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Old 04-02-2014, 12:19 AM   #1
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Contaminated DEF an issue?

For those folks who run the newer DP's, has anyone encountered or heard of problems with contaminated DEF ? In reading my new manual on the F/L chassis it mentions the possibility and the possible consequences of shutdown or similar actions. If you were to take on contaminated DEF, how do you fix the problem? Simply drain and refill with new? This new owner would like to know.
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Old 04-02-2014, 12:16 PM   #2
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Capnqball:

You bring up a great subject for all Clean Diesel owners, whether DP or any diesel powered vehicle equipped with an SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) system like our 2013 F350. Most diesel powered vehicles made after 2010, and all made after 2013 have incorporated SCR in the exhaust after-treatment system to allow leaner and more efficient combustion (power and torque) while still reducing NOx emissions to almost zero.

Here are the answers to your question:

There are three important requirements for DEF: Purity, urea concentration, and having in the DEF tank.

1. Purity: DEF is required to contain only 2 things: pure urea and pure water. Any contaminants, like dirt, rust from storing DEF in steel containers, calcium from tap water, phosphates from detergents, oils/greases from using other equipment, etc. CAN damage the injector and catalyst by causing deposits or clog the filter in your DEF system. The water required for DEF manufacture is extremely pure - 1 ounce (about a tablespoon) of salt in 5000 gallons of DEF - or 1 PPM (part per million) would be unacceptable. The urea required for use in DEF is equally pure and is called automotive grade urea. Using impure DEF will eventually cause damage to your SCR system and result in an "intervention". This "intervention" will include reducing the vehicle's speed to around 50 MPH for a period of time, usually a few hundred miles, and then reducing the vehicle's speed to about 5 MPH for a short period of time after that. You'll get a visual warning prior to an "intervention". Unless the issue is resolved (usually refilling the DEF tank or fixing the bad component in the SCR system), there is no way to operate the vehicle.

2. Urea Concentration. The requirement for urea concentration is very precise to control the freeze point, and allow nominal operation of the SCR system. Requirement is 31.8 to 33.2 % urea. In round numbers it is 1/3 urea or 3 lbs. per gal of DEF. The SCR system in your DP includes a NOx sensor and a control computer that "tells" the DEF "dosing" component how much DEF to inject in the exhaust. If your DEF is diluted a little bit, it will use more. If it is seriously diluted, it won't be able to reduce NOx to the required levels, and you'll get an "intervention". The tank in your DP includes a heater to "thaw" your DEF if it is below 0 outside and the DEF freezes. All automatic.

3. Having DEF in the DEF Tank. Don't run out. You'll get plenty of warnings from the vehicle, and I believe your DP may have a gauge (my F350 does not but I get lots of visual message warnings as the DEF is depleted). It is possible to run out of DEF, and "interventions" are automatic and inescapable unless the vehicle is illegally modified. This is why the EPA recently revised the Clean Air Act protocols that require "interventions" to allow exceptions for Emergency Vehicles (Fire Trucks, ambulances). There were incidents involving ambulances where the vehicle shut down due to not refilling the DEF tank, and there were consequences. Most ambulances and Fire Trucks with SCR systems are now having the control systems (hardware and software) legally modified to eliminate shutdowns.

DEF is available almost everywhere. At the pump in most truck stops, and some fuel stations on or near the major highways. Around $3 per gallon. Off the highways, you can easily find it in WALMART, auto parts stores, Cummins and other OEM sales/repair facilities, and some gas stations. Expect to pay between $5 (2.5 gal jug at WALMART) $25 (1 gal jug at OEM like Ford) per gallon. If you are Amazon Prime, it is around $16 for a 2.5 gal jug delivered to you. It can be very difficult to find in remote locations, and when you can, it may be very expensive. I have no affiliation to any of these sellers. The vast majority of the DEF you can buy meets specifications. However, just like instances of contaminated diesel, there have been instances of contaminated DEF. If this happens, there is a small chance you will have an intervention. The cure for a tank of contaminated DEF is to have repair facility drain and flush the tank and lines, and probably replace the filter.

We make my own DEF and use it in our F350. We buy automotive grade urea, (minimum buy quantity is one ton) and use distilled water from the grocery store. Why we do this is a long story which if you are interested, can be found at www.fivestardef.com. We've had our DEF tested by a certified Lab and have passed the specification required for certified DEF. 20 gallons so far thru our F350 and no problems.

After a lot of research, testing, and experience with DEF, here are our recommendations for avoiding "interventions".

1. When available, buy DEF at the pump from reputable sellers like busy truck stops or fueling stations. Very likely to be fresh and pure. Only issue we have with DEF at the pump is that you can't see it. DEF contaminated badly enough to do damage will likely be off color. Plus, we don't care for the "truck stop experience". TIP: keep your receipt for DEF in case you have a problem. This will allow you to pursue compensation in case of damage.

2. When pump DEF is not available, or if you want to avoid the minor inconveniences that may occur at truck stops, buy DEF in jugs as described above and refill your DEF tank while adding diesel at a refuel stop. Read the instructions on the jugs. We like this option because most DEF jugs are translucent and you can confirm the DEF is colorless. Avoid jugs that are leaking (will have a powdery residue near the cap) or are near expiration date. Carry a pair of gloves if you find that DEF irritates your skin- leaks happen.

3. Carry reserve DEF (a 2.5 gal jug or two) when travelling in remote areas, or in case you can't find DEF when you need it. There are issues carrying reserve DEF, but they are easily overcome with care. Jug leaks are messy, but clean up easily. Don't let the reserve DEF get too hot or cold. Use your reserve DEF before the expiration date. Carry the reserve DEF in a vented compartment so any ammonia that vents does not enter the passenger area.

Some Clean Diesel owners buy DEF at the pump and dispense into a used 2.5 gal jug or other jug for later use. My recommendations on how to do this and still meet purity requirements are available in another post (use the search to find them or send me a PM).

Final note: You should NOT be overly concerned about the SCR system on your DP or DEF. There were lots of minor issues when these systems first came out, but the manufacturers have worked out most of the bugs by now. We met most of the vehicle OEMs, DEF manufacturers and major distributors, and the rest of the industry leaders at the 2013 Diesel Emissions Conference and DEF Forum in Atlanta. Without exception, they are extremely committed to making SCR and DEF work with minimal impact to the consumer. The DEF manufacturers spend a great deal of money to make sure the DEF you get is pure, and they protect their brands with extensive checks and balances. Of course, it is big business: 350 million gallons of DEF this year at an average of $4/gallon. In such a big market, there will always be someone who might try to sell bad DEF and deceive consumers. However, this should be EXTRMELY unlikely, and can in most cases be avoided by being informed about DEF, and being a careful buyer.

Enjoy your DP!!!

As always, consider us an IRV2 resource for all questions about Clean Diesels and DEF.

Erich
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Old 04-02-2014, 03:24 PM   #3
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I recently bought a coach that required DEF. I've read a little on the subject but was thinking of posting some questions about it on IRV2. Don't need to any more. Very informative post, Erich. Thanks.
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Old 04-03-2014, 01:07 AM   #4
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Thanks for the info Erich. Good stuff.
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Old 04-03-2014, 08:19 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the great information Eric. I recently took a trip down Baja CA with my DP which has the DEF system. Luckily I started the trip with a full DEF tank,and made it back to Walmart where it costs around $12 for 2.5 gallons, because finding it in Baja is almost impossible. Mexico doesn't have the same emission standards. I was concerned about running out, but didn't realize running out would effectively shut you down. The DEF level is registered on the instrument panel, so I never have had an issue. After seeing your information on contamination issues, I think I will continue to buy at Walmart as the container is transparent and what you see is what you get.
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Old 04-04-2014, 09:40 AM   #6
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It's mentioned that DEF is clear. What is there different about the brand BlueDef, just some dye? Napa sells the BlueDef and had it on sale here for $10.99 a jug (2.5gal).
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Old 04-04-2014, 01:15 PM   #7
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capnqball:

I'd be VERY surprised if the DEF in that container is dyed Blue. BlueDEF is a brand name. The DEF is colorless. All that is blue in color on the jugs I have opened is the cap and some of the markings on the cardboard box it is packaged in to protect it from sunlight and protect the fragile jug.

I've never understood marketing types... is Pabst Blue Ribbon "blue"??

I've attached some pictures I just took of the BlueDEF box, the jug out of the box, and some BlueDEF in a beaker with our business cards (one under the DEF, the other not. Definitely colorless).

Not all manufacturers use translucent containers since they like to maintain brand identity across product lines and use white or other color 1 gallon jugs. Some manufacturers prefer other than translucent containers since they offer protection from sunlight during outdoor storage. There is a concern that algae can grow in DEF that is exposed to sunlight. I've discussed this with DEF manufacturers, and their testing (and mine) concludes this is not an issue since the water used for DEF is pure and sterile. Larger containers (like 330 gallon totes) are more of a concern because they can be exposed to outside air during reuse.

A date code is required on any package of DEF. This is called out in the specification for DEF: ISO22241. The American Petroleum Institute has a voluntary certification program for DEF, and offers (sells) manufacturers rights the API mark. Your owner's manual probably requires you to use DEF that is per the ISO 22241 specification, and has this API marking. Note: None of these markings guarantee anything, since they do not sample every package of DEF.

Here is the secret to reading the expiration date on BlueDEF manufactured by Old World Industries LLC. Other manufacturers differ. I'm working on a complete library of date codes.

This BlueDEF information is from an email reply from PEAK Technical Services dated July 1, 2013 in response to my request for how to read the date code (after having a big leak problem with some jugs I purchased).

"The most important part of the batch code is the third through seventh numbers. There are always going to be two letters or numbers at the beginning of the code, which is the blending facility code, The third and fourth number of the code is the year +1. The fifth, sixth and seventh numbers of the code are the days left in the year, or reverse Julian date. So if the code says 257 for example, that would mean it was made on the 108th day of the year.. April 18th."


The date code on the BlueDEF box in my picture is

GA153590089

Lets break this down into 4 groups of numbers:

GA: The designator of the plant that manufactured the DEF
15: The year of manufacture plus 1, so this DEF was made in 2014
359: 365-359 = 6, so the 6th day of the year, or January 6th.
0089: The batch code.

So this box of DEF was made January 6th, 2014.

Specification life for DEF is 2 years at 75F or so. Stored properly, this DEF is good thru January 6th, 2016 (and probably longer).

Storage life is highly dependent on temperature. DEF stored at 85F only lasts 12 months. Storage above 95F (not unusual in an vehicle parked in the sun during the summer) is limited to 1 month or so. Reason: The urea in DEF decomposes and creates ammonia liquid and vapor in the jug, causing issues when you open it, and reducing the amount of urea in the DEF when it is used in the vehicle. Storage above 95F requires retest of the DEF prior to use (source: ISO 22241-3, most recent revision).

Simple huh?

Tip #1: Don't buy old DEF jugs. When buying DEF in jugs, look at the code. In 2014, find a jug with 14 or 15 in the 3rd and 4th spaces and the highest three digit number you can find in the 5th, 6th, and 7th digits. Store it in a cool location out of the sunlight.

Tip#2: Buy DEF from stores that are likely move a lot on inventory, have controls on inventory age, and are air conditioned. Not that it is a guarantee, but big name outfits like NAPA and WALMART are likely a good bet.

Tip#3: DON'T buy jugs of DEF at a gas station that stores them outside, or have obvious signs of degradation like leaks, crystals on the box or jug, or are off color.

Tip#4: Keep your receipts for DEF in case there is an issue.

Five Star DEF's mission is provide owners with easy to understand information about Clean Diesels, especially Diesel Exhaust Fluid. We offer Innovative DEF Solutions to provide Clean Diesel owners an alternative to mass-market DEF products. Look us up on www.fivestardef.com.

Thanks,

Erich
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Old 04-04-2014, 03:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FiveStarDEF View Post

"The most important part of the batch code is the third through seventh numbers. There are always going to be two letters or numbers at the beginning of the code, which is the blending facility code, The third and fourth number of the code is the year +1. The fifth, sixth and seventh numbers of the code are the days left in the year, or reverse Julian date. So if the code says 257 for example, that would mean it was made on the 108th day of the year.. April 18th."

Tip #1: Don't buy old DEF jugs. When buying DEF in jugs, look at the code. In 2014, find a jug with 14 or 15 in the 3rd and 4th spaces and the highest three digit number you can find in the 5th, 6th, and 7th digits. Store it in a cool location out of the sunlight.
I believe your tip would be to find a jug with the lowest three digit number in positions 5-7, as they would indicate a later day in the year.
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Old 04-04-2014, 04:07 PM   #9
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Good catch!! Thanks for the correction.

Indeed, lower numbers indicate later production, and thus more shelf life for the DEF.

Erich
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Old 04-06-2014, 06:56 AM   #10
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Well, if the urea lasts only a month or so in the hot South, us RVers are going to have a good time.

Is there any way to drain the "old" stuff, you know, the stuff we installed in June and here it is August already?
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Old 04-06-2014, 07:24 AM   #11
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Another Tip

Its not uncommon to find foil and paper in DEF tanks from the gallon and 2.5 gallon jugs. If you open and reseal a container check the cap. Make sure it does not have a paper insert. A once opened jug will allow the DEF to wet the paper and desolve it into the DEF.

My suggestion is wait until you can pour all the DEF into the MH to avoid this issue.
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Old 04-06-2014, 10:45 AM   #12
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rezman: Excellent advice on Cap Seals. Some 1 gallon jugs have cap seals with paper/foil seals. The 2.5 gal Blue DEF Cap has a non-paper foam seal so it should last longer (just peeled it out of a cap on my desk). Note: I have NO affiliation with Blue DEF or any other mass market DEF company!!!

Airstreamer6: Not to worry. The storage and shelf life limits apply only to DEF in jugs or large storage tanks BEFORE it is poured into your vehicle.

These limits assure that even after exposure to a full summer season in the SW or SE, you still have effective DEF. We've tested DEF after exposure to these kind of temps/times (using a home-made thermal chamber) and urea concentration is reduced by about 1%, but not to a point where you will have an issue with it. A vehicle may use slightly more DEF when it has been exposed to temp/time for a full summer, but you would not notice it.

The other important factor is that your vehicle's tank is vented specifically to limit the pressure build up of ammonia vapor in the tank and to allow air to enter as the DEF is depleted. This vent has a filter on it so that any air that enters the tank is clean. Jugs do not have vents, so they tend to expand and leak.

Erich
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Old 04-23-2014, 01:05 PM   #13
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Thanks FiveStar, that's good to hear and important information to know.
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Old 04-23-2014, 10:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FiveStarDEF View Post
rezman: Excellent advice on Cap Seals. Some 1 gallon jugs have cap seals with paper/foil seals. The 2.5 gal Blue DEF Cap has a non-paper foam seal so it should last longer (just peeled it out of a cap on my desk). Note: I have NO affiliation with Blue DEF or any other mass market DEF company!!! Airstreamer6: Not to worry. The storage and shelf life limits apply only to DEF in jugs or large storage tanks BEFORE it is poured into your vehicle. These limits assure that even after exposure to a full summer season in the SW or SE, you still have effective DEF. We've tested DEF after exposure to these kind of temps/times (using a home-made thermal chamber) and urea concentration is reduced by about 1%, but not to a point where you will have an issue with it. A vehicle may use slightly more DEF when it has been exposed to temp/time for a full summer, but you would not notice it. The other important factor is that your vehicle's tank is vented specifically to limit the pressure build up of ammonia vapor in the tank and to allow air to enter as the DEF is depleted. This vent has a filter on it so that any air that enters the tank is clean. Jugs do not have vents, so they tend to expand and leak. Erich
So ... I have DEF that has been in my units tank over the winter (LONG winter, something like 60 days if below zero weather. Do the cold temps favor or work against DEF quality ? ( I note the containers warn against freezing ......). ???
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