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Old 06-30-2021, 09:58 AM   #1
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DEF Refactometer

So, At the risk of sounding stupid I have this, I read how to calibrate it with distilled water but what readings are DEF supposed to give us?Click image for larger version

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Old 06-30-2021, 10:15 AM   #2
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Most refractometers have different scales inscribed on them. Amazon offers a bunch of different refractometers.

The one I bought has a general scale and in addition a scale that is specifically for DEF. My memory is that the Urea concentration of DEF is supposed to be 32.5 %. My unit has a DEF scale with that point mid scale and shows concentrations above and below that number.

I will confirm that number and come back and edit it. EDIT: Yes, DEF is supposed to be 32.5 % and the remaining distilled water.

I am pretty sure your scale will read it, but it may not have a separate DEF scale. Don't think that matters. I bought a general one first and then bought one specifically designed for DEF and that is the one I use, if I need to check something.

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Old 06-30-2021, 10:17 AM   #3
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I'm pretty sure your target percentage in the mix of 32.5% urea in the solution with the remaining volume made up of pure water.

What I don't know is how far the percentages can be off before it's a problem and how you might fix it without knowing the volume of the container other than trail and error of adding undiluted urea or pure water until you reach a 32.5% urea ratio.

I guess the best practice would be to check the solution before adding to the vehicle tank.
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Old 06-30-2021, 10:25 AM   #4
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Most of us guess that the problem for most is that the distilled water evaporates and the DEF concentration starts to get much higher. Chuck said his DEF smelled really nasty after a year. One of the good things about having to travel for medical treatment every three weeks is that I am constantly burning DEF and adding new stuff. I have had no trouble from truck-stop DEF.

I have never seen the bandwidth of tolerable Urea concentrations that can be "seen" before the head throws a code.

Gary
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Old 06-30-2021, 10:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Sweetbriar View Post
I'm pretty sure your target percentage in the mix of 32.5% urea in the solution with the remaining volume made up of pure water.

What I don't know is how far the percentages can be off before it's a problem and how you might fix it without knowing the volume of the container other than trail and error of adding undiluted urea or pure water until you reach a 32.5% urea ratio.

I guess the best practice would be to check the solution before adding to the vehicle tank.
For those with 2016 and later systems, the concentration level of DEF requires a continued monitoring of urea levels, something that is supposed to be done by the sensors. Certainly before adding new DEF, it would be good to check the level.

If there are no system warnings and the coach is regularly being driven, there is probably no need to test the fluid in the tank. However, if being stored or if parked for an extended period, especially in hot weather, it is probably wise to check the tank concentration just to see what is going on. Should a DEF concentration light appear on the dash (I actually don't know if there is a light specifically for concentration,) that would also be a time to check concentration in the tank. You would at least know that the fluid in the tank was good and the problem is the sensor.
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Old 06-30-2021, 12:21 PM   #6
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So, At the risk of sounding stupid I have this, I read how to calibrate it with distilled water but what readings are DEF supposed to give us?Attachment 334180
I copied this from this forum and answers your question on when DEF could become an issue. My apologies to the author for not mentioning him as I just copied their content.

If DEF varies from 32.5% I will change the fluid. There are many charts posted as to acceptable level from 32.5% to 37%. However after my experience with the ammonia content this is the one I will be using. I have two problems storing in FL, heat and condensation that I need to watch closer than I did before.

30% change fluid
32.5% Ideal
35% change fluid
Check your DEF dosing filter and make sure it is clean and not full of crystalized residual DEF.

The dosing unit sits below and rearward of the tank.

It has a 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 plastic hex head cap that you have to unscrew to remove the filter. The Cummins/Fleetguard part number is UF101.
DEF Filter Cummins 5303604 ** corrected **
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Old 06-30-2021, 12:30 PM   #7
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It has a 1 1/16 or 1 1/8 plastic hex head cap that you have to unscrew to remove the filter. The Cummins/Fleetguard part number is UF101.
DEF Filter Cummins 5303604 ** corrected **
Wix filter # W74B191
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Old 06-30-2021, 02:38 PM   #8
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Wix filter # W74B191
Thank you, I updated my checklist. I also read Shell's Guide to DEF and it seems tolerance is +/- 1.5% of 32.5. If that is the case then it is considered out of spec at 32.0105 or less and 32.9875 or mode. Also thanks to all for the DEF specific refractometer, easy to use. The DEF reader with 3 floating discs was not even close and read good DEF as being BAD.
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Old 06-30-2021, 03:38 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cr8havoc View Post
Thank you, I updated my checklist. I also read Shell's Guide to DEF and it seems tolerance is +/- 1.5% of 32.5. If that is the case then it is considered out of spec at 32.0105 or less and 32.9875 or mode. Also thanks to all for the DEF specific refractometer, easy to use. The DEF reader with 3 floating discs was not even close and read good DEF as being BAD.
I was the person that wrote the post made reference to in post #6 that I found doing my research. After the number of DEF head failures that always read. "DEF CONCENTRATION HIGH/LOW, on digital dashes, I have changed my outlook on the DEF reading. If it varies at all off of 32.5, I will change the DEF. I have lost two DEF heads, so I don't have much confidence in the DEF sensors being able to distinguish much in variance off of 32.5, which is what they are calibrated for. Until Shaw Development can build a DEF head that can sense reading that are within tolerance, it's a gamble running questionable DEF. JMO.
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Old 07-04-2021, 08:53 PM   #10
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Most of us guess that the problem for most is that the distilled water evaporates and the DEF concentration starts to get much higher. Chuck said his DEF smelled really nasty after a year. One of the good things about having to travel for medical treatment every three weeks is that I am constantly burning DEF and adding new stuff. I have had no trouble from truck-stop DEF.

I have never seen the bandwidth of tolerable Urea concentrations that can be "seen" before the head throws a code.

Gary
According to the documents I have read, tolerance is plus or minus 1.5%. I will upload what I have when I get home.
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Old 07-04-2021, 10:42 PM   #11
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The scale on my Thexton DEF tester (see photo below) shows 32.5% as ideal and recommends replacing the DEF at readings less than 30% or more than 35%. Not saying that is right or wrong; just reporting what it says.
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Old 07-04-2021, 10:51 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Cr8havoc View Post
Thank you, I updated my checklist. I also read Shell's Guide to DEF and it seems tolerance is +/- 1.5% of 32.5. If that is the case then it is considered out of spec at 32.0105 or less and 32.9875 or mode. Also thanks to all for the DEF specific refractometer, easy to use. The DEF reader with 3 floating discs was not even close and read good DEF as being BAD.
I believe you are misunderstanding the Shell guide. When they state a tolerance of +/-1.5% they mean that the concentration limits are between 30.0% and 34%.
Also, it is looking like the vast majority of Shaw/Spartan DEF sensor failures were very likely NOT caused by slight variances in DEF concentrations. Except in some extreme cases that theory looks to have been a red herring. Because DEF concentrations will always vary somewhat with age and temp, it is common for the % to be a little off of the 32.5% ideal and so when tested AFTER a sensor failure it seemed to be correlated with the failures. But the concentration was also off in those units that didnít fail. However, itís still a good idea to check with a refractometer often. Itís cheap easy insurance and couldnít hurt.
Same goes for my pet theory that the sensors being in close proximity to the exhaust and DPF systems might be a contributor to failures doesnít pass the smell test. Because the sensors are located at the bottom of the unit and are submerged in several gallons of DEF they arenít likely to get very hot. Water has a very high specific heat and can absorb a huge amount of radiant energy before its temp changes significantly.
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Old 07-05-2021, 12:39 AM   #13
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Let’s say I have 10 gallons of DEF in the tank – 1280 ounces. And let’s say it is perfectly balanced at 32.5% urea (416 ounces) and 67.5% water (864 ounces).

And let’s theorize that water evaporates faster than DEF. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but let’s assume it is for the sake of this analysis.

Let’s say a cup of water (8 ounces) evaporates and no urea is lost to evaporation. Now I have 416 ounces of urea and 856 ounces of water, for a total of 1272 ounces. At this point the ratio is 32.7% urea and 67.3% water.

If two cups of water (16 ounces) evaporates and no urea is lost to evaporation, I have 416 ounces of urea and 848 ounces of water, for a total of 1264 ounces. At this point the ratio is 32.9% urea and 67.1% water.

Now let’s’ assume four cups of water (32 ounces) evaporates and no urea is lost to evaporation. Now I have 416 ounces of urea and 832 ounces for water, for a total of 1248 ounces. At this point the ratio is 33.3% urea and 66.7% water – still less than 1.5% from ideal.

Finally, let’s assume a full half-gallon of water (64 ounces) evaporates and no urea is lost to evaporation. Now I have 416 ounces of urea and 800 ounces of water for a total of 1216 ounces. At this point the ratio is 34.2% urea and 65.8% water. So if 32.5% urea is ideal, we’re now 1.7% above ideal – just barely over the 1.5% allowable variance some members have stipulated and significantly less than the 2.5% variance my DEF tester indicates is acceptable.

Regardless of whether you want to go with 1.5% allowable variance or 2.5% allowable variance, the point is that you have to assume some fairly big changes before the mixture falls out of spec – ASSUMING it was correct to begin with.

Another thought is that if your tester (refractometer or other) indicates the percentage of urea is too high, you should, in theory, be able to correct that problem simply by adding a calculated volume of distilled water to the DEF tank. If you’re off in the other direction; i.e. the percentage of urea is too low, it’s probably time to drain the tank and start over.

If this analysis is correct, it suggests that one of the most important things a given owner can do is to ensure any DEF poured or pumped into the DEF tank is as close to the ideal ratio as possible.

Just my thoughts at 10:30 PM Arizona time. If any of what I’ve stated is out of whack, please feel free to post corrections.
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Old 07-05-2021, 06:29 AM   #14
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Good analysis and I keep distilled water jugs for CPAP and Kerrigan so if I test too high concentration of urea Iím ready to add some water.
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