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Old 03-07-2020, 08:48 AM   #1
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DEF Head Failure

This week we had a near catastrophic failure. In preparation for a trip to the Florida Keys, I had the generator serviced at Cummins. On the way back to the storage yard, the check engine light came on with the DEF gauge turning bright orange and showing 0 DEF fluid. Since I check the DEF fluid regularly and know there was 3/4 of a tank in the morning, I expected I had a sensor issue. Being close to the yard, I continued on and made it to the yard. The engine had gone through the first de-rating losing about 30% of its power.

First I called Cummins to see if I could get it back to their shop in the morning. Their engine shop is backed up for 4-5 days which wouldn't help getting us on the road for the planned trip. I then talked to their mobile service manager who said it sounded like I would need to replace the 'DEF Head' but I would need to verify with Spartan. I then called Spartan. They helped me look up the error codes and did determine that the DEF Head was the culprit. Even though it was after 4 pm, they were able to get a new head shipped to Cummins for next day delivery.

Cummins did get their mobile technician out on Friday afternoon, replaced the head and canceled all three error codes. Our trip to the Keys was saved.

Just a few observations: (1) I found no threads about this on the Newmar site but a number of threads on the Entegra site. This is an issue. (2) The Cummins mechanic said they replace 4-5 DEF Heads per week on average. This includes all varieties of commercial vehicles including DPs. (3) This is the most important to keep in mind when traveling. If you experience the issue on the road, the DEF Head can be re-calibrated which allows the vehicle to be driven without de-rating. This means that you can avoid a tow of your vehicle if you can get a mobile service to accomplish this. This would be an emergency fix and not long term.
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Old 03-07-2020, 11:55 AM   #2
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Good info....this is why I always read every post. You can always learn something new. This will go into the memory banks.
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Old 03-08-2020, 11:05 AM   #3
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Can you give us a bit more information about the re-calibration? Can an owner do it in the field or is special equipment and/or a mechanic required?
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Old 03-08-2020, 12:30 PM   #4
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Should the DEF Head be a part to add to our bench stock? I'm going to Amazon to see what they have....
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Old 03-08-2020, 05:40 PM   #5
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Shaw DEF head

After reading the OP, I did a little research and indeed, there seems to be a lot of failures of the Shaw DEF heads installed on Cummins engines. Holland Bus - think Blue Bird - even has this direction for shop repair of the head by replacing one of the sensors. For what it's worth. Holland/Blue Bird uses Cummins exclusively in their diesel busses (buses? whatever). I'm not suggesting anyone try this at home, just FYI.
oops. Forgot the link...
https://hollandbuscompany.com/wp-con...eplacement.pdf
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Old 03-08-2020, 09:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPietri View Post
This week we had a near catastrophic failure. In preparation for a trip to the Florida Keys, I had the generator serviced at Cummins. On the way back to the storage yard, the check engine light came on with the DEF gauge turning bright orange and showing 0 DEF fluid. Since I check the DEF fluid regularly and know there was 3/4 of a tank in the morning, I expected I had a sensor issue. Being close to the yard, I continued on and made it to the yard. The engine had gone through the first de-rating losing about 30% of its power.



First I called Cummins to see if I could get it back to their shop in the morning. Their engine shop is backed up for 4-5 days which wouldn't help getting us on the road for the planned trip. I then talked to their mobile service manager who said it sounded like I would need to replace the 'DEF Head' but I would need to verify with Spartan. I then called Spartan. They helped me look up the error codes and did determine that the DEF Head was the culprit. Even though it was after 4 pm, they were able to get a new head shipped to Cummins for next day delivery.



Cummins did get their mobile technician out on Friday afternoon, replaced the head and canceled all three error codes. Our trip to the Keys was saved.



Just a few observations: (1) I found no threads about this on the Newmar site but a number of threads on the Entegra site. This is an issue. (2) The Cummins mechanic said they replace 4-5 DEF Heads per week on average. This includes all varieties of commercial vehicles including DPs. (3) This is the most important to keep in mind when traveling. If you experience the issue on the road, the DEF Head can be re-calibrated which allows the vehicle to be driven without de-rating. This means that you can avoid a tow of your vehicle if you can get a mobile service to accomplish this. This would be an emergency fix and not long term.


We’ve had two DEF heads go bad and had both replaced on our 17 DS. Never heard any mention of a recalibration. Do you have any additional info or can you tell me who to contact? We were out of commission for almost a week both times.
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Old 03-09-2020, 03:58 PM   #7
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This week we had a near catastrophic failure.
When I read this first sentence I thought you meant that something DEF related almost blew up your engine or something. I assume the catastrophic failure would have been a delay in your planned trip? Or am I interpreting this incorrectly? It sounds like your engine was de-rating and no engine damage would have occurred.
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Old 03-09-2020, 04:14 PM   #8
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Should the DEF Head be a part to add to our bench stock? I'm going to Amazon to see what they have....


No, Spartan had a bad batch of DEF heads. Since September 2019 all new DEF heads should be a good Design. Mine went bad the week before I was has heading to Spartan Academy. They told me that the old design was the problem.
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Old 03-09-2020, 08:17 PM   #9
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No, Spartan had a bad batch of DEF heads. Since September 2019 all new DEF heads should be a good Design. Mine went bad the week before I was has heading to Spartan Academy. They told me that the old design was the problem.


I wonder if the bad heads were installed on just Spartan chassis or did they get installed on Freightliner chassis as well?
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Old 03-09-2020, 08:54 PM   #10
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My very thought. Hopefully someone can give us an answer. I've had enough problems with my 2015 DS Freightliner while traveling or getting ready for a trip, don't need something like this.
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Old 03-09-2020, 09:16 PM   #11
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We had the total DEF head failure on our 17 DS 4018 last August. Got towed 100 miles to Joplin, MO. Waited there two weeks for the part. Three other Newmar’s, two Entegra’s, and three school buses were parked at the Cummins in Joplin with the same issue.

When it fails, you get an instant total derate. No warning. There was no mention of a temporary fix. Spartan did cover the repair under warranty.

Took about 2 hours once they got the part.
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Old 03-13-2020, 06:57 PM   #12
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Sorry that I didn't answer your questions but we did leave for the Florida Keys and I haven't been on the forum for a week.

Everything seemed to work fine after the replacement until we were on the Florida Turnpike returning home yesterday. The check engine alarm came on and the DEF meter went to zero. The engine did not de-rate. I was able to pull off at the service plaza, call Spartan, and pull the error codes. The original incident had three codes corresponding to DEF temperature, DEF level, and DEF quality. Yesterday it only had a DEF level error code. I was able to drive to Cummins in West Palm. They forced a Re-generation and had me do an 8 mile test drive. Since the code cleared and didn't present itself again, we proceeded up the road to Ft. Pierce.

This morning we hit the road for Orlando. About 100 miles up the road, we again had an error code for DEF level and a check engine alarm. The alarm ended twenty minutes later. We are now home with the coach at the storage yard. The Cummins technician is scheduled to meet me Monday morning at 7 am.

To answer your questions, (1) if you get a DEF error that includes a de-rate of the engine, a Cummins technician or one that has the same computer capability can cancel the error codes that allows the coach to be driven a number of miles. I expect it would be enough to get to a service center or at least off the main highway. (2) should you carry a DEF head? I don't think this is a normal affordable spare and I would hope the new designs of the device would make this unnecessary.

Personally, I'm not sure Spartan has solved the issue. There is definitely a sensor issue and possibly a wireless communications issue with the system. I'll report again after the Monday service.
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Old 03-13-2020, 10:35 PM   #13
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Hat DEF head ain’t cheap, to carry a spare...just replaced mine after similar issues at a Cummins place. $850 (at some level of discount) and a couple hours labor.
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Old 03-13-2020, 10:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerfan1 View Post
I wonder if the bad heads were installed on just Spartan chassis or did they get installed on Freightliner chassis as well?
Or PowerGlide (Tiffin) chassis? Anyone know if the heads went out on more than just Spartan? One more thing I don't want to be fretting over.

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