What is a Diesel Particulate Filter?

A diesel particulate filter (or DPF) is a device designed to remove diesel particulate matter or soot from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine. Diesel particulate filters usually remove 85% or more of the soot, and under certain conditions can attain soot removal efficiencies of close to 100%.

How is the DPF supposed to clean itself?
When the diesel particulate filter is full of soot, the ECM inititates a "filter regeneration cycle" which burns off the soot by heating the filter to combustion temperatures. This oxidizes the accumulated ash and expells it throught the exhaust.

DPF Maintenance
Cleaning is also required as part of periodic maintenance and it must be done carefully to avoid damaging the filter. Failure of fuel injectors or turbochargers resulting in contamination of the filter with raw diesel or engine oil can also necessitate cleaning.

No Regeneration Cycles at Lower Speeds
The regeneration process occurs at road speeds higher than can generally be attained on city streets; vehicles driven exclusively at low speeds in urban traffic can require periodic trips at higher speeds to clean out the DPF.  If the driver ignores the warning light and waits too long to operate the vehicle above 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), the DPF may not regenerate properly, and continued operation past that point may spoil the DPF completely requiring replacement..

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