What’s up with Diesel Exhaust Fluid?

For decades, individuals and organizations that owned and operated three-quarter and 1 ton pickup trucks running diesel engines didn’t have to worry about adding any “smog control equipment” on their vehicles.

But then sweeping changes were made to the rules and regulations governing these kinds of diesel vehicles. In 2008, the EPA began to require that all three-quarter ton and larger pickup trucks running diesel engines had particulate filters built onto the exhaust system of their vehicles.

Not only that, the EPA also made it mandatory that the vehicles (three-quarter ton and larger diesel engine pickup trucks) undergo biannual testing. The testing is to verify that all of the particulate filter components were still on the vehicle.

Almost all owners and operators complied with these rules and regulations, but then things became even tighter in 2010. The EPA passed down more stringent requirements. They required owners of diesel engine vehicles to be even more vigilant against smog and exhaust particulate, and required even more regular inspections. This included hands-on inspections as opposed to the visual inspections that were the norm up until then.

Diesel Exhaust fluid sign

This had a number of different impacts on the diesel engine vehicle industry in general. One of the most beneficial impacts had to be the changes that manufacturers began to make to the vehicle designs themselves.

Manufacturers (including all of the “big boys” that sell diesel engine vehicles here in the United States) completely overhauled the way that they designed their exhaust systems. This allowed them to cut down dramatically the amount of nitrogen oxide that was being released in the exhaust. They did this all while boosting power and performance at the exact same time.

DEF container

Much of this was accomplished by the inclusion of a “selective catalytic reduction” system. This system is built right into the vehicles coming from the factory directly. These systems take advantage of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (sometimes abbreviated as DEF). DEF is a unique mixture of urea and deionized water designed specifically to break down nitrogen oxide before it leaves the closed system of the engine and exhaust on a diesel vehicle.

These selective catalytic reduction systems are still quite new. They have Diesel Exhaust Fluid as a critical component to making the system work as effectively as it does. Introduced into the exhaust AFTER the exhaust leaves the engine, this solution is completely safe. It’s safe provided that the entire platform is working exactly as it should anyway.

If you are driving a vehicle that happens to have a Diesel Exhaust Fluid system in it as part of a selective catalytic reduction platform, or if you are interested in adding one of these systems on as a third-party “bolt on” upgrade, there are a couple of different things you’re going to want to know about before moving forward.

We hope to share some of that information with you below!

What exactly is DEF anyway?

As mentioned above, Diesel Exhaust Fluid is a chemical composition made up of deionized water and urea (yes, urea – a synthesized by product of urine). This mixture is almost always two thirds deionized water to one third urea. The chemical composition of this solution is heavily and very carefully monitored by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

The beautiful thing about DEF is that you aren’t going to have to pour some into your selective catalytic reduction system every single time you fill up your tank. Instead, you’re only going to have to fill up every 800 miles or so. You’ll be able to add this fluid directly into the selective catalytic reduction system all on its own (usually in its own compartment in the engine, a heated compartment with a little blue filter on the top).

This rate (a filled DEF tank for every 800 miles driven) isn’t set in stone by any stretch of the imagination. The actual rate of refill for DEF is going to vary depending upon a number of different factors. The health and overall condition of your diesel engine, the power and performance of your vehicle, the cargo you’re pulling, and a variety of other factors all play a role.

diesel exhaust fluid filler

Where can I get my hands on Diesel Exhaust Fluid?

Unsurprisingly, you aren’t going to be able to just purchase DEF anywhere and everywhere you like.

Sure, the overwhelming majority of “truck stops” all over the nation – and most main chain style gas stations – are going to have at least a couple of different types of DEF available for purchase, but that doesn’t mean that you’re always going to stumble across this critical chemical when you need it most.

You want to make sure that you have purchased enough DEF to get you to your next fill up along the line. It’s always a good idea to purchase at least one extra gallon (or two) to have on hand in case you aren’t able to get a readily available supply the next time you pull in for fuel.

Thankfully, there are a lot of auto parts and department stores (including Walmart) that regularly stock DEF. Department store prices are usually quite high though. Keep an eye out for these kinds of locations if you need to get your hands on an emergency supply.

DEF chart

What kinds of benefits will I get with a DEF enabled vehicle?

Honestly, you are going to see a number of significant benefits that you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy without a DEF system the moment that you upgrade to this kind of vehicle.

You’re going to enjoy:
• Better and more consistent combustion across the board
• Dramatically increased diesel fuel efficiency
• Boosted power, performance, and torque out of your vehicle
• Less maintenance issues in the engine compartment
• Far fewer regenerations across the board
… And a lot less nitrogen oxide is released into the atmosphere, to boot!

          Honestly, you’d have to be at least a little bit crazy to go with an “old school” style diesel truck if you’re looking to invest in a quality vehicle today. A Diesel Engine Fluid vehicle is definitely the route you want to take!

Filed in: Diesel Engines
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