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A DPF dilemma

Fleets running post-2007 model year trucks will soon need to develop a diesel particulate filter (DPF) cleaning program. While the DPFs, found on all truck makes since 2007, have thus far exceeded EPA...


Diesel particulate filters have been quietly going about their business relatively problem-free since they were introduced in 2007. But as they come due for their first cleaning, a major fleet says there's cause for concern.
Diesel particulate filters have been quietly going about their business relatively problem-free since they were introduced in 2007. But as they come due for their first cleaning, a major fleet says there's cause for concern.

Fleets running post-2007 model year trucks will soon need to develop a diesel particulate filter (DPF) cleaning program. While the DPFs, found on all truck makes since 2007, have thus far exceeded EPA requirements for longevity, some fleets are beginning to pull the first of those filters for cleaning and are making some alarming discoveries in the process.

After exploring the various options for having its DPFs cleaned, Bison Transport opted to invest in the necessary equipment and do its filter cleaning in-house. It’s no small investment, with each of the company’s three FSX DPF cleaning machines costing about $80,000.

However, what’s more upsetting than the cost of the equipment, as far as director of fleet assets Itamar Levine is concerned, is the potential costs of replacing the significant number of cracked filters the company has discovered. So far, Levine said about one-third of the DPFs pulled off Bison trucks have had hairline cracking along the filter core, Levine said. He’s frustrated that the filters are no longer covered by warranty and the OEMs seem to have no answers as to what caused the cracking. Levine is confident the cracking wasn’t caused by the way the fleet operated its vehicles.

“We can’t do anything to make that filter crack by the way we operate the truck,” he said. “This whole issue is really puzzling to us. The frustrating part is, I seem to be the only guy who’s having this problem according to the OEs. It’s definitely not something just Bison Transport is going to see. This is something we’re going to hear a lot of talk about six months down the road or a year down the road.”

Initially, Levine was replacing each of the cracked filters. But at a cost of a couple grand each, it was no longer feasible to do so. Since then, he has put dozens of cracked filters back into service, yet he wonders if they’re doing the job they’re designed to perform.

“I’ve installed dozens of cracked DPF filters back onto my tractors, which may not be the right thing to do as far as having the system do what it’s supposed to do and clean the air,” he said.

What exactly has caused the cracking remains a mystery. There are many theories, but the one Levine believes is that the cracking was caused by specific events, such as the many EGR valve failures Bison experienced on its early generation EPA07 engines.

A catastrophic event such as an EGR valve failure can cause excessive heat in the filter, Levine said.

“I’m absolutely convinced that the many other problems we’ve had with those engines over the last two to three years and the many EGR valves we’ve had fail, that every time you have one of those events where you create really high heat build-up in the DPF is what’s causing this,” he said. “Every time one of those (EGR valves) fails, you are creating tremendous stress in the exhaust system and overloading the DPF and creating really high temperatures. The only thing that’ll crack the DPF is if it runs too hot.”

Levine said he’s frustrated that suppliers haven’t been more accountable and he’s surprised more fleets haven’t yet had similar findings. At this year’s Technology and Maintenance Council meetings, Levine stood up during a Shop Talk forum and voiced his concern. To his surprise, not one other maintenance manager in attendance complained of similar problems. Levine feels that’s not because their filters are fine, but rather because they’ve yet to clean and inspect them.

“In talking to other fleets, it’s all Greek to them right now,” he said.

For now, Levine said he’ll continue putting cracked filters back into service, but he’d like to see the issue addressed -even if it means bringing it to the attention of the EPA. In the meantime, the fleet’s putting its new cleaning machines to good use and shortening cleaning intervals in hopes more frequent cleanings will help prevent further cracking.


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5 Comments » for A DPF dilemma
  1. BCTrucker says:

    If companies have waited 4 or more years to perform the regular maintenance required, DPF cleaning should be done every 5 – 6500hrs, then in an effort too save the costs of cleaning they’re going to incur these types of avoidable, and expensive repairs and parts replacements! Do the recommended OEM maintenance in a prudent and timely fashion, this type of thing can be avoided! We’ve been cleaning DPF filters at approximately 18 month intervals and have not experienced such catastrophic DPF failures. New technology requires education by those who utilize it, whether or not they wish to be doing so, and those who are unwilling to educate themselves will be subjected to unnecessary extra expense and aggravation!

  2. Robert Richards says:

    Above post sounds like a rep for International, the system is crap and is not only unreliable but is breaking the small operator. I owned the first DPF truck in the city I live in and after 18 months, 11 tows and sixty thousand dollars in warranty repairs they finally took it back.The replacement now has a cracked DPF at 230,000 km/ 4200hrs. The systems whether urea or other were designed in europe for 0% sulphur which we don’t have, after 20 yrs of successful trucking this junk has broke me.

  3. Robert Richards says:

    40,000km on replacement DPF/DOC and this one is now cracked as well so your theory is bunk, they’re junk straight up

  4. mel rich says:

    I have a Cummins ISC360 and just replaced a cracked DPF filter at 46K miles. Friend of mine has replaced 4 ERG valves in less than a year. Whether its a DPF filter on the Cummins 6.7 (Class Action Lawsuit) or the larger engines, heating metal to 1100 degrees over and over again will crack metal. At $2K to $8K costs, they should be made of titanium!

  5. logger/dp says:

    What is the fallout of operating with a cracked dpf, besides soot on build up in stack.

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