The future of DPF servicing

Change can seem shocking at first, but is it the future?

By Frank Massey | Published:  08 May, 2017

Two months from now will bring my tenure in the motor industry to 49 years. I would like to think I have evolved, kept up with technology, enabling me to provide a professional service, enjoying customer respect and integrity. My focus has been the technical challenges, while my son David manages the commercial responsibilities.

This creates a wide role for me developing our training programme, internal research and development, bringing the focus of this topic to technical and legal compliance.

My chosen subject here is diesel servicing and repairs, specifically particulate filtration and emission control. It is something we have been passionate and vocal over for several years. it gives me no pleasure or satisfaction in seeing our prediction over the demise of diesel vehicles.

Diesel fudge

The future is now clear as to the changes our political lords and masters have in mind. This gives us a short timeline to get our house in order. My intention is to advise, help and warn what will happen if we all continue to fudge diesel particulate repairs as we currently do. Upwards of 90% of independent garages will fall into this category. How do, or should we service and recover diesel particulate filters? The choices are very simple!

1. Replace with a new OE filter

2. Replace with a non-OE filter

3. Clean and service off vehicle in factory controlled conditions

4. Clean and service off the vehicle in house

5. Clean and service on the vehicle

6. Remove the filtration system from the vehicle

Here is the problem; we as professional repairers are legally and financially responsible, and exposed for the advice and decisions we make. This is the case even if the customer agrees and or instructs us on a certain course of action.

Clear legislation is in place for the performance and fitment of diesel emission systems. Vehicle taxation is based on specific emission levels agreed with the manufacturers. I am sure I do not need to mention VW and Audi, but I will bet their corporate accountants have regrets. How long do you think it will be before the government bean counters look at us? Let's not fool ourselves enforcement will take the effect of stringent fines.

Everything

So what are we doing wrong? Pretty much everything. Please remember my words, help, advice and not critique.

We are breaking the law in removing legally compliant systems. MOT examiners will lose their licence by passing unauthorised emission system modification. You will become the first unpaid enforcers.

We are breaking the law further in polluting the water course, by power cleaning, or rinsing out cleaning agents into the drains. Utility companies have powers to set huge fines and often do.

We are also in breach of the clean air act by using some of the available cleaning agents that require the running of the engine whilst emitting all the contaminants back into the environment.

It is quite possible at this point some of you are about to rip out the magazine pages and offer an alternative use for them. Please reconsider, we are slowly killing ourselves.

Let's as an industry get together, think ahead of the curve and get our house and process in order.

Change

I recently visited CERAMEX in Slough, and before a handful out there suspect a paid endorsement here, I even paid my own travel expenses. I have been aware of several companies offering off vehicle cleaning, pressure washing, thermal cleaning in an oven, and ultrasonic treatments. My problem has always been, is the catalytic converter and DPF still fully functional and durable when refitted? How can we protect ourselves from future premature failure due to other indirect causes? Can we provide certification of test results?

Here is my opinion as to how we should address the blocked, cleaning DPF problem. Many of you will not agree, I do not care, this is how it should and eventually will be done. Reflect on the vast changes in the paint refinishing industry before you cry never!

The DPF is initially visually examined bar coded and weighed, attached by means of bespoke plumbing to what is in effect a big dishwasher (sorry Marcus my words) then filled with water. A short pause here, some of you will know water damages and degrades the precious metal wash coat. The purified water has all the damaging trace elements removed and is only used to restrict the clear DPF passages. Pressure waves, are then sent through the core, XPURGE for several minutes. I did question if this was in effect an ultrasonic process? This is not the case. The water does act as a transport mechanism for the waste material, including ash, which is flushed out, into a waste tank. The water is filtered, for reuse and the semi solids captured in large skips for reprocessing. It is pure carbon it would make an ideal fuel source!

The DPF core is then placed in electric air dryers where apart from drying the core, measurements are taken for flow rates and back pressure. Next a two-stage photograph examination is applied to detect face off and ring off cracking to the core. A second weight check is taken to ascertain the mass of soot ash removal. The next service is optional for small vehicle units, the cat and DPF are subject to a sample hot gas bench to establish the reduction of, CO/HC, finally being placed in a particulate bench where filtration is assessed and measured.

Certification

Certification and bespoke transport packaging completes the service. The recovery success is consistently above 90%. The cost is approximately half the cost of a new OE unit. No environmental pollution so your grandchildren will thank you and may avoid the huge increase in paediatric respiratory illnesses.

You will earn profit from a professional repair, enjoy the respect and integrity it brings, however not all customers will agree or want to pay, and that is not our problem.

Further information

Please contact Annette 01772 201 597, enquries@ads-global.co.uk for further information on upcoming training courses and events.

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  • Hybrid tech in motor sport  

    If you have even a passing interest in motorsport, you are probably aware of, and have an opinion regarding the use of hybrid technology in Formula 1 racing. Back in 2009, the use of electric motors was allowed, which enabled the additional electric power to supplement the power produced by the conventional engine.
        
    In effect, a Formula 1 car could operate in much the same way as most mass produced hybrid vehicles because electric motor could also function as a generator to charge batteries. During power-off driving (braking and deceleration) the kinetic energy of the moving car and rotating engine drove the generator, which charged the batteries; but the energy transferred from the moving car to drive the generator also helped to slow the vehicle. The stored or recovered electrical energy could then be fed from the battery back to the motor when additional power was required. This system was known as a ‘Kinetic Energy Recovery System’ or KERS; and for the purists who like the sound of a hard working petrol engine, this KERS hybrid technology was OK because the 2.4 litre V8 engine still did most of the work and sounded great.
        
    After a bit of a bumpy ride, for 2014 the hybrid F1 hybrid regulations evolved into a more complex set of rules that specified more complex technologies. The energy recovery systems were allowed to deliver a maximum of 12KW (160hp) of power in addition to the power delivered by a 1.6 litre V6 turbo-charged engine; but for 2014 onwards, there were two types of energy recovery systems that had to be used. Both types of energy recovery systems still use a ‘Motor/Generator Unit,’ which unsurprisingly is known as an MGU; but one system is then known as MGU-K (Motor/Generator Unit Kinetic), and the second system is known as MGU-H (Motor/Generator Unit Heat).

    MGU-K
    The MGU-K system is much the same as the original KERS system used from 2009. The Motor/Generator Unit is usually connected by gears to the engine crankshaft, therefore when the unit functions as a motor and draws electrical energy form the battery, the motor feeds mechanical energy back to the crankshaft to provide additional power and torque (such as for acceleration). During power-off driving, the engine is still connected to the driving wheels; therefore the Kinetic energy of the moving car again rotates the engine and the electric motor, which now functions as a generator to re-charge the battery.
        
    The illustration (Fig 1) shows a basic layout for the MGU-K kinetic energy recovery system, but note that for convenience, the motor generator is shown connected directly to the front of the crankshaft but it can be located on one side of the engine beneath the exhaust manifold. The illustration also shows a battery management/electric power controller that regulates the power delivery of the motor and controls the re-charging process when the motor functions as a generator.
        
    A lithium-Ion battery pack is usually used to store the electrical energy, although super-capacitors have apparently been experimented with that can accept a re-charge and then discharge electrical energy more quickly than a battery.
    However, with the second energy recovery system, the Motor/Generator is driven by the rotation of the engine’s turbocharger , which is driven by the flow of hot exhaust gas (which contains Heat Energy). Therefore the two systems are referred to as MGU-K (for kinetic) and MGU-H (for heat).

    MGU-H
    The second energy recovery system (MGU-H) also makes use of a Motor/Generator Unit; but instead of being connected to the engine crankshaft, this unit is connected to the engine turbocharger (Fig. 2). As with road vehicle turbocharging, hot exhaust gas from the internal combustion engine drives a turbine that is connected to a compressor that then draws in air and forces it into the engine intake under pressure. But because the engine only produces high volumes of hot exhaust when the engine is under load and the throttle is open sufficiently to allow a higher mass of air to enter the engine, the turbocharger is only effective under higher load driving conditions.
        
    With the F1 engines, the turbocharger (which can rotate at speeds in the region of 100,000 RPM or more) is then also connected to the MGU-H Motor/Generator Unit, so as well as forcing air into the engine, the turbocharger also drives the MGU-H and generates additional electrical energy to charge the battery.
        
    The clever bit however is the use of the MGU-H to then drive the turbocharger. When the throttle of a turbocharged engine is initially opened to obtain more power (especially after decelerating when the engine might be at low RPM), the turbocharger speed will have reduced to low or almost zero RPM. It therefore takes a brief period for the turbo charger to spin up, but this is then also dependent on the engine responding to the open throttle and then creating higher volumes of exhaust gas to drive the turbocharger. Therefore there is a time lag between opening the throttle and when the turbocharger can actually increase the airflow into the engine to produce increased power and torque; and this inevitably has an effect on how quickly the vehicle accelerates. Because the MGU-H motor/generator is also connected to the turbocharger assembly, it can actually spin-up the turbocharger immediately when additional power is required (which will be before the exhaust gas is able to drive the turbocharger). In effect, the turbocharger also becomes an electrically driven supercharger.

    Controlling electrical power and electrical generation
    The operation of MGU-H Motor/Generator Unit is again controlled by the battery management/electric power controller, which therefore controls when the MGU-H functions as a turbocharger drive motor and when it functions as a generator. The control unit therefore has a complex task of regulating both the MGU-K and MGU-H motor/generator units so that the additional power provided by the electric motors is within the specified limits imposed by the regulations, and that the additional power is only available for the specified periods during a lap of the circuit.
        
    The electronic control system then has one other important control function, which relates to braking. During deceleration and braking, when the MGU-K system is recovering kinetic energy from the moving car to drive the generator, it creates a significant braking effect on the rear wheels. If the driver is also applying the normal brakes at the same time, there will a combined braking force from the brakes and from the MGU-K. Any increase or decrease in the braking force provided by the MGU-K could then alter the total amount of braking force applied to the rear wheels, which could either lead to brake lock up or to a lack of rear braking. The electronic control system for the MGU-K must therefore communicate and influence operation of the braking system, to ensure that the driver remains in overall control of the braking forces.
        
    Although the use of hybrid technology in F1 does accelerate the technology learning curve (pardon the pun), one big disadvantage is that use of the turbocharger muffles the exhaust noise, which does tend to upset the purist petrolheads.
       

  • Non-intrusive testing 

    As technicians we’re all expected to be able to diagnose a fault within a sensible timescale, for a reasonable price, then guarantee the fix. With correct training, information and tools this is possible. However, we are often faced with multiple faults where cause and effect may not always be straightforward. We can be in a situation where we need to rectify faults before we can move on to the next. Also, if the repair cost could outweigh the vehicle’s value or customer budget then great care must be taken explaining the situation, agreeing a starting fee and preparing and executing a successful diagnostic plan.

    Recently we were presented with a BMW X3 for poor performance and a suspected DPF fault. After interrogating the customer we gathered all necessary information. Initial diagnosis confirmed multiple fault codes and a blocked DPF. Determining what caused the DPF to block is vital for the correct diagnosis and preventing reoccurrence. We created a test plan to test each fault and separated them into faults that affect the performance, faults that can cause the DPF to block or prevent regeneration and ones that don’t. In order to fully test the vehicle we would need to clean the DPF first as the exhaust back pressure was so high, the vehicle was barely drivable. As a member of the DPF Doctor network we have a very successful method of cleaning the soot from the DPF without the need for removal and access to many manufacturer-specific tips with DPF faults. The information and knowledge within the DPF Doctor network has proved to be invaluable and has given us an outstanding success rate. With our test plan ready we were able to calculate a sensible labour figure to conduct the tests required. The customer authorised the labour and the DPF clean.

    Several faults were straightforward. A multimeter gave us conclusive results and made it easy to quote for replacement parts and labour time to fit them. The main fault causing poor performance required a little more thought to keep diagnosis time to a minimum. A low boost pressure fault code doesn’t tell us why the pressure is low. Driving the vehicle whilst monitoring the boost pressure showed the fault was intermittent, so an external boost leak was unlikely. A smoke test was also carried out which revealed no leaks. In this instance, the EGR valve could be a likely culprit. This engine uses a vacuum controlled EGR valve with a position sensor built into the diaphragm. As tempting as it was to unbolt it and take a look, this would all take more time then factor in the risk of rusted bolts etc. With a position sensor one would think if the valve was to stick then a fault code would be set. We had to plan a simple, conclusive, yet non-intrusive way of testing the EGR system quickly.

    The conventional vacuum controlled EGR system consists of the EGR valve which includes the diaphragm with a 5 Volt position sensor and the vacuum control solenoid valve which uses vacuum from the brake servo vacuum pump and is controlled by the ECU on a duty cycle. The position sensor will typically show 0.5 to 1.2 Volts when fully closed and 3.9 to 4.5 Volts when fully open. One side of the solenoid valve has a 12 Volt (battery Voltage) supply and the ECU switches the ground path on and off at varying duties to vary the vacuum amount thus varying the EGR valve position. The ECU looks at the position of the valve and adjusts the duty to achieve the position desired similar to how an ECU uses the oxygen sensor to adjust the air/fuel ratio. With the following tests we were able to check every component in the system.

    Test one
    We connected the Mityvac directly to the EGR valve and the oscilloscope connected between the signal wire and battery ground. As we had already smoke tested the entire inlet system we connected the smoke machine directly to the inlet manifold in place of the intercooler hose. With the smoke machine running and the ignition on (engine off) we used the Mityvac to fully the valve to check it had no vacuum leaks (split diaphragm), then we opened and closed the valve slowly and then quickly. This confirmed the following:

  • Inject some knowledge  

    At the heart of fuel delivery is the injector. If there is a single focus point that has helped reduce emissions and boost performance it’s the injector. Despite this, we don’t pay it enough attention, and I include myself in this critique. Let me qualify this by asking a rhetorical question; How many of you have injector bench test capability?

    I do, but freely admit to not giving it a more prominent position in fault diagnosis. I am going to expand later just how intrusive testing should be conducted. To begin, a short trip down memory lane won’t do any harm in understanding basic problems.
        
    Injector problems started in earnest when lead was removed from gasoline. The Nissan 1.8 turbo and Austin Montego 2.0efi were two of the most problematic examples. Both used 15ohm single event saturated triggering with approximately 1-amp peak current. This was back in the days when we were not measuring current nor did we have an injector bench.
    All the diagnostic evidence came from the 4-gas analyser. CO and O2 should balance at approximately  0.5%, as this will achieve a near perfect lambda 1 ratio, 50-100, CO2 at its highest at around 17-18%.
        
    A lot has happened since then. The key to ideal fuelling is in reducing the lag or dead time in injector response to PCM control. As engine power increased and turbos became almost mandatory, more fuel was required. To achieve these aims, opening times were increased to a point where they were in danger of colliding at high engine RPM. We are still talking port injection here, fuel pressures crept up to four-bar and high flow injectors started to be introduced.

    Current ramping also changed to peak and hold with peak values of around 4-amps. For the time being things stabilised, with little or no obvious common injector problems. The next challenge manufacturers faced was to reduce the internal mass of the injector components. In plain English they got smaller, lighter, less robust, and with lead free legislation less reliable. Remember Fiat iaw injectors?

    Precise control
    As EU emission rules became more stringent, the need for even more precise control was inevitable, and along came direct high-pressure injection. Lets explore the variables of fuel transportation, variable delivery pressure 50-200bar, multiple injector strikes and adjustable delivery timing. Peak current now reached 10-amps and pwm switching became commonplace.
    We now have gasoline injection that more  closely resembles diesel injection protocols. They also bring similar problems. Fuel is no longer delivered through the inlet port, leading to a build up of carbon behind the valves. This effect, the critical swirl in the cylinder, is essential for complete combustion. Filtration and fuel quality are now major considerations for reliability.

    Hostile environments and anomolies
    Injectors are now mounted in a more hostile environment, more pressure, more heat, more tip carbon. So, the need for testing and cleaning has come full circle from the lead-free era. A major problem here is the stress caused to the injector body by techs not using the correct removal tool.

    Remember the comments on lighter internal mass; This means than bending stresses during removal leads to intermittent combustion anomalies. I do love that word, it more accurately describes incomplete combustion, often without any credible serial fault data.

    New fault phenomena
    Now let’s notch it up a bit and introduce some new fault phenomena. The internals are so light they can suffer mechanical failure, and the closure spring can break. The internal filter basket has been moved to a more central position, resulting in inaccessibility for replacement.

  • It CAN be done! 

    We all remember certain jobs which test our nerve but ultimately serve to strengthen our capabilities. Proper learning experiences so to speak. Unsurprisingly, these memorable jobs tend to occur when tackling novel technologies or environments which, by their nature, can be unsettling.
        
    Some time ago a customer arrived with a MINI having persistent warning lights, instrumentation faults and bearing a new instrument cluster and engine control unit. Mindful that the expensive repair history must have included some seriously ‘in-depth’ diagnosis, I decided to get involved and see what I could do to fix the issues.

    Ruling out
    A system scan reported various powertrain CAN faults in the engine, ABS and instrument cluster control units, indicating a system-wide communication issue but with no systematic patterns to help isolate the fault. The MINI had a separate diagnostic bus, which thankfully permitted scan tool communication in the presence of a CAN fault. However, CAN access was not available on the diagnostic connector to aid recording of the signals. Instead, an oscilloscope was connected to the engine control unit (Figure 1) to reveal that the wires were unlikely to have shorted together, to Earth, nor to +5V, as the signals from the engine control unit were almost ideal. The fault was more likely due to circuit integrity. After powering down the CAN this was confirmed, as a 120 Ohm resistance was measured between the high and low lines (around 60 Ohms was expected).
        
    Subsequently, the customer was called with an update and to authorise further expenditure. The next stage involved pulling the car apart to fully check the wiring and control modules. Plainly, it was unwelcome news.

    Added pressures
    When conscious that the meter is running, doubt can creep in and you find yourself asking if a wiring fault is too simple, alongside other related questions. This was not a good time for misinformation. The resources available (course notes and workshop information) identified the MINI’s engine control and ABS units as each having a 120 Ohm terminating resistor between the CAN pins. Subsequent measurements determined a resistance of 120 Ohms on the engine control unit but many kilohms on the ABS control unit. Was it faulty? Nerves started to fray. Following a thought process akin to James Dillon's mantra "what would you test next if the part you had just fitted did not cure the fault," basic procedures were recalled.
        
    Firstly, on this MINI the terminating resistors actually were in the engine and instrument control modules (all were fine). Next, a series of continuity tests isolated an open circuit on the CAN-H line between the ABS and engine control units. It was located in a well-protected and tiny portion of wire, equidistant between the terminating connectors. Figure 2 shows the damage.
        
    The process demonstrated to me how, during stressful situations, it is worth trying to adhere to basic procedures as faults are often straightforward. As it turns out, this would have been good advice for the recent Top Technician practical tasks, which proved a very similar experience – I wish I had listened! For anyone thinking of entering, I highly recommend it.


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