The Benefits of Ultrasonic Cleaners for Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs)
Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) are notoriously tough to clean. Over time, they become clogged with ash causing blockages that hinder the efficiency of the filter and can even result in having to replace the part. As such, regular DPF cleaning is essential. There are several ways in which DPFs may be purged, but traditional methods don’t provide thorough cleaning. Adding an additional step in the process can help ensure the DPF is completely clean. This step is ultrasonic cleaning and involves the DPF being submerged in an aqueous solution and subjected to ultrasonic waves to give a thorough and complete clean. In this article, we reveal more about how ultrasonic cleaning works, why it’s important, and the benefits it offers.
How Ultrasonic DPF Cleaning Works
In its most basic terms, ultrasonic cleaning uses soundwaves with ultrasonic frequency to carry out the cleaning process. The ultrasonic cleaner is essentially a metal tank that contains a special cleaning solution diluted with distilled water.
The bottom of the tank is outfitted with multiple transducers—devices that convert one form of energy into another. The transducers produce ultrasonic waves that disrupt the cleaning solution. The result is the formation of microscopic bubbles within the liquid. When these bubbles collapse, they release hot jets, which are forceful enough to dislodge contaminants from the surface of a submerged object. This process is known as cavitation.
Cavitation bubbles can clean every part of the surface of the DPF, even the most hard-to-reach and intricate spaces. There is no physical scrubbing, scraping, toxic chemicals, or time-consuming labour required.
Issues With Traditional DPF Cleaning
A DPF is also referred to as a soot trap. The primary purpose of the filter is to collect soot to prevent it from being emitted as exhaust. The particles become trapped in a sponge-like structure and are subjected to high temperatures, causing them to burn off. In theory, this process, known as regeneration, should remove all particles from the filter. But due to the presence of fuel additives, engine metals, and lubricant oils, the regeneration process results in the formation of some ash, which remains in the filter.
If left over time, this ash would eventually clog the filter. This limits exhaust flow and can degrade engine performance. Regular DPF cleaning is necessary to ensure proper exhaust flow and optimal engine performance.
With traditional air cleaning, compressed air loosens contaminants and forces them out of the filter cells. In some cases, suction may be used to pull particles from the filter. A thermal cleaning step is often added to the process. This “bake and blow” cleaning method involves subjecting the filter to high temperatures over long periods with the goal of evaporating and oxidizing the contaminant particles.
The main problem with this type of cleaning method is it’s not very thorough. The DPF is an intricate structure, and it’s not possible to reach all areas of the filter with air alone.
The Benefits of Ultrasonic DPF Cleaners
Adding an ultrasonic cleaning step to the process will restore the DPF to near new condition. Ultrasonic cleaners have several advantages:
- They are extremely thorough
- Ultrasonic cleaners work quickly and efficiently
- You can increase the lifespan of the filter
- They don’t damage the unit
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail:
1. They Are Extremely Thorough
The problem with traditional DPF cleaning methods is they don't clean the filter thoroughly, and carbon deposits and other contaminants remain embedded in the filter. When the DPF is placed in an ultrasonic cleaner, every surface area of the component is cleaned, even crevices that could never be reached by compressed air.
2. Ultrasonic Cleaners Work Quickly and Efficiently
Worried about the length of time ultrasonic cleaning will take? Depending on the level of contamination and condition of the internal filter, the entire ultrasonic cleaning process can be completed within a couple hours. Although processes are proprietary to each ultrasonic cleaning provider, the final result typically restores your DPF to near-new condition or 98 percent of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications.
3. You Can Increase the Lifespan of the Filter
If ash is allowed to build up in the filter over time, it will eventually start to harden, which could result in the filter cracking and having to be replaced. Ultrasonic cleaning prevents this situation by providing the most thorough clean possible. What’s more, with the exhaust flow unhindered and the engine running more efficiently, you’ll be increasing the lifespan of other vehicle parts too.
4. They Don’t Damage the Unit
With ultrasonic cleaning being so thorough, there is often the misconception that it involves the use of harsh chemicals or abrasive materials. Some are concerned that the filter could be damaged by the process or that personnel operating the cleaner may be exposed to toxic substances. In fact, the opposite is true, and ultrasonic cleaning provides a safe, gentle method for cleaning DPFs and many other automotive components.
The force of the cavitation bubbles is high enough that you only need to use a relatively gentle cleaning solution to remove all contaminants. In this case, we recommend using an alkaline cleaner such as Brulin 815QR NF. This is compatible with various ferrous and nonferrous metals, as well as plastics and composites.
Note that ultrasonic cleaning also includes a thorough rinse cycle, so you can be sure that there will be no cleaning solution residue once the flush step has been completed.