We get a lot of questions about DEF and how to use it effectively on your forecourt, so we asked the expertise of Danny Seals, a forecourt solutions expert, to provide us with some simple answers.
What is DEF?
DEF is a urea-water solution that is injected into the exhaust stream of diesel automobiles to convert NOx gases (harmful emissions) into nitrogen and water. Vehicle manufacturers introduced a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology to meet EPA emissions limits in 2010. This is a strategy to achieve the requirements without sacrificing engine performance or fuel economy. DEF isn’t a fuel additive, and it’s kept in its own tank.
Who needs DEF, why?
DEF is required for medium and heavy-duty vehicles equipped with diesel engines manufactured after 2010. To meet emissions rules, the vehicle is configured to inject DEF into the exhaust stream. The engine performance will be diminished and lower speeds will be imposed if the vehicle is allowed to run out of DEF.
What are the different delivery modes of DEF?
DEF is available in a variety of forms. A driver can purchase jugs/containers in a variety of sizes. This necessitates the driver physically transferring the DEF into the car. When installed, DEF can also be dispensed into the vehicle using a fueling dispenser.
Which retailers should offer DEF and what indicators can they use to decide?
Because there is such a vast population of automobiles on the road, DEF is an excellent product for all c-stores to offer. Retailers who sell diesel at their gas stations can utilize the volume sold to estimate the number of diesel customers they have. DEF is required by the majority of today’s heavy-duty trucks. Locations with a separate large truck filling station might think about putting DEF in the dispensers. Because they buy DEF in quantity to keep in their tanks, this results in higher profit margins. Some places that sell a lot of diesel on their forecourt should also consider a dispenser option.
How can Gilbarco help retailers get into DEF?
Since the inception of DEF requirements, Gilbarco has been the industry leader in DEF dispensers. Over the years, we’ve worked with large stores to provide dispenser functionality, and we’ve established the industry standard for this service. Gilbarco assists merchants in entering the DEF dispensing market by providing factory-installed options and retrofitting existing dispensers where DEF is stored in bulk.
What happens when you run out of diesel exhaust fluid?
Vehicle makers must implement procedures to ensure that vehicles cannot run without Diesel Exhaust Fluid, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (DEF). The driver of a vehicle receives a succession of alerts on their dashboard displays before the DEF tank runs out (much the same way as if they were running low on diesel). In general, an amber warning bulb will illuminate when the DEF tank level drops below 10%, flashing at 5%, and solid amber warning light will illuminate when the DEF tank level dips below 2.5 percent.
The engine’s power is lowered, a solid red warning is displayed, and the vehicle’s speed is limited to 5 mph until the DEF tank is refilled if the truck is allowed to run out of DEF.
Is DEF bad for diesel engines?
While the water and urea mixture is excellent for the environment, it can cause crystals to form, which can clog fuel filters, damage aircraft engines, and cause engine failure. DEF is sprayed directly into exhaust systems and should never be used as a fuel additive, diesel or airplane.
Will a diesel engine run without DEF fluid?
SCR is quickly becoming one of the most critical components in diesel automobiles. With tougher pollution restrictions and regulations, diesel vehicle owners need make sure their SCR systems are in good working order.
It’s also critical to check that the diesel exhaust fluid level is enough. Without DEF, modern trucks will not run. As a result, diesel truck owners must check their fluid levels on a regular basis. Everyone should strive to reduce pollution. Maintaining your vehicle will also help you save money on emissions and DEF.
What happens if you run a diesel truck out of DEF?
To ensure that owners take their clean-air obligations seriously, the EPA requires manufacturers of new light-duty diesels to halt the engine’s usual startup sequence if the DEF runs out. To avoid leaving owners stranded on the side of the road, every diesel vehicle manufacturer gives plenty of notice when it’s time to add DEF.
Our Range Rover has a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 engine that gets its DEF from a 4.8-gallon tank under the floor beneath the driver’s seat. The fill cap for that reservoir is located under the hood, atop the left fender. A full DEF tank should last 6300 miles, according to the owner’s manual, however as we all know, mileage varies.
While our Range Rover lacks a DEF gauge (other vehicles now do), the driver may access the service menu in the display between the tachometer and speedometer to see how many miles remain until the fuel runs out. There’s a comment under the Next Oil Change header that says “DEF refill XXX miles” with the motor off.
We quickly learned that the first warning is transient and easy to overlook. The first notification, “Diesel exhaust fluid level low,” appears roughly 1500 miles before the no-restart Armageddon, according to Land Rover. We must have missed that notification since, 969 miles from the finish, one of our editors on a weekend excursion noted: “First DEF warning sighted.” The cluster display had no orange triangle, and an inattentive motorist would have missed it. I didn’t get a chance to photograph the notice before it vanished.”
Can I use water instead of DEF?
It’s unlikely that removing the urea from the DEF that is, running water through the injectors instead will harm the system because the level and quantity of corrosive reactants inside the stainless steel SCR system will be reduced.
Does DEF shorten engine life?
Owners of three-quarter and one-ton pickup trucks have benefited from the lack of smog equipment on their vehicles for many years. However, in 2008, the EPA mandated that all three-quarter-ton and larger vehicles have diesel particle filters, as well as biannual smog testing that included a comprehensive visual inspection to ensure that all parts were still present. Regulations were tightened in 2010.
Many individuals believed that smog equipment on heavy-duty pickups meant the end of huge power and torque, and many swore they’d never buy another vehicle. Many of those same people, on the other hand, have learned that you should never say never. On the route to achieving smog laws, a funny thing happened: every single manufacturer worked out how to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide levels while producing greater power and torque than ever before.
The use of selective catalytic reduction was a major component of this workaround. To break down the generated NOx into harmless nitrogen and water, most of these systems use diesel exhaust fluid (a mixture of urea and deionized water) injected into the exhaust stream. However, because the fluid is put into the exhaust (a process known as after-treatment technology), manufacturers are able to create as much power as they desire. DEF is normally stored in a separate, insulated, heated tank with a blue filler lid.
1. What are the ingredients in DEF?
DEF is made up of two-thirds deionized water and one-third urea. The American Petroleum Institute keeps a close eye on it. Urea is formed from one of the byproducts of urine in a technical sense. However, because it’s created synthetically, no cats are ever injured in the process.
2. Is it necessary to fill the DEF tank after every fill-up?
No, depending on how much you’re towing, you’ll use roughly 2.5 gallons of DEF every 800 miles or so. You may have a fuel-gauge-like readout (Ram), a digital indicator (GM), or a simple “low” light depending on the year and model of your truck (Ford).
3. DEF fluid is impossible to come by.
Truck stations, as you might assume, stock a variety of DEF brands, sometimes in multigallon containers or at the pump. We’ve discovered DEF at Walmart, TravelCenters of America, Flying J Truck Stops, Love’s Travel Stops, Petro Stopping Centers, and Pilot Travel Centers, to name a few. Furthermore, many car parts stores, such as O’Reilly’s and Advance Auto, sell it by the gallon.
4. A DEF-equipped truck has more disadvantages than advantages.
The only disadvantages we can think of are that the vehicles are a little more expensive, DEF takes up some space in your truck, and it adds a small amount of weight. More efficient combustion, higher fuel efficiency, increased power, lower maintenance, fewer regenerations, less engine wear, plus it emits harmless nitrogen and water into the atmosphere, and it’s very reliable are just a few of the benefits.
5. NOx isn’t a significant concern to begin with.
NOx is a component of exhaust that has been linked to acid rain, smog, and increased global greenhouse gas levels. DEF converts NOx into harmless nitrogen gas and water as part of an SCR system (which is present in the air we breathe). Whether or not you believe these man-made compounds play a part in climate change, NOx is something we don’t need to release into the atmosphere.
6. DEF will evaporate on a hot day.
The DEF would take two years to convert to ammonia and evaporate at a constant temperature of 120 degrees. You no longer need to be concerned about DEF evaporation.
7. DEF will reduce my fuel efficiency.
Quite the opposite is true. Because the manufacturer may tune the engine anyway it wants and then leave the pollutants to the SCR and DEF, most manufacturers have discovered improved fuel mileage (compared to other smog-reduction systems). It is claimed by truck manufacturers that it improves fuel efficiency by up to 5%.
8. This is a brand-new, never-before-used technology.
Incorrect. SCR and DEF have been utilized in commercial and agricultural applications for decades. It’s worth noting that automotive-grade urea is far purer than fertilizer urea. If you utilize a low-quality urea fertilizer, the SCR system will degrade, perhaps causing your truck to break down. It’s possible that it’ll lead the sensors to believe the truck’s DEF tank is empty.
9. DEF is a harsh and dangerous substance.
Hardly. Urea is the active element in DEF, and it’s also found in fertilizers, plastics, animal feed, pharmaceuticals, and various cleaning products (which may explain why some people believe it’s poisonous). Many other fluids in a truck, such as diesel fuel, engine oil, braking fluid, antifreeze, and windshield washing fluid, are less harmful than DEF.
10. What happens if I run out of DEF in my truck?
The EPA mandates that all truck manufacturers include a staged warning system (some with actual gauges) that informs the driver of how near the system is to being empty. Whether a vehicle enters a “limp home” mode, has limited engine power, or restricts the number of times you can start it depends on the car or truck, but it will eventually stop working. Simply said, you should handle your DEF tank as you would your fuel tank; you don’t want to end yourself stranded because you ignored the warnings.
Does DEF ruin engine?
The Clean Air Act of 1970 paved the way for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been constantly evolving and enacting laws to address the country’s environmental requirements for 46 years. For many years, owners of three-quarter and one-ton light-duty pickup trucks were not required to install additional smog equipment. All of that changed in 2008, when the Environmental Protection Agency mandated the use of diesel particulate filters on all three-quarter-ton and larger vehicles, as well as biannual smog testing that included a visual assessment of the truck to ensure the DPF parts were still there. The rules were tightened even more in 2010.
Many people believed that the age of enormous power and torque was finished, and they resolved to never buy another vehicle. However, something fantastic occurred, as well as the polar opposite. Americans have proven to be adaptable and resilient. Every manufacturer worked out a way to reduce NOx emissions while still producing more horsepower and torque than ever before. Strife yields bread, and bread yields innovation.
The application of selective catalytic reduction was the engineering breakthrough. To break down the created NOx into harmless nitrogen and water molecules, the great majority of these systems use diesel exhaust fluid (a mixture of urea and deionized water) injected into the exhaust system. Since the introduction of DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid), also known as after-treatment technology, in the exhaust, the manufacturer is free to create as much power as they like. The DEF is kept in a separate tank that is insulated and heated, with a blue filler cap to identify it.
Despite the effort around technology breakthroughs, there are still two factions of diesel guys out there: those who have accepted the EPA modifications and those who are still adamantly opposed to any limits. There has been a transition to older used diesel engines or remanufactured diesel engines that have been grandfathered in for individuals who are unable to accept the modifications. The purpose of this essay is to lay forth the cold hard facts concerning DEF and to educate the public on how to make better diesel operator decisions.
What exactly is Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF)?
DEF is a mixture of 67.5 percent deionized water and 32.5 percent urea from a chemical standpoint. Urea is a nitrogen chemical that, when heated, converts to ammonia and is employed in a range of industries. Although urea is technically produced from a urine waste, it is synthesized for mass manufacture. The American Petroleum Institute regulates most DEF products. Let’s look at the science of DEF in combination with exhaust. DEF is made up of two parts: (NH2)2CO and (NH2)2CO. When injected into hot exhaust gas, the water evaporates, leaving ammonia and isocyanic acid.
STEP 2: With water, the isocyanic acid breaks down chemically into carbon dioxide and ammonia:
STEP 3: At this step in the chemical reaction, ammonia will decrease nitrogen oxides in the presence of oxygen and a catalyst:
2(NH2)2CO + 4NO + O2 = 4N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2; 2(NH2) 2CO + 3NO2 = 7/2N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2; 2(NH2) 2CO + 3NO2 = 7/2N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2; 2(NH2) 2CO + 3NO2 = 7/2N2 + 4H2O + 2CO2; 2(NH2) 2CO + 3NO2
How Often Do You Need To Fill Up the DEF Tank?
This is a question that is specifically dependent on the diesel truck’s MPG and usage. The usual average light duty truck will require 2-3 gallons of DEF per 800 miles, regardless of the load, according to the OE manufacturer. Most new trucks with an average miles per gallon rating of 20+mpg, on the other hand, will travel 8,000-10,000 miles on a tank full of DPF (10 gallons). Each vehicle is different; for example, a Dodge Ram has a gauge that shows how much DEF is left in the tank, while a GM truck has a digital readout and a Ford truck has a basic low DEF indicator.
Fuel models for medium and heavy duty trucks will vary, but DEF usage will be around 2% of total fuel consumption, according to Cummins Filtration. One gallon of DEF is used for every 50 gallons of diesel fuel used. Here are some forecasts from our friends at Cummins Filtration for Medium and Heavy Duty Consumption:
Where can you buy DEF?
Don’t be tricked by thinking that DEF can be purchased just about everywhere. DEF is typically sold in large bottles holding numerous gallons of the substance at truck stops. If you’re in a pinch, some petrol stations will have DEF, but don’t bank on it. It is critical to note that if you do not refill an empty DEF tank, the engine will shut down automatically. Because DEF isn’t offered everywhere, you don’t want to be trapped anywhere with an empty tank. 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 are all common places to buy DEF. We’ve also put together a list of the most popular DEF manufacturers.
What are the Pros and Cons of a DEF Truck?
DEF has few drawbacks because it is a relatively straightforward technique. However, because the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) are prone to clogging, they can cause a slew of maintenance and repair concerns. These systems are intricately designed, and even a simple blocked filter can result in pressure and temperature differentials that influence the engine’s overall performance.
The only disadvantages of DEF are the higher initial cost, added weight, and the need for more storage space for an extra gallon of the fluid. Better fuel economy, more horsepower, more optimized combustion, fewer regeneration troubles, less engine wear, and it only emits nitrogen and water vapor into the air are some of the benefits.
Is emissions production really an important issue?
Whether it’s a major concern or not is debatable, given that all light-medium diesel engines built after 2008 must meet with EPA regulations. Smog, greenhouse gas emissions, and acid rain have all been linked to NOx emissions. The DEF converts NOx into pure nitrogen and water vapor as part of the Selective Catalytic Reduction system (SCR). Climate change is a contentious issue, but we can all agree that adding additional gasses to the atmosphere of any kind isn’t something we need.
Will DEF Lower My Fuel Mileage?
It is natural to believe that any EPA-mandated alterations to the diesel engine will be detrimental, but this is not the case. The big diesel makers learned that they could fine-tune the engine in whatever way they wanted, then let the SRC and DEF remove the particles. The engines are designed with performance in mind first, and then the SRC, DPF, and DEF are added as an afterthought to remove what is no longer required. Manufacturers have discovered that engines with SCR technology achieve better fuel mileage than engines with conventional internal pollution reduction systems. Fuel fed to the SCR provides an additional supply of components to burn. It is possible to increase fuel mileage by as much as 5% to 7%.
Has this new DEF Technology Ever Been Used Before?
DEF technology has been employed in agriculture, industry, and large-scale power generation in the country for decades. The premise is the same everywhere: urea combined with heat produces ammonia, which induces a chemical reaction that reduces NOx by 70% to 95%. In fact, nitrogen-released fertilizer accounts for 90% of urea production. It’s worth noting that automotive-grade urea has a far higher purity level than fertilizer-grade urea. If a lower-grade fertilizer, urea, is used in vehicle engines, the SCR may disintegrate, causing the engine to fail. It could even cause ECM sensors to issue an inaccurate DEF Tank Empty signal.
Does DEF Evaporate After A Period of Disuse?
Yes and no are the answers. With the valves wide open, the temperature at which DEF combines with NOx exhaust immediately out of the cylinder head is between 1400-1600 F. The chemical reaction occurs at substantially higher temperatures than those experienced on a hot summer day. For example, converting the DPF to ammonia and evaporating it would take two years at a steady temperature of 125 degrees F. However, because DEF is roughly 2/3 water, any temperature above 86 F risks some evaporation. Unless exposed to consistent hot climes, you won’t have to worry about a gallon or two of the stuff going bad or evaporating from inactivity.
Is DEF a Toxic and Harmful Chemical?
Urea, the active element in DEF, has been chemically produced since 1828, when German chemist Friedrich Wöhler used ammonium chloride to treat silver cyanate. Herman Boerhaave, a Dutch chemist, was the first to detect urea in urine in 1727. Urea is mostly employed in agricultural fertilizers, but it is also found in the chemical industry, explosives, lotions, skin creams, hair removers, plastics, dish washes, and fuel cells. Humans are not extremely poisonous to urea and, as a result, DEF. Urea can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, but it is not dangerous. High quantities of urea in the blood can be dangerous to humans, however absorption of modest doses of urea, when accompanied by proper water intake, is not. In nature, urea can induce algal blooms, which can produce harmful fumes when it decomposes over its melting or heating threshold. When nitrites are mixed with certain oxidants, such as chlorides, they can create fires or even explosions.
What happens to the engine if the DEF Tank is empty?
The EPA now requires all diesel engine manufacturers to include a tiered warning system (internal gauges on the dash) that tells the driver how near the DEF tank is to being empty. The truck will stop working if you ignore the DEF warning. Some diesel engine manufacturers allow the engine to go into low-power mode, allowing the truck to “limp home” or limiting the number of times the engine can be turned over. However, the diesel engine would eventually fail to start. Treat the DEF tank as if it were a fuel tank; you don’t want to be stranded somewhere because you forgot to replace it.
Does DEF Have a Low Freeze Point?
At 12 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal 32.5 percent DEF solution begins to crystallize and freeze. When urea and water are combined in DEF, they both freeze at the same time. This is advantageous to the user because the DEF solution does not get diluted or too concentrated as the fluid thaws. The product’s grade is unaffected by freezing and thawing cycles. When DEF is frozen, it expands by 6.5 percent to 7% by volume. Freezing periods are accommodated by the packing.
What is the best method to keep DEF from freezing?
Keeping a gallon or two of DEF in your vehicle is totally safe, but it is not recommended. At 86 degrees Fahrenheit, DEF begins to degrade. It’s all too easy to forget about the DEF in the rear of your vehicle, and given enough hot days, the fluid can become unstable and degrade, but at a very slow rate. A diluted DEF without the 32.5 percent urea combination can be harmful to DEF and SCR, however this is a rare occurrence. As a result, on exceptionally cold days below 12 degrees Fahrenheit, DEF will freeze in the DEF tank. This is totally normal and will have no negative impact on the engine. The SCR systems are intended to give heat to the DEF tank, allowing the tank and related supply lines to thaw quickly.
Can I add anti-freezing solution to the DEF mixture to keep it from freezing?
DEF has a relatively specific formula consisting of 32.5 percent urea and water, but it also contains additional compounds in trace amounts to help stabilize the product. The precise chemical makeup of the mixture would be disrupted by an addition, lowering the NOx reduction characteristics. The DEF mixture’s ability to function effectively will be jeopardized by further blending, and the SCR system will be harmed.
How is the production of DEF regulated and can I make my own?
It is not advisable for direct consumers to make their own DEF. DEF is strictly regulated, has stringent standards for chemical purity, and comprises chemicals that are critical to the SCR system’s operation. DEF must be utilized with SCR systems and meet all ISO norms and API requirements, according to Caterpillar, Cummins, and Detroit Diesel, among others. The American Petroleum Institute (API) has a wholly voluntary program that confirms the chemical purity of DEF and that manufacturers fulfill ISO requirements. API Certification is achieved by all major DEF brands present on the consumer market.
What is the shelf life of DEF?
The batch of DEF will last around two years if it is stored at ambient temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit with no large periods of exposure to heat above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If a package of DEF is heated over an extended amount of time, the fluid will last about a year.
Who are the major manufacturers of DEF Fluid?
DEF Fluid is made by a variety of companies. “Oilmen Truck Tanks,” a website, has collected a list of 13 main manufacturers. DEF is available for $2-$3 per gallon at most big truck stops, auto parts stores, and convenience stores.
How can you determine the age of a container of DEF?
A manufacturers date can be found somewhere on every DEF package. It’s most likely near the bottom of the front of the packaging. This date code will reveal the precise date the batch was manufactured, as well as the age of the DEF bottle. A laser code is inscribed on the bottle of one gallon containers. A little date code is frequently placed on the product label of larger 2-5 gallon tanks. A larger label will be put on the side or top of larger DEF fluid drums (55 gallons or more) and totes (275-355 gallons). Reading a manufacturer’s code is difficult, as each one is slightly different. The batch number is usually represented by the first digit of the date code, and the next six digits reflect the date the batch was filled at the factory.
How do you identify a DEF Filling Pump Vs. a Diesel Fuel Pump?
A number of safeguards have been put in place to prevent diesel engine fuel from being injected into the DEF tank and vice versa. “The color “green” is the standard for diesel filling stations and pumps around the world. “The color “blue” has been chosen as the symbol for DEF fluid. DEF is dispensed by a normal 19 mm nozzle, while diesel fuel is dispensed through a 22 mm nozzle. As a last line of defense, the tank cap on almost all trucks should be a “brightly colored blue” to prevent diesel from entering the DEF tank.
What should I do if I accidentally dispense diesel fuel into the DEF?
First and foremost, do not be alarmed. Second, do not start the engine under any circumstances. If you don’t start the engine, putting diesel fuel in the DEF and vice versa (DEF in the fuel tank) will not hurt it. The SCR should detect the presence of a solution other than DEF in the tank and alert the driver through the dashboard ECM readout. It’s also crucial to avoid moving the vehicle. The distribution of fuel into the lines and into the SCR might be caused by moving the vehicle. Draining the tank while the vehicle is still in its original location is the best option. If the engine is started for even a short time, diesel fuel will destroy the SCR catalyst, which is highly expensive to replace and is no longer covered by the manufacturer’s guarantee. If DEF gets into the fuel system and spreads throughout the engine, it will eventually destroy the diesel engine. The DEF is incompatible with the gasoline system lines, which corrode with time.
Will DEF freeze in my truck?
DEF, whether in storage tanks or equipment, can freeze and cause problems. When temperatures dip below 12°F, DEF begins to crystallize and ceases to function properly. Because of the precise ratio utilized, the entire mixture can freeze and thaw together like water and ice.
Should I keep my DEF tank full?
3. Cold-weather worries
Freezing has no effect on DEF, which is good news for individuals who reside in colder areas. It turns slushy at 12 degrees Fahrenheit and freezes solid because it’s 2/3 water. One thing to keep in mind is that DEF expands when frozen, so it’s better not to overfill containers to avoid harm.
DEF can be thawed and utilized without problems once it has been frozen. If you add chemicals or additives to keep the fluid from freezing, you risk contaminating and ruining it.
4. Survive the Heat
While intense cold will not harm DEF, extended exposure to heat and sunlight will. DEF can be harmed by both of these factors.
The temperature at which DEF should be stored is commonly thought to be 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if stored in authorized containers in a cool environment, direct sunshine is detrimental to DEF, so keep it indoors or in well-shaded regions.
5. Dispensing Instructions
Keep the nozzle on the container and the fill ports on the equipment clean to avoid contamination when dispensing DEF. Only use the nozzle on the storage container to dispense DEF directly into a machine. Funnels are not suggested since they can become dirty and introduce contaminants into the fluid. Never put DEF in another container, especially one that isn’t permitted, such as a bucket. Even if a bucket is clean, the fluid might be contaminated by dirt or other contaminants.
Diesel exhaust fluid should never be used in a machine’s diesel fuel tank, despite its name implying otherwise. Only use it in the specified DEF tank, which has a smaller hole than a fuel tank and a blue top to make it easy to spot.