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VAG DIESEL PARTICULATE FILTERS
Courtesy of David Bodily Volkswagen Technical Support Specialist
Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)
Detailed below is important information outlining the function and features of the Diesel Particulate filter which all members of your team need to be aware of.
Diesel particulate filters are becoming more commonplace on diesel engines, particularly sizes 2.0L upwards. This is in order to reduce the exhaust emissions as required by European legislation.
The prime reason for a DPF is to reduce particulate matter entering the atmosphere. Particulate matter is found in the form of soot, which is produced during diesel combustion. The DPF traps most of the soot which would normally travel down the exhaust and into the atmosphere. The DPF can hold a certain amount of soot, but not a huge quantity and therefore it needs to go through a process called ‘regeneration’ in order to clear the soot loading. When the soot goes through a ‘regeneration’ process it will be converted to a much smaller amount of ash. The ash is non-removable. There are two types of ‘regeneration’, passive and active.
During long motorway journeys, passive regeneration will occur. This needs no intervention from the engine control unit. Due to the raised exhaust temperatures on a long journey (temperatures between 350 and 500°C), the procedure occurs slowly and continuously across the catalytic-coated (with platinum) DPF. The catalytic-coated DPF is situated close to the Engine, therefore the exhaust gas temperature is high enough (500°C) to ignite the soot particles. Due to this soot is burned-off and is converted into a smaller amount of ash.
Active ‘regeneration’ is when the ECU intervenes when the soot loading in the DPF is calculated to be 45%. The procedure lasts for about 5 – 10 minutes. Specific measures are taken by the ECU to raise the engine exhaust temperature to above 600°C, these include switching off the exhaust gas recirculation and increasing the fuel injection period to include a small injection after the main injection. The soot particles are oxidised at this temperature.
The ECU will trigger a regeneration process, if for some reason this is aborted, ie. customer slows down, stops etc, the process will be resumed when regeneration conditions are once again met, above 60km/h (38mph). This will continue for 15 minutes.
If after 2 attempts of 15 minutes, a successful regeneration has not been possible, the loading will increase. At 50% soot loading, the ECU will continue to maintain maximum exhaust temperatures of 600°C to 650°C to cause a regeneration process. The system will try to run a regeneration process for 15 minutes. If unsuccessful, the system will repeat this process for a further 15 minutes, if still unsuccessful, the DPF light on the driver display panel will then be lit.
The owners handbook states, the DPF symbol lights up to indicate that the diesel particulate filter has become obstructed with soot due to frequent short trips. When the warning lamp comes on, the driver should drive at a constant speed of at least 60 km/h for about 10 minutes. As a result of the increase in temperature the soot in the filter will be burned off. If the DPF symbol does not go out, the driver should contact an authorised Volkswagen repairer and have the fault rectified.
At 55% soot loading the DPF light is lit on driver display panel. At this point the customer should follow the advice in the handbook. If they ignore this information and continue driving the vehicle until the soot loading reaches 75% without successful regeneration, additional warning lamps will light up. At this point the customer will also be complaining of lack of power, etc.
At 75%, regeneration is still possible with the use of the VAS tester. Only when the loading is above 95%, is it necessary to replace the DPF unit.
Operating Status System Response
45% DPF Load Level 1
50% DPF Load Level 2
Regeneration at maximum exhaust temperatures
55% DPF Load DPF lamp
Regeneration from 60 km/h onwards
("See operating manual")
75% DPF Load DPF, SYS and MI lamp
Torque limitation, EGR deactivation,
Regeneration via VAG tester only
95% DPF Load Replace the DPF Unit
The Warranty department has confirmed that if there is no fault on the vehicle and DPF regeneration has been unsuccessful due to the customers driving style and the customers failure to comply with the instructions in the handbook, DPF replacement will not be paid for by warranty.
Common causes for complaint
• Frequent short journeys – Regeneration conditions are not met.
Not recommended for sale in the Channel Islands and inner city driving.
• Customers who continue to drive the vehicle with DPF light on – Continued
driving with the DPF light on and without successful regeneration results in
excessive soot loading of the DPF, to a point where it is above 95% loaded.
At this point regeneration is not an option and replacement of the DPF is
• Fault 18434 particle filter bank 1 malfunction – Common fault code. This does
not only relate to the DPF itself, but the entire exhaust gas handling system. This
can be caused by defective temperature sensors, pressure sensors, additive
system components (if applicable), poor connections, wiring issues, etc.
• Before diagnosing a problem vehicle or attempting to perform an emergency
regeneration, it is important to obtain a full diagnostic log and read out relevant
measured value blocks. These MVB’s contain important information on the
condition of the DPF system and are essential in diagnosing the fault. When the
DPF light is illuminated, it does not necessarily mean that the DPF requires
regeneration. For further advice, please contact Technical Support with the
information from the diagnostic log and MVB data.
• If a problem vehicle arrives with the DPF light, the engine management light and
the emissions light on. If during your diagnosis and reading of relevant MVB’s,
you find that the soot loading exceeds 75% (but is still below 95%), an
emergency regeneration procedure must be performed with the VAS tester.
Further to this, the customer needs to be educated. They need to understand
why the lights have appeared on the dash panel. Their attention needs to be
brought to the owners handbook instructions, so that they are aware of what the
DPF light means and what to do when it appears. This should prevent
unnecessary repeat visits for regeneration purposes.
I have also found that as the car gets older 30K+ miles, you will notice that the regeneration takes place more often.
ALWAYS, check your oil before any long journey, as DPF regeneration can use a fair bit of oil.
Some questions and answers that may help;
Question: The glow plug symbol is flashing. Why? What should be done?
The DPF regeneration has not been completed during normal driving and now DPF has reached its maximum saturation at which it can still be regenerated. The limit value depends on variant and Model Year, but is in the range of 105% - 125%.Possible causes for this are:
a.) Frequent short distance journeys, i.e. high soot loading while at the same time regeneration of the DPF does not take place because the conditions necessary were not fulfilled.
b.) Frequent interrupted regenerations, i.e. the engine was switched off during regeneration. Applies to short journey drivers who have at least fulfilled the conditions for triggering regeneration. If the glow plug light flashes, the vehicle
a.) Engine running since start for longer than 2 minutes.
b.) Calculated saturation higher than 80%.
c.) Coolant temperature over 70°C for at least 2 minutes.
d.) No DPF-relevant faults stored in system.
e.) A defined vehicle speed threshold must have been exceeded (e.g. for >80% loading, 100 km/h)
Question: Under what conditions is regeneration interrupted/ended once it has started?
Answer: Normally when regeneration has been successfully completed, or:
a.) After a maximum regeneration time (20 - 25 min.).
b.) If the engine is switched off or has stalled.
c.) If the engine is left idling for a long time (5 - 10 min.).
d.) If 1000°C is detected by the exhaust temperature sensor.
e.) If during regeneration, a fault is detected on the components relevant for combustion (injection/intake system).
If a regeneration is interrupted once started but before it has been 50% completed, the glow plug lamp flashes on the next engine start (cold or hot) and regeneration begins again once the operating conditions (see 3) have been fulfilled.
Question: How long does complete regeneration take?
a.) In the most favourable case? b.) In the least favourable case?
a.) Under constant conditions, i.e. the exhaust temperature necessary for regeneration always lies above the required value, for example during motorway/cross-country driving, the average regeneration time is 10 minutes.
b.) Vehicle conditions such as long down-hill descents, frequent driving in the low-load range (city driving, idling) allow the exhaust temperature to fall. If the conditions for triggering regeneration were fulfilled, the active regeneration time can be extended up to 25 minutes (depending on engine type). If complete regeneration is not possible within this period, the regeneration will be interrupted.
Question: How does regeneration affect the oil life?
Answer: On each regeneration or attempted regeneration, a certain diesel fuel amount is injected into the engine oil which reduces the oil life. If the "INSP" light in the instrument cluster comes on, the engine oil is exhausted and must be changed. Failure to do so could damage the engine