John348

Warning: Can DEF for tow vehicles can go bad?

Recommended Posts

If I am in the wrong forum please let me know, and I apologize in advance.  However many of us have a Diesel tow vehicle and it is an integral part of our hobby as any other tool in our box, I was debating on putting this in the Towing/Trailer forum, but I figured that there is a little more traffic here, and I need advice, and also this could serve as a warning for all of us who have a diesel tow vehicle if this a problem....... Anyway

 

I own a 2013 GMC Sierra 2500 HD Diesel Truck I had bought new, serviced like clockwork whatever the manual states to do and at the recommended mileage. It now has about 62,000 miles. My oldest son expressed interest in purchasing it when ever i decide to trade it in. It was not part of my plan, but he and his family could use a new truck so I saw the new 2017 colors offered liked one or two so I told him that we can start thinking about it. I did tell him living on Long Island that this truck really is not the most practical, and to make sure he and his wife like it that they should try it out. I figured that he would have about 2 1/2 years on the extended GM warranty and about 30,000 miles. I just did not want him not to have any coverage in case any big ticket items fail. They were going to his in-laws house for Thanksgiving so I told him ti use the truck and to make his decision based on that. They were traveling up to Albany NY about 175 miles away. He calls me up Thanksgiving morning and tells me that that warning came on the dashboard informing him "DEF QUALITY POOR 100 MILES LEFT UNTIL REDUCED SPEED" I have OnStar and told him to contact them maybe they can flash the computer or something along those lines. The operator told him that there is no trouble code in the computer that she can read, and of course "take it to a dealer"  He was only about 40 miles away so I felt it would be best to bring it back home then have it up in Albany waiting for a sensor or some other part on a holiday weekend.

 

I only use the truck for towing or the long highway drive to my other home in Florida. Last time I used it was my trip to Hershey and it sat in the driveway since. I looked at the box of GM DEF Fluid that have at my house and there is no expiration date on the box My son took his truck to the Dealer in Albany today for service and the technician told him that DEF spoils, I am getting mixed information from what I am finding on the internet, and there is no mention in the owners manual that the DEF can spoil. I think it is a sensor that has failed, but you know that the dealer is going to want to drain the tank and regenerate the system. The tech also told my son that this is a common problem, and that it can spoil in 60 days. 

 

Have any of you here had this problem or know of anyone who has? The part that is strange is that my useage of the truck has been the same since I took delivery. Drive it 3,000 miles then it sits for 3 months, and never had a problem. I am expecting to get jerked around from the Dealer on this but I do save every receipt and record everything in a log book as far as service, fuel (date, cost,when, where, how much and MPG). The DEF I used has always been GM and most of the time the dealer tops it off on the oil change. 

except once this summer I needed it on a Sunday and used 2 1/2 gallons of the Blue DEF. I know I can not be the only one who uses their tow vehicle just for towing, so all of us are subject to this problem if the stuff spoils

 

Thoughts or opinions please

Edited by John348 (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have an older Powerstroke that doesn't use the stuff.

If I ever get around to replacing the old girl I will probably be looking for a low mileage truck that also does not use it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DEF is just an aqueous urea solution, 32.5% urea and 67.5% de-ionised water. Wikipedia says is it clear and should be stored in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. It can also corrode some metals.

 

So what could the sensor be testing to determine "quality"?  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, Spinneyhill said:

DEF is just an aqueous urea solution, 32.5% urea and 67.5% de-ionised water. Wikipedia says is it clear and should be stored in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. It can also corrode some metals.

 

So what could the sensor be testing to determine "quality"?  

 

My guess is that the sensor is determining the NOX in the exhaust which is somehow controlled with the fluid. I think this is tricky way for them to say the fluid is bad. The storage recommendation creates an interesting problem, how can anyone store it in a call place once it sits in the tank under your vehicle in all kinds of weather. My use of the vehicle is also contributing to the problem where it can sit for months at a time in both winter and summer without getting used.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have often wondered if the owner could supply their own...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, padgett said:

Have often wondered if the owner could supply their own...

 

Mr P, I am pretty sure that you can, but the fact that GM has a 5 gallon DEF tank and it goes trough 1 gallon every 1,000 miles, so  when it is due for an oil change it's due for DEF, so it just does not pay for me to do it. I could change my own oil, but that also  really does not pay, it is only a few dollars more to have the dealer do it, and I have a record and receipt that the oil was changed by them. The Blue DEF says it is approved by all manufacturers, but I did not check if GM approves Blue DEF. I would think if it were not compatible or approved by GM that would be common knowledge by now. In my case the GM fluid was all that was used except for that one time about 10,000 miles ago where I used 2 1/2 gallons of the Blue DEF.  Thinking about that jug could have been sitting at my home in Florida since 2013 in a hot garage. Again it's only urea and water

If the storage is the issue then it really becomes a problem for me, again my use of the vehicle has been the same since the day i took delivery December 2012. I only use it for 3.000 miles at one time, then it sits three to four months.   

Edited by John348 (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You might check to see if the tank or a secondary chamber senses the specific gravity of the fluid to determine a change of consistency. It could be a rheostat on a float that reaches a certain value where a > or < sets the warning to "+". GM knows how to make those systems. My flex fuel truck uses it to sense the percentage of ethanol. I can see it being applied in the case you mention. When you read all five books of the service manual you learn stuff like that.

 

The assumptions of the 2013 may not have been flashed for changes in the variables over the last three years and there may not really be a problem. Have some fun. Ask the service manager for a list of the process variables in the hexidecimal code that trigger the binary point for the warning light. It's just fun to watch them squirm. If they stutter it's even better.

Bernie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 60FlatTop said:

You might check to see if the tank or a secondary chamber senses the specific gravity of the fluid to determine a change of consistency. It could be a rheostat on a float that reaches a certain value where a > or < sets the warning to "+". GM knows how to make those systems. My flex fuel truck uses it to sense the percentage of ethanol. I can see it being applied in the case you mention. When you read all five books of the service manual you learn stuff like that.

 

The assumptions of the 2013 may not have been flashed for changes in the variables over the last three years and there may not really be a problem. Have some fun. Ask the service manager for a list of the process variables in the hexidecimal code that trigger the binary point for the warning light. It's just fun to watch them squirm. If they stutter it's even better.

Bernie

 

I am putting this out there just to get some facts straight to present to the service manager, thanks. The truck will run fine without the fluid but the environment does not like it, That is why they have all of these fail safes installed. I know that I have about 60 miles left then the computer limits the speed to 65 mph and after that I have 3 or 5 key starts and it goes to 35 mph, after that it is a flatbed. It is times like this I wish the Volkswagon engineers worked for GM!  I know they will not cover the fluid drain and regeneration process under warranty so I am figuring on a $800 bill for this job and also expect some line of crap "your bad fluid ruined the sensor(s) so it is not covered" The more I think about it it starting to sound like a $1200 bill 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hear the direct injected engines can experience a build up of carbon on the hot valves. Typical chemical methods of cleaning can push carbon chips through the integrated turbochargers and damage the little twirlers.

 

I think we've been got by the dogma of green.

Bernie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, John348 said:

 

My guess is that the sensor is determining the NOX in the exhaust which is somehow controlled with the fluid.

 

Indeed, the NOx is controlled by the fluid. That is the whole point of it! This is what Wikipedia says about the process:

"

DEF is a 32.5% solution of urea, (NH2)2CO. When it is injected into the hot exhaust gas stream, the water evaporates and the urea thermally decomposes to form ammonia and isocyanic acid:

(NH2)2CONH3 + HNCO

The isocyanic acid hydrolyses to carbon dioxide and ammonia:

HNCO + H2O → CO2 + NH3

Overall, this is

(NH2)2CO + H2O → 2 NH3 + CO2

From this point, ammonia, in the presence of oxygen and a catalyst, will reduce nitrogen oxides:[6]

2 NO + 2 NH3 + 12 O2 → 2 N2 + 3 H2O and
NO2 + 4 NH33 12 N2 + 6 H2O

The overall reduction of NOx by urea is:

(NH2)2CO + 4 NO + O2 → 4 N2 + 4 H2O + 2 CO2 and
(NH2)2CO + 3 NO23 12 N2 + 4 H2O + 2 CO2  "
 
Thus the urea is used up and exhausted as Nitrogen, water and CO2 . If the sensor is in fact detecting NOx in the exhaust, there is a problem with either the fluid (not enough urea?), its injection into the exhaust or the catalyst. You had best have a look at the Blue DEF bottle or MSDS to see what is in it; maybe it doesn't work well in your brand of vehicle because of some additives in it (e.g. do you say "blue" because it has blue colouring?). You might also look at the level in the tank. When you added the blue DEF, was it scrupulously clean? No dirt introduced that might block the injector(s)? Oh, another thought: thermal decomposition is part of the process - might there be a problem with (low) exhaust temperature?
Edited by Spinneyhill (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John I have had a 2011 F350 and put about 75,000 on it mostly towing with no warnings and used DEF from all sources never saw a sensor light on. My vehicle doesn't sit long.

I have sold my F350 and ordered a GMC Denali HD 3500 2017 mainly because GM has finally built a new Duramax to produce power close to the Ford diesel.  I'll keep my attention to the DEF.

I am planing on using it to tow down to the Florida National show next year.  See you there

Robert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I work in the class 8 truck industry and I can tell you that almost all DEF issues are operator issues not system issues. As already stated the vehicle will de rev in steps until you are puttering down the berm if it senses a problem and you don't do anything.

 

Most of the time someone will put water in the DEF thinking they do not have or pay for it, diluting the solution. Sometimes they pee in it thinking they can supply their own urea (I am not kidding!!). More commonly someone will use a funnel or storage container that was used for something else. The system is sensitive so if your funnel had oil or ATF residue you could have problems.

 

The only storage issues we have are keeping it out of sunlight and very cold temperatures. 

 

Chuck

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all what is DEF?  Must have something to do with small truck diesels that I don't know about.  I do know about very large marine and industrial diesels.  I know what water is and urea contains nitrogen and is used as a fertilizer.  I tow with a GMC with a 350, second engine, and it has 304,000 miles on it and tows nicely.  No DEF here.  No big $$$ here either.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, captndan said:

First of all what is DEF?  Must have something to do with small truck diesels that I don't know about.  I do know about very large marine and industrial diesels.  I know what water is and urea contains nitrogen and is used as a fertilizer.  I tow with a GMC with a 350, second engine, and it has 304,000 miles on it and tows nicely.  No DEF here.  No big $$$ here either.  

 

Hey Captain,

DEF stands for Diesel Exhaust Fluid. I know that 2012 was the first year for GM vehicles and everything else has to fall into line by a certain date, not sure of the year that every manufacture had to be compliant. To try to simplify what it does the fluid is injected into the exhaust and sort of accomplishes what a catalytic convertor does on a gasoline engine. However the fluid has no impact on the mechanical performance of the vehicle so the manufacturers managed to tie this into the computer system of the vehicle so the vehicle would not be able to operate without the system. (although it can be done, and I had seen it on a truck in Florida, however I really do not want to void a warranty on a $65K+ truck, because we all know if anything fails it will be because the owner altered the system). 

It is important to realize that we all have different needs and desires and I am glad your vehicle fills those needs for you, however your vehicle would not be for me or my needs. While you might not need DEF now when these trucks are not big $$$ (by the way, big $$$$ is subjective everyone has a different opinion of what big $$$ are) and are used this will still be a problem to the owners of them.

I own it because I can.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, John348 said:

Jack, FYI after 2013 EVERY has to use it

 

I have been looking at the 3500 Rams.

I drove a 2014 at a dealership a couple of months ago and the salesman looked into the fuel door and told me that it must have been the last year that did not use DEF. Or he was lying, (his lips were moving)

The pick up had a 6 speed manual which I liked but compared to my 95 Powerstroke it was a dog.

I drive for a company on occasion that has about a ten year old Ram and we tow a BIG three car enclosed trailer so it gets pretty heavy. I am impressed with the torque of that truck but I don't see many of that vintage that don't have a couple of hundred thousand miles on them.

I don't want to go backwards as I drive mine like you do, mostly towing and it will sit in the garage for long periods of time. It just turned 140,000 miles so not many for a rig I have owned since 1995.

This pic with an old canopy that I put on occasionally when I need to keep something dry. Its basically junk but does the job.

It is to the point that the kids are cornering me or following me home wanting to buy it as it is in very well kept condition.

20141216_131152.jpg

20141216_131330.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To get back to John 348's initial question: "Can DEF for tow vehicles go bad?"  I think that the answer is YES, because DEF has a shelf life that varies according to ambient temperatures.  Here is a link to a bulletin put out by FORD concerning the shelf life of DEF: 

 

https://www.fcsdchemicalsandlubricants.com/main/additionalinfo/DEF Shelf Life and Fluid Quality.pdf

 

The bulletin isn't real specific, probably because there are so many variables affecting the shelf life of DEF.  Just to make things even more complicated, it seems that the sensors on the newer diesel trucks can detect deteriorated DEF and cause the characteristic "rolling shut down" of the engine.   It does give us something to ponder, though.

 

Cheers,

Grog

Edited by capngrog
added more information (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Way I read it, in Florida the expected shelf life is between 6 and 12 months.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gee water and fertilizer to make a $65,000 truck do the speed limit.  What will the college graduates think of next.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, capngrog said:

To get back to John 348's initial question: "Can DEF for tow vehicles go bad?"  I think that the answer is YES, because DEF has a shelf life that varies according to ambient temperatures.  Here is a link to a bulletin put out by FORD concerning the shelf life of DEF: 

 

https://www.fcsdchemicalsandlubricants.com/main/additionalinfo/DEF Shelf Life and Fluid Quality.pdf

 

The bulletin isn't real specific, probably because there are so many variables affecting the shelf life of DEF.  Just to make things even more complicated, it seems that the sensors on the newer diesel trucks can detect deteriorated DEF and cause the characteristic "rolling shut down" of the engine.   It does give us something to ponder, though.

 

Cheers,

Grog

 

Thanks Grog for getting things on track.

Considering that DEF has been around now for at least 5 years one would have thought that the shelf life of DEF would have been out there. Thinking about now when I was down in Ocala this past summer I recall seeing Blue DEF (Blue is the manufacturers name not the color of the fluid) on sale at Pep Boys for as I recall  $12-$14 for a 2.5 gallon box, the GM stuff is around $25 for 2.5 gals. I think even bought a box to leave in the garage down there for "just in case."  It was probably about to go bad, and knowing how that it has been cooking in a hot garage since late July I'm pretty sure it is N/G now. There is no mention in the owners manual that the fluid has an expiration date. I realize that this entire system is somewhat new and there is a learning curve, I know I sure as heck learned a lot.

Thanks for leading me to that bulletin. It does raise a few more questions for me, the tank is really not storing the fluid in the most ideal situations, there is no protection from extreme temperatures. Now the other question is just because I own does not mean have to drive it to use the fluid, I do see some market for a stabilizer. I am going to make an appointment.

The truck has been trouble free since I took delivery, if it is the fluid spoiling then I guess it really points to me and I should have read up on it more. I only hope that this thread gives some insight to other diesel owners (modern era) that this can be a problem.

I will have a follow-up once I get it to the dealer. The problem is here that most GMC/Chevrolet Dealers don't sell many diesels, so they really lack the service staff needed. When I ordered it this one my friend was a partner in the dealership at that time. He told me that most dealers instruct their salesman to give real high prices on the diesels because they just don't want to have to service them.

 

8 hours ago, padgett said:

Way I read it, in Florida the expected shelf life is between 6 and 12 months.

.

Yeah Mr. P I came up with same thing when I read it, maybe even less if you factor in a hot warehouse that it is sitting in. I know from NOW on I will always purchase it from a GM dealer

 

On ‎11‎/‎26‎/‎2016 at 8:00 PM, Spinneyhill said:

 

Indeed, the NOx is controlled by the fluid. That is the whole point of it! This is what Wikipedia says about the process:

"

DEF is a 32.5% solution of urea, (NH2)2CO. When it is injected into the hot exhaust gas stream, the water evaporates and the urea thermally decomposes to form ammonia and isocyanic acid:

(NH2)2CONH3 + HNCO

 

Spinney..... WOW what can I say I appreciate it but I got lost once you started with the chemical reactions thanks for your input

 

On ‎11‎/‎26‎/‎2016 at 10:30 PM, Robert Street said:

John I have had a 2011 F350 and put about 75,000 on it mostly towing with no warnings and used DEF from all sources never saw a sensor light on. My vehicle doesn't sit long.

I have sold my F350 and ordered a GMC Denali HD 3500 2017 mainly because GM has finally built a new Duramax to produce power close to the Ford diesel.  I'll keep my attention to the DEF.

I am planing on using it to tow down to the Florida National show next year.  See you there

Robert

 

Hey Robert, Judging by the mileage on your Ford you use is is reflective to the use of my GMC. I think I topped of with a box that I had sitting in my barn in Ocala and it was expired.  Good luck with the new truck. I am probably going to order a new one in February/March. Looking forward to seeing you down in Ocala, I am trying to finish off this 60 Impala to take down, either way it will be down there if I have it ready for the show is another question.

 

13 hours ago, midman said:

I work in the class 8 truck industry and I can tell you that almost all DEF issues are operator issues not system issues. As already stated the vehicle will de rev in steps until you are puttering down the berm if it senses a problem and you don't do anything.

 

Most of the time someone will put water in the DEF thinking they do not have or pay for it, diluting the solution. Sometimes they pee in it thinking they can supply their own urea (I am not kidding!!). More commonly someone will use a funnel or storage container that was used for something else. The system is sensitive so if your funnel had oil or ATF residue you could have problems.

 

The only storage issues we have are keeping it out of sunlight and very cold temperatures. 

 

Chuck

 

Chuck, thanks for the input, from reading your post I think I added some fluid that was in my garage that might have been there for a few years. The thing is I added that about 3,000 miles ago if not more. I certainly did not urinate in it or add water, I can see that happening, 

 

 

8 hours ago, captndan said:

Gee water and fertilizer to make a $65,000 truck do the speed limit.  What will the college graduates think of next.  

 

Capt, it is not really that simple, the reduction in speed is for the next 100 miles, then it limits it to 35 MPH, (not sure how many miles that will last for, and I don't care to find that out) after that it is only 5 MPH until the repair is made. Actually it is pretty impressive, I would like to think that those who design our vehicles have college degree, and were instructed by another graduate. I don't see anybody with a GED doing it. It is pretty ingenious if you think about it, that two simple products can help with emissions.  One might think you are being sarcastic with your comments. I admire your stamina riding around with a high mileage truck, and I am sure it works for you

 

 

2 hours ago, plymouthcranbrook said:

Another reason not to buy a diesel, as if I needed one.

 

OK... if you don't need one then why would you need a reason not to buy one? nevermind.....

 

2 hours ago, Kevin Carl Williams said:

Funny, my 1981 doesn't have this problem???

 

 

Funny, your 1981 does not have AC/Heated seats, XM or air bags either. to each his own. I forgot that those vehicles from the early 80's were always known to be engineering marvels, sort of must haves. You reminded me now why I traded in my 81 Suburban in 1983, three years sooner then I usually do... I am sure it works for you

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John, have you visited the Chevy website that only discusses the Duramax ?  I have a 2014 Dodge diesel ram  3500. There is a website I use when ever I have a question about my truck, I refer to the Dodge Cummins diesel forum.

There are guys on that forum that all they do is play with their trucks, and they know of which they speak.  FWIW, my truck sits all winter long in a unheated pole building and gets as cold as a Wisconsin winter deals out and have not had a DEF problem. I have only bought Blue DEF at Tractor Supply with no problem so far. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, Curti said:

John, have you visited the Chevy website that only discusses the Duramax ?  I have a 2014 Dodge diesel ram  3500. There is a website I use when ever I have a question about my truck, I refer to the Dodge Cummins diesel forum.

There are guys on that forum that all they do is play with their trucks, and they know of which they speak.  FWIW, my truck sits all winter long in a unheated pole building and gets as cold as a Wisconsin winter deals out and have not had a DEF problem. I have only bought Blue DEF at Tractor Supply with no problem so far. 

 

No Curti I have not, either way I have to go to the dealer. I was just poking around here to see if anyone else came upon a similar problem. As you pointed out your vehicle has a similar driving pattern as mine and you have no problems.... go figure?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still smiling about this.

maxresdefault.jpg

 

And the vocabulary word for today is "urea".

 

No! Not your Rhea.

rhea.jpg

 

Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Bernie

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now