10,000 miles on a tank full (10 gallons) of DPF. Each truck is different, for example on a Dodge Ram there is a gauge readout of exactly how much DEF is left in the tank, GM has a digital readout and Ford has a simple low DEF light.

Medium Duty and Heavy Duty Fuel models will vary but according to Cummins Filtration DEF consumption will be approximately 2% of the fuel consumed. For every 50 gallons of diesel fuel burned you will use 1 gallon of DEF. Each truck engine is different and you will get a feel of how much DEF your engine will use on a regular basis.

3. Where can you buy DEF?

Don’t be fooled into thinking you can buy DEF just anywhere. DEF is mostly sold at truck stops in big jugs containing multiple gallons of the stuff. Some gas stations will carry DEF but don’t count on it if you are in a pickle. It is important to understand if you don’t refill an empty DEF tank the engine will automatically shut down. You don’t want to be stranded somewhere with an empty DEF tank because it is not sold everywhere. Common places to buy DEF include TravelCenters of America, Walmart, Target, Love’s Travel Shop, SAPP Brothers, Flying J Truck Stops, Petro Stopping Centers and Pilot Travel Centers, O’Reilly’s, NAPA and Advanced Auto.

4. What are the Pros and Cons of a DEF Truck?

There are very few cons with DEF as it is a fairly simple procedure to deal with. However when it comes to Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) there can be many maintenance and repair issues since they prone to clogging. These systems are complicated in design and a simple clogged filter can cause pressure and temperature differentials that can affect the whole performance of the engine.

The only cons to DEF include the additional upfront cost to the truck, added nominal weight and some additional room to store an extra gallon of the fluid. The pros are better fuel economy, increased horsepower, more optimized combustion, fewer regenerations issues, less wear on the engine and in addition it only releases nitrogen and water vapor into the air.

5. Is emissions production really an important issue?

Whether it is a big deal or not is not really not up for debate considering all 2008 light-medium diesel and up have to comply with the EPA Regulations. NOx has been blamed for smog, a rise in greenhouse gasses and acid rain. The DEF as part of the Selective Catalytic Reduction system (SCR) turns NOx into pure nitrogen and water vapor. Climate change is a heated debate but we can all agree that spewing more gasses of any kind into the environment isn’t something we need more of. For those users who don’t want to mess with emissions issues used diesel engines or remanufactured engines are still available and have been grandfathered into the EPA Tier Ratings Program.

6. Will DEF Lower My Fuel Mileage?

It is only natural to think that any EPA induced changes to the diesel engine is necessarily a bad one however it is quite the contrary. The major diesel manufacturers discovered it can fine tune the engine anyway it deems fit then allow the SRC and DEF to remove the particulate. The engines are built with performance in mind first and then the SRC, DPF and DEF remove what is needed as an afterthought. Manufacturers have found that engines containing SCR technology oftentimes get better fuel mileage compared with other smog reduction internal systems. Fuel mixed in with the SCR finds an added source of elements to burn. Fuel mileage can be improved by as much as 5%-7%.

7. Has this new DEF Technology Ever Been Used Before?

DEF technology has been used for decades in the country in agriculture, industrial and large scale power generation applications. The concept is the same across the board: the urea mixed with heat creates ammonia that causes a chemical reaction that reduces NOx by 70%-95%. In fact 90% of urea production is used as nitrogen-released fertilizer. It is important to note that automotive-grade urea is of a much higher grade purity than fertilizer urea. If a lower grade fertilizer urea is used in automotive engines you risk disintegration of the SCR and possible ruin the engine. It may even trigger ECM sensors to incorrectly prompt a DEF Tank Empty warning.

8. Does DEF Evaporate After A Period of Disuse?

The answer is yes and no. The temperature at which DEF combines with NOx exhaust right out of the cylinder head with the valves wide open is between 1400-1600 F. The chemical reaction takes place at much hotter temperatures than on a hot sunny day. For example it would take over two years a constant rate of 125 degrees F for the DPF to turn into ammonia and evaporate. However any temperature over 86 F you risk some evaporation due to DEF being almost 2/3 water. You don’t have to worry about a gallon or two of the stuff turning bad or evaporating from disuse unless exposed to consistent hot climates.

9. Is DEF a Toxic and Harmful Chemical?

The active ingredient in DEF, urea, has been chemically synthesized since 1828 first by German scientist Friedrich Wöhler after treating silver cyanate with ammonium chloride. Urea was first discovered in urine by Dutch chemist Herman Boerhaave in 1727. Urea is mostly used in fertilizer for agricultural but also found the chemical industry, explosives, lotions, skin creams, hair removers, plastics, dish soaps and power fuel cells. Urea and consequently DEF is not overly toxic to humans. Urea can be irritating to eyes, skin and the respiratory tract but not life threatening. High concentrations in the blood can be damaging to humans however ingestion of low concentrations of urea,given an adequate water ingestion of water, are not harmful. In nature urea can cause algal booms which when decomposes above its heating or melting point can cause toxic gases. Mixed with certain oxidants, chlorides, nitrites can cause fire or even explosions.

10. What happens to the engine if the DEF Tank is empty?

All diesel engine manufacturers are now required by the EPA to integrate some tiered warning system (internal gauges on the dash) to let the driver know exactly how close to empty the DEF tank is. If you ignore the DEF warning the truck will cease to work. Some diesel engine manufacturers allow the engine to go into reduced power mode so the truck can “limp home” or limit the number of times you can turn the engine over. At some point though the diesel engine will not start. Treat the DEF tank just like you would the fuel tank; you don’t want to end up stranded somewhere because you didn’t refill the DEF tank.

11. Does DEF Have a Low Freeze Point?

The standard 32.5% solution of DEF will begin go crystallize and freeze at 12 F. The Urea and water in DEF, when mixed, will freeze at the same rate. This is beneficial to the user because when the fluid thaws the DEF solution does not become diluted or overly concentrated. Freezing and thawing cycles has no impact on the grade of the product. DEF expands when frozen as much as 6.5% – 7% by volume. The packaging allows for leeway for freezing periods.

12. What is the best method to keep DEF from freezing?

It is perfectly safe to keep a gallon or two of DEF in your vehicle however it is not advisable. DEF will start to decompose at 86 F. It is very easy to forget about the DEF sitting in the back of your truck and given an extended period of hot days the fluid can become unstable and decompose but at a very minimal rate. A diluted DEF without the mixture of 32.5% urea can be damaging to DEF and SCR but cases of that happening are rare. Consequently DEF will freeze in the DEF tank on extremely cold days below 12 F. That is perfectly normal and will not hurt the engine. The SCR systems are designed to provide heat to the DEF tank which will quickly thaw the tank and supporting supply lines.

13. Can I add anti-freezing solution to the DEF mixture to keep it from freezing?

DEF is a very specific formula of 32.5% Urea and water however the solution contains other compounds in minute quantities to stabilize the product. An additive to the mixture would upset the very precise chemical makeup and thus reduce the NOx reducing properties. Further blending of the DEF mixture will compromise its ability to work properly as will cause harm to the SCR system.

14. How much does DEF Weigh and will it load down my tuck?

DEF weighs about 9 lbs per gallon. A typical light duty/medium duty truck will have a tank roughly 3-5 gallons.

15. How is the production of DEF regulated and can I make my own?

It is not recommended that the direct consumer produce their own DEF. DEF is closely regulated and has precise requirements for maintaining chemical purity and contains ingredients that are crucial to working in conjunction with the SCR system. Caterpillar, Cummins, Detroit Diesel among others require that the DEF to be used with the SCR systems and meet all ISO guidelines and API requirements. API certification is a completely voluntary program established by the American Petroleum Institute (API) which certifies the chemical pureness of DEF and that manufacturers meet ISO specifications. All major brands of DEF available to the consumer market meet API Certification.

16. What is the shelf life of DEF?

If the DEF is stored at ambient temperatures of 75 F with no major periods of exposure to heat over 86 F then the batch of DEF will last roughly two years. If a package of DEF is exposed to periods of heating the fluid will last approximately one year.

17. Who are the major manufacturers of DEF Fluid?

There are many manufacturers of DEF Fluid. The website, “Oilmen Truck Tanks” has compiled a list of 13 major manufactures. DEF is found at most major truck stops, auto parts stores and convenience stores for roughly $2-$3 per gallon.

18. How can you determine the age of a container of DEF?

Every single DEF package has a manufacturers date located somewhere on the product. Most likely it is on the front of the package near the bottom. This date code will tell the exact date the batch was produced and subsequently the age of the bottle of DEF. One gallon containers have a laser code imprinted on the bottle. Larger 2-5 gallon tanks usually have a small date code imprinted on the label of the product. Larger drums of DEF fluid (55 gallons +) and totes (275-355 gallons) will have a larger label applied to the side or top of the drum. Reading a manufactures code can be a bit tricky and each one is a little bit different. Usually the first digit of the date code represents the batch number and the next 6 digits reflect the date the batch was filled at the factory.

19. How do you identify a DEF Filling Pump Vs. a Diesel Fuel Pump?

There have been multiple measures implemented to prevent diesel engine fuel from being pumped into the DEF tank and vice versa. “Green” is the international color of diesel filling stations and pumps. “Blue” has been adopted as the color of choice to represent DEF fluid. A standard nozzle diameter of 19 mm has been designed to dispense DEF; a standard diesel fuel nozzle is 22 mm. The tank cap on pretty much all trucks should also be a “brightly colored blue” as a last preventative visual measure to stop diesel from going into the DEF tank.

20. What should I do if I accidentally dispense diesel fuel into the DEF?

First off, do not panic. Secondly, do not under any circumstances start the engine. Simply dumping diesel fuel in the DEF and vice versa (DEF in the fuel tank) will not harm your engine if you do not start the engine. The SCR should recognize that there is a solution other than DEF in the tank and notify the driver via the ECM readout on the dashboard. It is also important not to move the vehicle. Moving the vehicle can causing the spread of the fuel into the lines and into the SCR. The best thing to do is drain the tank with the vehicle in its original position. If the engine is started for even a short time diesel fuel will ruin the SCR catalyst which is very costly to replace and will be out of warranty. If DEF enters the fuel system and spread throughout the engine it will ruin the diesel engine eventually. The fuel system lines are not compatible with DEF and slowly corrode and over time.

Four Savvy Tips for Locating and Establishing an Auto Repair Shop

weOne of the most lucrative investment opportunities in the world today is in the automotive industry. Every year, a new car model is released into the market thus increasing the demand for quality vehicle installation, repair, and maintenance services. For this reason, establishing an auto repair shop is a viable business idea that you can materialize to achieve financial stability and freedom.

However, there are many factors that one needs to consider when looking for a location to establish the shop. Here are some of the main factors that investors should consider when planning to establish this kind of a facility.

Target Audience

This basically refers to the group of clients that are likely to use the services. One of the best ways of identifying a target audience is by carrying out an intensive background research of the targeted area.. The internet nowadays has numerous free tools that one can use to acquire this information. However, it is recommendable to use premium research tools, as most of the free ones are not reliable and can be easily manipulated.

Operating Costs

Technology has led to development of new machines and systems that are more efficient and effective in pinpointing mechanical issues in cars than the traditional systems. Virtually all of them are expensive, and this makes it difficult for startups that are on a tight budget to purchase them. Based on this fact, entrepreneurs need to consider the initial capital and operating costs that will be required and make the necessary plans to avoid financial problems down the road. Luckily, there are banks and other financial institutions that offer business loans to investors at an affordable interest rate.

Getting License

To establish and run an auto repair shop, one needs to get legal accreditation from the relevant authorities in the area first. It is recommendable to check the requirements, rules, and regulations that businesses in this niche are required to abide by to increase the chances of getting the license and other required documents such as work permit. Entrepreneurs can also consult other experts in this industry who have gone through this process before to get a clear picture of what to expect. Note that the savvy customers are love dealing with facilities that are legally accredited.

Hiring Expert Personnel

Skilled and experienced staff members are the backbone of any business in the world today. Hence, it is imperative to hire mechanics and technicians who have the necessary skills and expertise. One does not have to steer the hiring process alone, there are recruiting firms that specialize in scouting, and providing trained job candidates to startups at an affordable price. Such firms help to save on time and money for other business activities.

Finally, once the auto repair shop is up and running, it is imperative to come with creative and effective marketing strategies as well as ways of delivering high quality services consistently. The internet is one of the best platforms that one can use to market the services without spending a fortune.

Diagnosing Your Car’s Problems

eeThere are many web pages dedicated to informing car owners just what is wrong with their vehicles and how to go about fixing it. One of the most difficult parts of diagnosing your car’s issue, however, is knowing where to start. This article is therefore dedicated to guiding you to the most effective ways to get your car problems solved. Being able to diagnose problems yourself instead of relying on a mechanic helps you both to understand the problem and know if someone is trying to rip you off.

The first step is to determine exactly what is unusual about your car’s performance. If there is a sound coming from the engine, determine how to best describe it before taking it in to the dealer. Many people bring their cars in without truly knowing how to describe their problem and if the issue stops when the dealer or mechanic drives the car themselves, it is unlikely they will be able to help. While it may sound funny, ask other people to describe the sound you’re hearing and determine whether it’s a pinging, screeching, ticking etc. Mechanics, technicians, and even forum posters are accustomed to hearing issues described this way and can get a good idea of what the issue is.

The next step is to see if your problem is in isolation or if it has occurred as a group of related problems. For example, if you hear a ticking coming from the engine while idling and know that the oil on the dipstick is highly viscous you likely need an oil change or there is an issue in the oil delivery system. Either of these factors in isolation wouldn’t necessarily mean that oil is the issue but the fact that they both are occurring pretty much ensures that oil is the culprit. Similar to diagnosing sickness, knowing that you have a fever and nausea is much more valuable to the doctor than just saying you have a fever as it narrows down the potential illnesses. Make a list of all of the “problems” you are noticing even if they seem completely unrelated as you can later on narrow down which may be in connection with each other.

Once you are able to describe your problem effectively, you can then search your car’s problem online. If the issue requires the help of a professional, ideally you will already know the cause of the problem saving time and money spent by the mechanic attempting to diagnose the problem for you.

What Your Auto Body Shop Wants You to Know

1While auto body shop professionals are happy to help with tiny and large problems alike, some car problems can be prevented or at least delayed. A great mechanic wants to empower car owners with knowledge of how to take great care of their vehicles. They should follow these five car care hacks to enjoy logging many miles to come in their automobile.

1. Tending to Tires

It’s easy to trust that tires will keep spinning until the driver feels one go flat, but car owners can extend the longevity of their tires with a bit of extra care. They should wipe off brake dust on a regular basis, meaning at least once per week. If brake dust builds up, it’s a little-known fact that it can bake into the wheels of an automobile if left on for too long. They should rely on a damp sponge and soapy water to clear off the dust.

That’s not all it takes to keep tires in great shape. They should check the car’s tire pressure regularly, or have a professional mechanic do so if they’re not familiar with the ins and outs of tire pressure. Also, having their tread depth checked and tires rotated regularly is advisable.

2. Keeping Their Cool

Many people don’t know that it’s important to flush their motor vehicle’s cooling system at least once per year, and they should change the coolant then as well as whenever it’s needed throughout the year. Automobile owners need to trust a professional mechanic for this job, and they can ensure that grime, corrosion, and other deposits don’t build up in the car’s cooling system.

3. Letting Their Light Shine

Car owners should check their headlights and brake lights regularly to make sure these lights are in excellent working order. Not only can broken lights result in tickets, but they can also present a hazard on the road. Both the headlights and brake lights can be quickly tested at an auto body shop, and when there is a problem, it’s usually easy to fix as long as vehicle owners catch it before it causes problems on the road.

4. Showing Pride in the Car’s Appearance

One crucial aspect of taking the best care of a car is also keeping it clean. Whether they own a small car, a huge SUV, or anything in between, automobile owners should get a regular car wash and wax. They need to schedule a vehicle wash every week or at least every other week. Also, if they notice immediate issues, such as a bird relieving itself on the top of their car, it’s important to wash the excrement away as soon as possible. Bird waste can actually damage a car’s paint job, so cleaning up the mess right away is essential.

5. Paying Attention to Warnings

If drivers notice a warning light on their dashboard, they need to resist the temptation to look the other way. Whether it’s a check engine light, a temperature light, an oil light, or something else, car owners should take their vehicle to an auto body shop to check on the problem right away. The earlier they catch an issue, the easier and less expensive it may be to fix.

Finally, automobile owners need to keep in mind that they can prevent some trips to the auto body shop for repairs by taking optimal care of their car. They need to take action today to keep their vehicle in pristine condition.