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Old 07-10-2021, 10:03 PM   #1
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New information on the DEF head issue

Pat Bauer, President of the Entegra Coach Owners Association just compleed the ECOA rally in Spearfish and is now at FMCA in Gillet and he has drafted an article on this issue which will appear in the ECOA newsletter. Pat has gained this information by talking to owners and factory people about the problem and the write up contains some information that is new so I asked if he was going to post it to this forum, and he said he was busy but for me to feel free to copy and paste it up here.

This his write-up.

"How to Survive a DEF Sensor Fault"

So you get a dreaded Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) Fault Code? What are you going to do? Having just completed a big rally, this was perhaps the most asked question. There are lots of rumors floating around out there that need to be debunked, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, let me pass on the FACTS that I’ve learned.

Shaw is in their 7th generation of DEF sensors, and so far, they seem to be working, but Gen 4, 5, & 6, not so much. The sensors are federally mandated, and our engines will de-rate down to “limp mode” of 5 mph when they fail. The only work-around is replacement of the DEF Head Sensor. The sensor is built into the unit, but the sensor itself can be replaced…and not have to do the whole thing. DEF is a pretty stable substance until it exceeds 125°F, whereupon it begins to release ammonia, an extremely corrosive substance. Unfortunately, that can severely decrease the service life of the sensor. That single sensor monitor’s three different values and can generate three different fault codes:

SPN#3364 – FMI9 DEF QUALITY
SPN#3031 – FMI9 DEF TEMPERATURE
SPN#1761 – FMI9 DEF TANK VOLUME

So when the DEF light turns on indicating a problem, NOTHING happens for the first hour…you just have a warning…but know the clock is ticking. After the first hour, the engine de-rates by 25% for the next two hours. You probably won’t even notice a decrease in performance at 25%. At the fourth hour, however, the Engine Control Module (ECM) will de-rate the engine by 40%, and again, you probably won’t notice that unless you’re traveling in some pretty hefty hills. After the 40% de-rate, the ECM goes into the 5 mph “LIMP MODE.” Now in a 40% de-rate, you can run INDEFINITELY, unless one of these 3 things occur:

1. You idle for more than one hour;
2. You turn off the engine;
3. You fill your diesel WITHOUT also filling your DEF fluid. The ECM Looks for that!

If any of those three conditions occur, your engine will de-rate to the 5mph LIMP MODE. Of course, if you get the SPN#1761 – FMI9 DEF TANK VOLUME, you cannot recover from that and it goes into LIMP MODE. So to continue traveling under these conditions, DON’T LET ONE OF THOSE 3 CONDITIONS OCCUR! Keep going! If you need to fill up, LEAVE THE ENGINE RUNNING….AND…fill your DEF TANK too. Keep driving until you land somewhere safe where you can have the problem addressed safely.

Pat Bauer"
---------------------------------------------------

There you have it. Some new information

Gary
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Old 07-10-2021, 10:44 PM   #2
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A couple of my DEF related events have involved erroneous low-DEF readings and since the ECM thinks the tank is empty, I don’t think adding DEF would make any difference. Is that what Pat is saying about the SPN 1761? It would be worth a try to fill it, but if it can’t read what’s already in there, more probably wouldn’t help.

It seems like another strategy would be to keep at least a half tank of fuel at all times. It would be one more inconvenience to always refill at 1/2 and defeat the purpose of a 100 gal tank, but at least you’d always have some useful range in the event of a sensor failure.
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Old 07-10-2021, 11:35 PM   #3
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Gary, thanks for posting that info. One thing though, I have to agree with R. Wold about the filling the DEF tank when filling the fuel tank. I don’t think that’s accurate. I believe it is truue that if the Cummins ECM detects a “fueling event” which they define as “ …’Fuel tank has been refueled is defined as the fuel volume level has increased by 15%’…”. (Which I note is ambiguous. If I have a 150 gallon capacity tank with 75 gallons in it, would 15% be adding 11.25 gallons or 22.5 gallons?) then that will trigger the 5MPH “Inducement”. They don’t mention anything about filling the DEF tanks as a factor as well. R. Wold is right that if the DEF Level sensor has failed then filling the DEF tank up wouldn’t be detected anyway. Otherwise the rest is consistent with my understanding.
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Old 07-10-2021, 11:43 PM   #4
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Leave the engine running while re fueling?
Probably not the best advice, just sayin'
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Old 07-10-2021, 11:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archer2 View Post
Gary, thanks for posting that info. One thing though, I have to agree with R. Wold about the filling the DEF tank when filling the fuel tank. I don’t think that’s accurate. I believe that if the Cummins ECM detects a “fueling event” which they define as “ …’Fuel tank has been refueled is defined as the fuel volume level has increased by 15%’…”. (Which I note is ambiguous. If I have a 150 gallon capacity tank with 75 gallons in it, would 15% be adding 11.25 gallons or 22.5 gallons?) They don’t mention anything about filling the DEF tanks as well. R. Wold is right that if the DEF Level sensor has failed then filling the DEF tank up wouldn’t be detected anyway. Otherwise the rest is consistent with my understanding.
IF you are in the 2nd stage of derate…which is automatic after 3 hours, and you fill the Diesel tank and do not fill the DEF fluid, the ECM will automatically derate to Limp Mode. The tank level sensor will see “DEF as a percentage of fuel” as a sudden declining value, and will derate. Roll the dice if you want to…you’re the driver. It was very clearly stated that if any of the 3 conditions occurred, it’s game over.
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Old 07-10-2021, 11:57 PM   #6
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Another thing that I’ll throw out there is the issue of the temperature of the DEF fluid getting potentially high enough to cause the sensor failure. In addition to my previously posted concern about the tank and sensors being really close to the exhaust components, especially the DPF that goes through periodic ultra-high temperature regenerations, I have also learned that when Cummins went to the “Single Module” aftertreatment systems in 2016 they also began to use the recirculated DEF fluid in the tank to cool the DEF injector which is also part of the hot exhaust treatment system. So add that additional heat source into the already-elevated DEF tank fluid temperature to the list of potential Sensor-killing factors. I’ve now re-changed my mind. I’m definitely going to figure out a way to add heat shielding around the DEF tank.
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:07 AM   #7
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I closed in my DEF tank compartment. Just some sheet aluminum and angle. Aside from protecting the tank, it gave me more usable storage. Also installed a light so I’m not adding DEF in the dark, and an outlet for my compressor.
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmpbauer View Post
IF you are in the 2nd stage of derate…which is automatic after 3 hours, and you fill the Diesel tank and do not fill the DEF fluid, the ECM will automatically derate to Limp Mode. The tank level sensor will see “DEF as a percentage of fuel” as a sudden declining value, and will derate. Roll the dice if you want to…you’re the driver. It was very clearly stated that if any of the 3 conditions occurred, it’s game over.
I agree you might as well add some if there’s room in the tank, even if it probably won’t help. It might and it can’t hurt. But if the system can’t see a 3/4 full tank level, it probably won’t see a full tank either.

Anecdotally, one of my derates was for “low def“, (on 12/25/20) when actually it turned out to be a bad DEF pump. So even though the tank was nearly full, AND I didn’t add fuel, AND I topped it off just in case, AND the level sensor was working (DEF header was ok), since the pump wasn’t delivering enough DEF to the doser, it decided I was out of DEF and derated me.

My big mistake was probably listening to the 800 FTL HELP guy and shutting down and killing power from the chassis batteries to try to re-set the ECM. Didn’t work of course and cost me an ignition cycle. So maybe had I not done that....? It was early in my career as a DEF system strategist.

Not much I could do but turn around and get home, cancel my plans, and make an appointment at the local FL shop (a little over 30 days out). But in the FL tech’s defense, he did answer up on Christmas day and did what he could. It’s a learning experience for all of us.
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:25 AM   #9
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Very well done Pat, thank you. As much research as I have done on the DEF heads, I was not aware of the time limit instead of mileage. It make sense after asking the question, "when did you de-rate?" I was always thinking in miles, not time.

Others have questioned the DEF temperature the way the tank is mounted in a Spartan Chassis. Magic Carpet text me with that answer the other day. She has a 2017 that she has installed a BlueFire OBD monitoring system. She checked the temperature while traveling. Outside temperature was 95*, the DEF temp while traveling was 106* and 109* idling in the campground and parked. The BlueFire does read the signals being given by the DEF sensor to the ECM.
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:34 AM   #10
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Thank you for posting and clarifying. I start every trip now with a pit in my stomach, at least now I have a fighting chance to get in range of a repair center without roadside drama.

Will be laminating and keeping in close proximity of cockpit prior to next journey. We are stationary till mid Aug, I hope some inventory of critical spares can be stockpiled by then.

Regards,
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:48 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alpine36 View Post
Leave the engine running while re fueling?
Probably not the best advice, just sayin'


Why? The DP fuel fill is about 35 ft from the engine and even further from the hot exhaust. Furthermore diesel does not vaporize like gas and is not easily ignited.
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Old 07-11-2021, 05:53 AM   #12
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Good morning all

The link is to an article about the DEF head and in the last paragraph, the author is asking for anyone who has an issue with the DEF system to contact him.
Oh darn- I think he will get a ton of email!!

https://www.rvtravel.com/def-head-problem-ruin-trip/
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Old 07-11-2021, 06:46 AM   #13
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Gary, thanks for posting. Pat, thanks for sharing. We are about 1/4 the way on a 7000 mile trip. Keeping fuel above half just can’t hurt.
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Old 07-11-2021, 08:13 AM   #14
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I have read more information on DEF than I ever thought possible. Thanks to Gary and Pat and all of you who have researched this issue and shared your thoughts. At the end of the day it seems to me that we have still not been given the facts from our two most important participants i.e. Spartan and Entegra. Why not? A PR letter that says nothing is all we got? Done with the rant part.

I am now more than 8000 miles since having my gen 5 replaced with a gen 6 in January. A few days after the replacement I started getting a SPN 1761 FM1 3 code that would appear at startup and disappear after a few minutes of driving. According to what I've read here on this thread, that is the beginning of the end...not in my case. After a few weeks and a few thousand miles, it quit. Now I haven't seen it in over a month and 1500 miles. Hope this doesn't jinx me

So based on my experience, (I did not derate initially, the three dreaded codes and CEL with a check in it and amber came on at startup and the only driving I did from there was to the Cummins shop four miles away), the 1761 code has meant nothing (I even went to a Cummins shop to have them check the code files and they shrugged and said not to worry until the code came back).

So while there may be certain truths and commonalities regarding the DEF situation, it seems there are also variations that can be confusing. Back to the rant: why can't Entegra/Spartan give us more facts so we are better prepared for what could be a very dangerous situation?
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