Thursday, August 26, 2010

Urea! DEF! Part one of two parts.

I was over at our local Ford dealership yesterday, and noticed that there were a lot of white cab front truck chassis and bare frame trucks in their lot.  They evidentially have the contract to supply these vehicles to a body manufacturer.  This dealer has always had many all white trucks in inventory that will go to cities and commercial customers, so nothing is new.

But what did strike me, was the little Blue cap  on a separate filler tube for the 2011 model diesel trucks.  In a word "Urea" is here.  Oh my!  We ran into this on the motor home chassis down in Red Bay this spring.  Most of the newer chassis for motorhomes had Urea tanks.

Now what is this Urea thing all about?  Bring on the EPA and their new standards that took place in 2010.  They have turned down the amount of Nitrous Oxide that a vehicle can emit by about 80 %. Everything made after 2010 has to comply.

In Europe, they have been using urea injection into the exhaust of diesel engines for several years.  We are just now getting up to speed here in the US.  This urea product in Europe is called AdBlue.

I am not a chemist, and only understand the very basic concept of this, but adding urea in a 32.5 % liquid form into the exhaust stream at temperatures around 750 degrees causes a chemical reaction that changes Nox to Nitrogen and  Water.  Both perfectly harmless.

In the US we are going to know this liquid urea as Diesel Exhaust Fluid.  It is going to cost anywhere from three to five dollars a gallon.  Buy it at the truck dealer, and pay the most.  Once it becomes a standard thing, I'm sure it will get cheaper and be available everywhere.

Diesel Fuel still goes in back here.

DEF tank

This new Ford Truck had a small tank along the frame that contained this fluid.  It also had the machinery along with it to inject it into the exhaust.  They say you will refill this tank when you get an oil change.  The DEF will freeze at 15 degrees F, so part of the equipment on the tank would be a heater.

So how much of this stuff will the truck use?  I've seen estimates of 3 to 5 % of the amount of fuel used.  So use 100 gallons of fuel use 5 gallons  of DEF.  So add about $20 to the fuel bill for the 100 gallons.  Say $3 a gallon for diesel makes $300 + $20= $320.  So at 10 mpg pulling an RV that would go about 1000 miles. 
I looked on the Ford Vehicle web site to see if they explain any of this on their truck pages.  And no they don't.  They only say the new system is:
"industry-proven technology and Ford-designed innovations to meet the latest strict federal emissions standards, reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels by more than 80 percent compared with the previous regulations."

What does that mean?  We aren't too proud of this new deal, but you have to buy it just the same!

Dodge  4dr 4500

So next just out of curiosity I went to the Dodge dealership.  And rode around on the bike until I found the Bare Chassis cab only trucks.  And there again was the blue filler cap.  These trucks were 4500 and larger series.  At Dodge, a salesman came right out and inquired what I was looking at.  I was taking pictures, and that always causes a reaction.

The Urea tank is up under the floor.  Dealer said it held 7 gallons.

Injection point in exhaust. Insulation keeps heat inside so reaction takes place.

So with a little conversation, I learned that only Dodges  4500 and over would use the DEF solution, and all of the 2500 and 3500 dually pickups will continue to use the catalytic converter system designed in 2007.  I have that system on my motorhome.  It is now substantially more refined from 2007 to meet 2010 standards and does not need DEF.

If you go look at the Dodge web site, they spend a lot of time explaining the fact that they meet the 2010 regulations without the use of exhaust fluids.  Unlike their competition.  The salesman was right up to snuff on this and made sure that I understood the entire concept.

So of course, buy a new Dodge pickup from us (Me) and be done with all this DEF discussion.

But if we are in the market for a new diesel Motorhome, or truck that is not a Dodge, or is heavier than a half ton in the case of Ford and Chevy, we will be using the DEF product.  The motorhome chassis we looked at in Red Bay had a 30 or 35 gallon tank right behind the right rear wheel.  Its going to take $150 to fill that one.

All of these engines had the new diesel particulate filter exhaust mufflers as well.  Particulate, is a nice way to say soot.  That eliminates the black part of the smoke.  So without soot and Nox, the diesel will be almost cleaner than a gasser!

Again I am an accountant, not a diesel mechanic, and this is just my understanding of the new technology, and may need corrected in part or totally.  So if you find an error in my thinking please leave a Comment!!!!!!

Also please comment on whether or not you are willing to purchase a truck or motorhome with these new innovations installed.  I'm not sure what choice we will have, but at least we can talk about what it will mean. 

Retired Rod


  1. I would probably stick with the Duramax since it has been such a trouble free engine for me along with the Allison transmission it seems like a winning combination, I guess $20 for 1000 miles of RV use isn't to bad a price to pay for a greener planet, have to save it for the Grandboy you know. Like you said like it or not the technology is here and now and nobody gave us a choice, just hope maybe it will improve power and mileage and do something other than add costs.Be safe out there. Sam & Donna.

  2. Absolutely not! But I do have a 2004 Dodge Ram Laramie 3500 for sale that doesn't have any of that stuff! LOL

  3. Too complicated for me. We are already paying an arm and a leg to travel, so I guess they have come up with a new way to charge us.

  4. I've got no problem with cleaner fuel and the technology to make it happen. One only has to follow a diesel bus in town, or look at all the diesels idling at truck stops, to know there has to be a better way.

    I'm just glad my Duramax is still fairly new so I won't have to be one of the first to try out this new technology. By the time I need a new truck, it will either be perfected or something new will be coming along.

  5. I'm glad to see anything that can curb a source of pollution. What makes me mad is that our country should be taking the lead in developing these ideas way ahead of anyone else, but we have to lag and then have Europe or Asia "show us how it's done".

    Would I buy one? It's irrelevant in my case because I have a 2002 diesel truck, but if I was in the market for a new truck or motorhome, then I guess I would have to get it. I would at least like to know more about it. There are many things that now come standard with vehicles, RV's etc., that I don't think should be forced on anyone, but I would be interested in anything that improves fuel consumption, cleans up the exhaust, etc. I'd also like to know who stands to make the most from this device.

  6. Small price to pay to clean up the emissions. When I was last in Europe there was a large selection of clean diesel cars available. I for one would have a small diesel car as the mileage more than compensates for the extra costs.


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