Truck News

News  March 18, 2013 8:26PM

SPECIAL REPORT: Can I get a DPF Delete?

TORONTO, Ont. -- As long as there have been pollution controls on engines, someone has tried to mess with them, either by removing, bypassing or modifying components. With all the distrust over newer truck engines, it’s not entirely...



TORONTO, Ont. — As long as there have been pollution controls on engines, someone has tried to mess with them, either by removing, bypassing or modifying components. With all the distrust over newer truck engines, it’s not entirely surprising that some owner/operators and small fleet owners might consider tampering with their exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and diesel particulate filer (DPF) systems.

But what is surprising is how much of this is going on. Although it is technically illegal to obstruct or dismantle pollution controls on trucks, the almost total lack of enforcement across Canadian jurisdictions has allowed some vendors to quickly fill this niche. Calling around, within half an hour, I found several independent garages in Ontario and Quebec that would remove and delete the EGR/DPF systems from almost any EPA-compliant engine.

Either by Internet or word of mouth, truck owners are attracted to shops and vendors that promise better fuel mileage, more horsepower and an end to expensive DPF maintenance bills. With the addition of a straight pipe running through the gutted DPF canister, the modified tractors look almost identical to the ones coming from the factory.

Beyond the reach of Environment Canada, and existing in the grey area of seemingly unregulated “aftermarket modifications,” the practice seems to have picked up steam in the last six months. One garage in Montreal has a two-week waiting list and claims to process 20 rigs per day. A simple search of the Internet turned up an online vendor in British Columbia who openly boasted, “SAVE UP TO 3 MPG!…We can eliminate the DPF-EGR from your Cat C7,C9, C13 or C15, Cummins ISB, ISC, ISL, ISX, Detroit DDEC 4&5 engines.”

The president of J-Ball Electronics, Don Jenner, answered the phone himself when I called an 800-number listed on the above Web site, posing as the owner of a 2009 Peterbilt having problems with the DPF system.

“You and about four million other people!” he joked. “I can take you back to the good old days,” he assured me. He promptly e-mailed me a prospective work order and pricing for “several scenarios” as well as step-by-step instructions on how to remove the turbo and EGR cooler. The final step declared: “Kiss your downtime goodbye!”

Located in Vernon B.C., most of Jenner’s business is by mail order, it seems, with truck owners removing the ECMs from their trucks and shipping them to him by courier for reprogramming. Most likely, his clients would engage a private shop to get their work done using the plates and gaskets that can also be ordered from this supplier, depending on what strategy is employed to defeat the soot burner and EGR cooler.

Reprogramming the ECM to run at a much leaner mixture is crucial to this process and costs thousands of dollars. Evidently, DPF deletion takes about six hours to complete, but the real cash cow in all this is the software. Once the engine codes have been hacked and modified, the program costs nothing to copy and is easy to franchise to other garages, and is the most expensive part of the procedure.

Checking with a few black market garages, the price for the modifications varies from around $3,000-$6,600 depending on the model engine and which methodology the customer wishes to pursue. And Jenner didn’t flinch when I ask him if the tampering is illegal, although he admitted, “We are bending the rules.” Another vendor admitted, after some prodding, “It is illegal…I guess.”

In over-the-phone conversations with other DPF Delete providers, assurances were given that this won’t hurt the engine, but rather, will dramatically increase performance. And the fuel savings can be astronomical, tens of thousands of litres per year is the claim. One garage owner in Central Ontario told me that I could expect to get 50 or 60 more horsepower and much better mileage. More importantly, he promised to tune the exhaust so that it could pass emissions thresholds set by the Ministry of Transportation during inspections that are required every two years in Ontario. A technician at J-Ball Electronics in Vernon, B.C. seemed to concur: “We’ve had lots of guys (from Ontario) running these and haven’t had any complaints or issues.”

It’s worth noting that these are not small, fly-by-night repair shops, as some drivers suggested on the CB radio. The businesses I contacted were mainstream engine tuning and truck repair operations. One fellow was hungry enough for business that he called me back a couple of times, and told me he’d been doing these conversions for two years. He also claimed to have deleted the DPF-EGR on an entire fleet of Class 8 trucks.

Most owner/operators have heard rumours of this kind of thing going on, others may know someone who has had their emissions system “modified.” After getting stuck behind snowplows with a bunch of truck drivers on my way into Toronto last week, opinion on the CB radio was mixed. One driver was annoyed that people are getting away with breaking the law and not playing fair. Another driver told of a bad experience trying to bypass emissions controls on his 2007 engine, and had to replace the whole system eventually, so he obviously didn’t recommend it.

But frustration around EPA-compliant engines post-2007 is understandable. Replacement parts are very expensive: a blown EGR cooler can cost thousands of dollars. Perhaps part of the problem lies with the OEMs, themselves, and poor communications after some start-up problems with the first generation EGRs. It’s not hard to find drivers who have had problems with these engines. One service manager told me about a fleet of 12 trucks that was literally “glued to the yard” because of DPF problems. 

Via e-mail, owner/operator Elwood Rines complained about the cost of maintaining the DPF, cleaning the filter and injectors and “all of the things that the dealer doesn’t tell you about.” Rines runs long-haul for Bison Transport out of Winnipeg. He had heard through the grapevine that DPF deletion was going on.

“I wondered when guys would start tampering with the exhaust,” he quipped. 

But Rines is pretty sure removing the EGR/DPF is not the solution. “Not interested,” said Rines. “I traded in a 2009 last April because it was regenerating at inappropriate times. But this 2013 Volvo has been good so far with mileage between 7 and 7.5 mpg.”

It is worth noting that some of the shops I called were strongly against this practice, while others were quite willing to provide referrals to places that had no qualms about doing so. But one garage manager and part owner takes a dim view of businesses offering this service.

“It is totally illegal and unethical,” according to Joe Cuffaro of Cambec Diesel in Montreal, Que. “These trucks are born with this. In the long run they may have to reverse the process.”

Cuffaro suggests that it is only a matter of time before provincial governments crack down on these operations.

“It’s not the case that these trucks are spewing a lot of pollution,” he says. “If you do a sniffer test on them you’ll find they run very, very clean. But what gives them the right to remove the original equipment? If I’m Paccar, I have to answer to federal regulations, but who do these guys answer to? The worst-case scenario would be if one of our customers got nailed doing this and it got traced back to us. That’s why we don’t do it.”

DPF delete suppliers might argue that they are providing a service that customers want, and since the modified units will pass emissions tests, what is the harm in doing so? As well, if the regulations are vague, unenforceable and no one has been charged, why not provide this option?

But from another perspective, disconnecting emiss
ions controls is wrong on many levels. The tragedy of this situation is that the latest EPA10-compliant engines seem to have most of the bugs worked out of them, and they produce almost zero NOx and extremely low levels of particulate. If everyone followed the rules, the case could be made that these newer engines shouldn’t even be required to undergo emissions testing as the air coming out of the exhaust is almost breathable.

But removing EGR and DPF systems from trucks means you’re running the emissions wide open once again, and we’re back to pre-2002 levels. And taking a larger view, widespread EGR/DPF tampering is a step backwards for an industry and manufacturers that have taken great pains to show they are good environmental players. Although provincial environment ministries have dropped the ball on this issue, there are some indications that they are starting to pay attention, and that enhanced fines and beefed-up enforcement cannot be very far off.

- This is part two of a two-part series on emissions tampering. You can read part one here.


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33 Comments » for SPECIAL REPORT: Can I get a DPF Delete?
  1. breathin easy says:

    Our company bought 15 new trucks with Cat engines in 2008. Those trucks just about broke us. Break downs causing major headaches, driver dissatisfaction – they wanted out of them, and customers who wanted to send their business elsewhere if we couldn’t get our act together. We were forced to get rid of the emissions systems for survival. Now those trucks are reliable and get better fuel mileage.

    Explain to me how a truck that gets 5mph vs a truck that gets 7mph is better for the environment?

    • chrisallen says:

      I have broke down everytime I’ve tried to take a job since january of 2014 replaced the entire system and here I am 2 days into my new job and I’m derated scr fault.its drained my accounts from downtime then borrowing tens of thousands off of family. This def scr s**t should be illegal not the removal of it.volvo parking lots are so full of these derated trucks there’s no room in all the shops in alberta the parking lots are over flowing! Time to do something about it and I will never buy a truck with this on it again.I had a boss that deleted his brand new 2014 kw zero km and never had a problem! This is the way to go

  2. fedup says:

    The way the 5mpg truck is better for the environment is because it’s probably parked half the time and not in use! These emmission control systems have forced the trucking industry to become the guinea pigs at the cost of thousands of dollars per truck. All to make the politicians look good and have the public think they are doing something for the environment. You ever see the amount of smoke coming out of an engine when the EGR valve fails? No way that can be better for the environment. We had a truck parked for 6 weeks and 5 different shops including 2 Cummins dealers could not find the problem. After $8000 dollars and nothing fixed, a Cummins dealer quietly told us to unplug the EGR valve and see if it fixes the problem. He said they couldn’t do it themselves and the computer couldn’t tell them if that was the problem. But he said run it a couple days like that and we would know if that was the problem. So you tell me, when the dealer that manufactures the engine can’t even diagnose the problem, what choices do we have?

  3. jimh says:

    Anyone remember when ABS brakes first came out on the truck market? How they caused so many problems due to poor design that they had to be withdrawn from the market? Same scenario here. They should remove this garbage until they have got it right.

  4. jimh says:

    I’m not condoning this practice but if it is as widespread as you say it is Harry, someone needs to ask why are these people spending thousands of dollars per truck to have this equipment removed? I don’t think anyone is actually against clean air, nobody wants pollution, so why remove this equipment at great expense? The reason is because it doesn’t work, and makes the vehicle unreliable, and too expensive to operate, as well as too heavy in some applications. The OEMs and the government agencies that mandated these poorly thought out and poorly designed systems are the root cause of these problems, so the end users should not have to accept all the blame here. A weight allowance to compensate for the added weight of this equipment, as well as some kind of “clean air tax credit” to help maintain these unreliable systems, would help somewhat. Bottom line is that people in government and at the OEM level need to realize that trucks are not cars, they are industrial equipment, and should be designed to industrial standards, not the same standards as light duty cars are. I laughed when I read the emissions warranty on my 2012 Volvo, it is the same as my car’s warranty, 60 months or 161000 km ( 5 years or 100,000 miles). Less than one years warranty under normal truck useage. What does that tell you about the manufacturer’s confidence in their equipment? And speaking of other industrial equipment, what are the emission standards for railroad locomotives, ships, aircraft, and construction equipment?

  5. John Thomas says:

    “Checking with a few black market garages”

    Seriously Harry? Seems like a lot of chicken little talk here. I don’t know of a lot of small fleets or owner-operators that don’t cross the border. I can’t enter a port or a government facility in the US with anything that doesn’t pass emissions, and I’ve been tested @ several scales across the US.

    If you’re a regional operator, how do you get around a mandatory emissions test in Ontario? Seems to me that if someone can devise an alternative to the slap-dash methods used by the industry to pass emissions and it works, then I’d say they’ve built a better mousetrap as opposed to calling them “black market garages”. And I would imagine that the thousands of people that have gone or are going broke trying to run 2008 spec’ed junk would agree with me.

    I’ll leave the “unethical” comments for another day when we discuss predatory pricing.

  6. Dave says:

    Once again, Truck News is at the beckon call of the CTA. The CTA thinks this is a “problem” so lets do a big feature on it. Seems like the CTA is against anything anyone does to be more competitive, thus protecting their membership who are mostly very old school laggards. All you need to do is look at the amount of US companies on our highways (many using Canadian O/O’s) to see how out of touch they are competitively.

  7. Harry Rudolfs says:

    Well John, should I phrase it “otherwise reputable, mainstream shops that are offering quasi-legal services”? Though, I’m sure there are technicians and mechanics in smaller garages who would do this work. Heck, there’s probably a video on U-Tube that shows you how to do it. One would have to get the engine codes, though, and be able to reprogram the ECM. And these larger “alternative businesses” have done their homework, researching specific engine types and fine tuning their craft…And yes they claim they pass opacity tests in the US and California or wherever. And wouldn’t it be great to forget about that pesky DEF light?

    Lastly, Dave, don’t consider myself a shill for the OTA and never have been. Leave that to the Road Knights.

  8. Robert Lettieri says:

    The same is happening here in England, but we’re now facing euro 6&7 regulations and removing DPF and EGR systems won’t work for us anymore as we’re now tested for NOx. Our engines are now being cleaned using an American developed chemistry package BG Products that is giving us results in some instances of zero emissions with full pollution gear running on all our DPF & EGR vehicles.

  9. Shawn says:

    Well, thanks for publishing this and making it more known. I can see the end coming now, just like what has happened to the pickup truck tuners. Pretty soon we will all be forced to go even more broke thanks to the EPA and the unreliable, unefficient junk engines they are forcing upon us.
    I’ve said it before……with all the recent advertising, I can see them putting an end to the glider kit trend too.

    I even HAD to delete my pickup just to make it somewhat reliable and get any kind of fuel mileage. These are very sad times.

  10. John Thomas says:

    “otherwise reputable, mainstream shops that are offering quasi-legal services”

    Yeah, that’s better. :)

    My point is simply this. (And I don’t speak from experience either as I don’t have any EPA 2010 equipment) If the end game is to reduce pollution and someone has found a way to do it, why should that make it illegal? Remember the only reason that government stipulated no tampering with emissions systems was because people like me (and maybe even you) done what they could to make their gas engines run better when they cobbled this stuff up in the ’70’s.

    Remember also that when EPA 2010 was introduced, exhaust stacks got bigger in diameter and included 5 or 6 nifty intake holes at the base which introduces fresh air into the exhaust thereby diluting the nasty flow of particulate out the pipe. So are we really cleaning the air or giving out false emissions readings here? And by gov’t mandate no less.

    And when I think about it, I don’t know why this is any sort of issue, and I’ll tell you why. I remember reading in this very publication some years ago a piece authored by no less a luminary than Dave Bradley himself. The article was of course in support of speed limiters, and Dave’s position was that if all these nasty trucks were simply governed @ 105kmh, the reduction in greenhouse gases accomplished by the speed limiter would be huge. If memory serves, he had charts and diagrams to support his position too, so going by that article alone I would posit that we are over the hump regarding nasty emissions. or am I wrong?

  11. John Pringle says:

    The right wing passed the laws in 2004, and now they do not enforce them, the sound specification is 92 decibel, How about the enforce that also.
    If you are not going to enforce the law, why did HARPO blabber about the new regulations, just recently. It just makes a person sick of the BS, are they going to enforce it later and I have to reinstall everything. Make up their mind or get out of the way!

  12. Jake Goertzen says:

    Firstly, there would be a lot less incentives to tamper with DPF systems if they actually worked as promised and did not impose such a huge MPG penalty.
    Yes, its new technology and manufacturers need time to work out the bugs but what gives them the right to make end users of their products pay such a heavy price in terms of down time and endless frustration.

    Having said that, I agree that simply deleting the DPF systems creates an unfair playing field. Only enforcement will correct the present flouting of the rules that I see as very prevalent in my occupational circles.

  13. David Hiller says:

    Who in their right mind would want to come work in this wonderful “Trucking Industry” and yet it is one of the biggest and most demanding.
    These poor truck drivers! What use to be a fun and rewarding Job, not to mention, paid well, has now turned into what?? Don’t even know what to call this. But who would want to drive a truck today, or for that matter own one. No wonder we have to hire outside the country to fill the positions.
    Truckers today are forced to do whatever they can just to pay the bills. Is there any other industry where the government tells you what to do?? Drive this many hrs, drive this fast, run newer equipment, etc.
    I’ve heard of a lot of owner operators re mortgaging their house just to keep their truck moving up and down the road. Is that fair?
    Why doesn’t the government help the engine manufactures come out with Really good Engines. If cummins or Detroit came out with an engine this year that got 10 mpg, even old truck would be off the road and new truck sales would go through the roof. Now i do agree, they do look promising. We have customers with the new Detroit and Volvo engines getting 8 us, thats a lot better than any truck getting only 6 mpg. So why hang onto the truck at 6 mpg.
    Let them Delete DPF’s and EGR’s if its the only way for them to make money. They still pass the Opacity Snap test, and if they get better fuel economy, than they’re burning less fuel anyway – Great!
    If this gets enforced, than look out, the industry will Fall Apart! more so than it is already. Engine Manufactures, Come out with something good!!

  14. meslippery says:

    Dont buy new wait till it (If ever it is proven)
    to be good,or better.
    No hurry Iam old and better.

  15. marty says:

    I find it frustrating that governments and trucking alliances are steadily increasing the hoops that owner operators have to jump through just to make a living in their own equipment.

    The EGR, then the DPF and now the DEF technologies were introduced with little paractical otr testing. these technologies were not in use long enough to have the oem’s work on engineering revisions to make the equipment even remotely reliable.

    Grass roots techinicians and engineers come up with a viable alternative to these underdeveloped technologies and market them effectively to those who need them.

    My 05 EGR truck never made me a reasonable wage until i purchased the EGR delete kit. Since then i have had 3 good years.

    Now Truck News has transitioned from being part of the solution as an industry publication, to part of the problem by exposing a working man’s solution to most costly snafu to be legislated onto the industry.

  16. marty says:

    My 2005 EGR engine blew an average of 15.0% Opacity before i got the delete kit installed. The next opacity snap test averaged a 4.2% with the EGR delete kit installed.

    This is the honest truth.

    My fuel mileage improved and the horsepower increase was significant.

    i’m just sayin’

  17. paul says:

    Well, having a DPF vehicle just over one year that I tow a fifth wheel trailer with, I am afraid to pull in to campgrounds. I have started fires on more than one occasion, I caught them and put them out, but what if someone else was in my position? Would they have caught it? What makes more sense, burn more fuel and a little cleaner out the tailpipe, or burn a campground down (forest) and cause a disaster. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d rather keep forest intact, as the trees help clean the air.

    Besides, this is all a huge cash cow for the oil companies. They can make huge improvements with emission controls via engine management. If the turbo lag did not exists, you would not have the “black soot” out the tailpipe. The DPF system design was a knee-jerk reaction. As far as I am concerned, it is a dangerous design. I am speaking from not only a personal point of view, but as professional tradesman as well.

  18. Bigdoughball says:

    These diesel trucks are very expensive, and will cost major bucks when the dpf gets choked up. You will eventually get choked up right back to the turbo. So, manufacturers where forced by gov. to come up with a band aid solution to meet approved emission standards, hmmm. Gov. eh!!. Will let the darn gov. pay for my expensive bills when the truck is sitting because off emission repairs. Pay for everything, even loss revenue. Now would gov. be so quick to enact, or would they put pressure on manufacturers to get it working correctly before allowing these descripted trucks sold to customers who are trying to make a living, and shelling out big bucks I might add to buy them.

    I hear the newer trucks are doing better, but what about the earlier models? Those trucks are what’s causing owners to get the dpf and what not deleted. They have too, or go broke. It’s fine for some one to complain and say that’s illegal, but are they shelling out dollars after dollars for repairs and loss revenue. I would say not so, they are just complaining because they have nothing else to do and that’s what they do. If they just bought a new diesel big rig or just a diesel P/U and ended up with all kinds of shop down time, while paying out the monthly payments on the stupid technology truck, they would be complaining too.

    You have to experience this new technology to understand. It’s a rip off so far, but hopefully the manufacturers get it right. I am in favour off low emissions and helping the environment, but I don’t have the bank account to foot the darn repair bills and down time. Now if everyone, would only help me with my repairs and down time, then hey, lets all go for it.

  19. tgtrotter says:

    Marty, You couldn’t have said it better. #1 A proper engine tune is cleaner than the muffled, regulated, planned obsolence the government and manufacturers spew. # 2 The “Mainstream” media is just their puppet. Where are all the good journalist that have integrity to do the hard work right ?

  20. Dave Dias says:

    First off I would like to enforce the fact that I am all in favor of a greener environment. I sincerely believe if you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem! So if I remove a DPF for a customer saving him potentially thousands in repairs and downtime does that make me a good guy or hypocrite?

    I bring this up on the heels of H&S Performance volunteering to temporarily halt the sale of select products while in discussion with EPA. For those of you that do not know who H&S are… H&S Performance IMO makes the highest quality after-market diesel engine performance electronics in the market and their support is second to none! Not all H&S products are designed for performance only, some if not all increase the engines efficiency and fuel economy. Equally important they allow the consumer to temporarily disable the truck’s emission system

  21. troy says:

    I have a 2009 westernstar with 475 twin turbo cat.My DPF is constantly acting up putting on check engine light on and derating me which in tern is affecting my driving time resulting in more down time.i recently just put new art head on it at a cost of around 1600.00 and honestly ive had it with it…I never even had it a year yet…I wonder if the government will subsidize my downtime and lost revenue not likely….

  22. Dmitry Souvak says:

    My 2013 Volvo I bought in March 2013. Since beginning of winter I started to have problems with DPF. Engine codes lights up when I am between Whitehorse and Grande Prairie. Bu the time I am back to Calgary, codes disappear. So, from December 2013 to March 28 2014 I had THREE new DPF filters installed. And not last I would say. Because of that I was out of work for 5 weeks in 4 months. I got the lemon.

  23. sparkplug says:

    why should the working guy be the test pilot with his on money.

  24. RRH says:

    Can just a DPF be removed or do you have to remove both the EGR and DPF?

  25. Rider Rider says:

    Diesel particulate matter is freakin nasty stuff!
    Unlike gasses, this stuff falls to the ground and makes everything dirty & gets into groundwater.. plus it’s a carcinogen to boot.
    If you want your kids to live in the dark & wet Blade Runner world in the future.. well delete them…
    Emerging technologies take time to develop and perfect, but a DPF is a pretty simple concept.. it’s like a sponge catching the unburned diesel particles. Where you run into problems is when they get clogged. How fast they clog varies based on usage, short trips with lots of starts & stops or idling will clog faster than longer trip units that get up to heat.
    Regardless of how they clog, the simple solution is to unclog them…get them cleaned before they cause problems. Make it part of your regular maintenance like changing air & oil filters (much greater intervals though).
    A clean DPF vs dirty will generally get you back 5% fuel economy or more.
    If you read your manual it’ll tell you when it should be cleaned and then factor in things like above to determine best intervals.
    There’s another misconception that you don’t have to clean DPF’s if you run DEF fluid. DEF fluid actually doesn’t clean DPF’s, it’s injected into the exhaust after the DPF/DOC before the muffler.

    • maria schumacher says:

      my husband does that and the system still clogs and is making us broke he has a peterbelt 2008 paccar px8 since he has bought this piece of shit he has been losing money and he had to get rid of his 96 international that was getting 7miles to the gallon and now he is lucky if he gets 4.5 this whole carb compliant is crap and hurting everyone.

  26. TruckMatt says:

    I have a ’07 Cat Acert C15, constantly in the shop, 4.9 mpg, its always sensors this and sensor that problems which cost about $1000 each time, new ARD installed last week $2200. Add all this up with the down time, poor fuel economy, and you can see its a matter of time before I’m broke.

  27. TruckMatt says:

    Does anyone know how to get in on the class action lawsuits against Cats Acert engine that are out there? I heard that there a 6 of them and Cat is trying to get them all consolidated into one suit.

    • ontariolaw says:

      Hi TruckMatt

      I have been researching some of the issues you have been talking about for a potential class action and I would really like to hear more about your story. If you are interested in telling us more, please contact me at ontariolaw86@gmail.com.

  28. Truck News says:

    I don’t know about how your status as a Canadian would affect your status in a US class action lawsuit, but you can start looking for answers at these links:
    http://www.clg.org/Class-Action/List-of-Class-Actions/Caterpillar-C13-and-C15-ACERT-Diesel-Engine-National-Class-Action
    http://www.complexlitgroup.com/Caterpillar-2007-2009-C13-or-C15-Engines-with-2007-ACERT-Emission-Controls.shtml

  29. ontariolaw says:

    Is anyone having these problems in Ontario?

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