I didn’t need sun glasses or a trench coat to check out this story. All I needed was a telephone and a laptop and it wrote itself.
My editor, James Menzies, called me out of the blue, only a few days before deadline, and asked me to find out about the EGR/DPF-delete racket. I had heard about this practice among diesel pickup owners, but I didn’t realize it was becoming common place among some owners of Class 8 trucks.
So first off, I don’t like misleading or deceiving anyone. And the intent of my research wasn’t to name names, but this seemed like a worthwhile investigation, and nobody was going to talk to me if I told them I was a writer for Truck News.
I’m no gear-head so it wasn’t hard to portray a slightly dim owner operator with one or two trucks who had heard about a miracle process that get me better mileage, more horsepower and bypass the EGR/DPF.
Depending on the shop I talked to, I pretended I had a 2009 Pete with a Cummins ISX, or a Freightliner Cascadia with a big ol’ Detroit. Another southwestern Ontario “provider” was surprised when I told him I was having problems with the regen on my 2011 Volvo, but yes they were working on a kit and program for that model, too.
It’s not like these DPF-deleters fly under the radar. Finding them is easy on Google, and the Canadian ones, at least, are fairly blatant about what they do. The one mail-order electronics and parts supplier in the Okanagan that I did name thinks he’s only “bending the rules”, and trumpets his firm’s services on the Internet, supplying parts and know-how to those wishing to cheat a little and block up the EGR and knock a hole through the DP filter. The big money-making part of this is reprogramming the ECMs to run at a much leaner mixture, costing thousands. I could either ship him my ECM via courier, or he suggested he had a nephew in Ontario who could do the reprogramming. A small disclaimer does appear on this website, something to the effect that these modifications are intended for off-road use. But I’d be willing to bet that a very slim percentage these modifications are to off-road vehicles, and most of them are running across North America.
In Montreal I called several diesel garages and about half of them refused to have anything to do with this process, but the other half were able to direct me to a shop that did this kind of work (“Tell them Mario sent you,” one said).
A man answering the phone at a big Montreal shop told me they were very busy doing 20 DPF-deletes daily and that I’d have to wait two weeks before they could get me in. That means there was a waiting list of 200 trucks! That could have been bullshit, but the money they must be pulling in is pretty amazing. Depending on the methodology, bypassing the EGR and hollowing out the DPF costs anywhere from $3,000-6,000, with the average about $4,500. At twenty trucks per day that’s a lot of cabbage. They also mentioned that they have other garages in Ontario that does some work for them.
After-market engine tuners have been doing this for years, and they’re pretty good at it. But the practice gained prominence after 2008 with the introduction of the new EPA engines that were some of’times distrusted. Running their own R & R departments, these hot rodders have worked out the engine codes that they can then sell or pass them on to affiliates, I suppose. Most importantly they claim to be able to pass the Ontario emissions bi-yearly test, but one fellow did warn me to stay out of California after getting this done.
So what’s wrong with this? Who cares? Since the practice exists in the grey area between the jurisdictions of the federal and provincial government, no one’s getting charged (yet), and it’s helping out the little guy, isn’t it?
Big fleets can’t get away with this, but what’s to stop the average Joe from saving tons on fuel, gaining a few horses and not having to worry about servicing and replacing the expensive DPF system? Whaddaya think? Are these guys cheaters or just good business people?
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs