Podcast

Understanding the Different Types of DPF Cleaning Processes

Learn about the different DPF cleaning processes available for commercial trucks with diesel engines.

Episode 102: In this episode we discuss the different types of DPF cleaning processes and Austin Northcutt who is the Area Director for DPF Xpress explained the pros and cons of each type.

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Show Notes 

History of DPF Xpress

“We have been open for 3.5 years. We started out with our sister company 1-800-RADIATOR, selling aftermarket cooling products and aftermarket DPFs. We saw a demand for DPF cleaning and decided we wanted to get into it,” said Northcutt.

DPF Xpress trucks outside.
  • Had to overcome challenges of learning how to clean aftertreatment systems.
  • All cleaning out of Columbia, South Carolina location currently.
  • Sights set on expanding beyond the Southeast Region.

Thermal, Aqueous, and Ultrasonic DPF Cleaning

“We pride ourselves with being able to provide not only the best style of cleaning, but whatever the fleet/operator prefers, or what they require on their fleet. So, we want to be able to provide them with any clean that they might need,” explained Northcutt.

DPF Xpress dpf cleaning process.
  • Thermal is the baking aspect of the cleaning process. It takes the filter to 1200 degrees to break down particulate matter that is built up to the cell walls that other processes cannot remove.
  • Aqueous is a medium to high pressure water cleaning addresses coolant and fuel contaminations.
  • Ultrasonic cleaning is the process of submerging a DPF in a chemical/water tub. The water is then pulsated to dislodge and remove particles.

When cleaning DPFs, often there are signs that show where problems are upstream. At DPF Xpress their technicians are trained to recognize these issues, and to provide information to fleets to fix those upstream issues, saving fleets time and money.

Nationwide Service

“If there is someone outside of our territory, we do have a UPS program,” said Northcutt.

DPF Xpress cleaning UPS delivery map.

Steps of DPF cleaning for clients outside of territory:

  1. Removal of DPF and all sensors attached.
  2. DPF is then packaged carefully and sent to DPF Xpress.
  3. Contact DPF Xpress to let them know to expect your filter.
  4. On arrival to DPF Xpress your filter will be cleaned using all their processes.
  5. If for any reason your DPF fails any of the stages or tests you will be contacted immediately.
  6. DPF Xpress will create a before and after report for your filter.
  7. Filter is delivered back to you free of charge via UPS, clean and ready to re-install.

DPF Xpress also works with fleets to provide an option to create a rotation so that fleets will always have a clean filter.

Refurbished Filters

“We were collecting filters with good cores, doing inspections on it, cleaning it, and then selling it to customers at a discounted rate,” explained Northcutt.

  • Once those filters are cleaned and refurbished, they are of a quality level that their customers can count on.
  • Perfect for creating a filter for rotation.
  • Much more affordable that OE filter.

Aftermarket Aftertreatment Products

“We sell heavy-duty aftermarket DPFs, DOCs and SCRs,” said Northcutt.

  • Sourced from multiple suppliers.
  • Keep filters in stock.
  • Ability to ship filters across USA.

Complete Transcript for Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about the heavy-duty parts you buy and sell, and keep you informed about what’s happening in the industry. This episode is sponsored by DPFXFIT a manufacturer of DPF and DOCs that offer OEM durability and performance with aftermarket affordability. To learn more, go to DPFXfit.com. Welcome to episode 102. There are several different ways for people to clean diesel particulate filters. We’ll call them DPFs for the rest of the episode. And of course, with each specific kind of cleaning process, there’s some advantages. I assume there’s probably some disadvantages and I wanted to get to the bottom of that. So I invited Austin Northcutt from DPF Xpress to come on the show and talk about these differences and to share a little bit about his company, Austin, welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Austin Northcutt:

Hey Jamie, thanks for having me.

Jamie Irvine:

I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation and I’m glad that you’re here. Let’s get into it. Let’s talk a little bit about the differences between thermal, aqueous and ultrasonic. Maybe you could talk first of all, about thermal. What kind of cleaning process is that?

Austin Northcutt:

Thermal is going to be the baking side of the cleaning process. That’s just going to take the filter up to 1200 degrees and help break down any of the particulate matter that’s stuck to the cell walls that the rest of the cleaning process wasn’t able to get loose, whether it’s an air knife or any other style of cleaning.

Jamie Irvine:

So some people say you don’t need to bake every filter. How do you feel about that?

Austin Northcutt:

We disagree, we personally like to bake every filter. One, it’s going to help get the filters dry after an aqueous cleaning or an ultrasonic cleaning. And then it also is just getting that much more out of the filter.

Jamie Irvine:

The last thing we want is a residual soot to be in that filter, I mean, that’s the whole point of cleaning them, right? I mean that would impact uptime, I assume.

Austin Northcutt:

Not only that it’s going to affect your fuel economy and then the life expectancy of the filter.

Jamie Irvine:

Exactly. Yeah. So aqueous, obviously it has something to do with water. Can you talk to us about the different kinds of aqueous and maybe what are some of the advantages of that system?

Austin Northcutt:

There’s multiple styles of aqueous machines out there and cleaning processes. When it comes to aqueous, you’ll hear people that want to just use a pressure washer or something like that, which we don’t recommend, but it’s going to be just a medium to high pressure water cleaning, and just another way to help break loose any of the particulate matter again that stuck to the cell walls. And also it’s the only way to really start breaking down coolant and fuel contamination.

Jamie Irvine:

When you’re running like an aqueous machine, obviously there’s a level of automation to it, because it’s not just a guy with a pressure washer. Is it straight water? Is there a solvent, if you’re talking about those different kinds of particulates that are in the filter, I would assume there’s some sort of cleaning agent, but I’d like to learn more.

Austin Northcutt:

So it goes both ways. So there are some machines that are fully automated and require a solvent to be added to the filter before the aqueous process starts. And then there’s machines like we have that are just going to be a pressured water. And it is a manual cleaning with no solvents used at that point.

Jamie Irvine:

But it’s inside of like a cabinet or how does that work?

Austin Northcutt:

Oh yeah, it’s inside of a big case, you know, everything’s sealed up completely that way you don’t make a mess and the water has to be treated after it’s gone through the filter to remove the particulate matter that’s in the water to dispose of.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, and what’s the difference between let’s say aqueous and ultrasonic?

Austin Northcutt:

So ultrasonic is going to be the filters, get submerged in an ultrasonic that has a chemical in it that is designed for emission systems and that water around the filter and inside the filter is just going to pulsate. Then once it comes from there for us, we take it and put it in an aqueous machine to do the high pressure rinse to remove the solvents and things like that from the filter, where the aqueous is just going to be water.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, so it sounds to me like a DPF Xpress, you’re using all the technologies to provide your customers with the best cleaned DPF that you can?

Austin Northcutt:

Yes, sir, we pride ourselves of wanting to be able to provide not only the best style cleaning, but also whatever the fleet or owner operator prefers or what they require on their fleet. So we want to be able to offer them anything that they might need.

Jamie Irvine:

Right and you’re servicing areas in the south east. And when you talk to customers who maybe have base of operations there, but then their trucks are going everywhere, what ways do you provide service to them on DPF cleaning? Like, are you able to have them put on some sort of program, so when that truck comes back to home base and a certain mileage is hit, they automatically send the filter over you to have it cleaned. Is that how it works? Or like what programs are you building for your customers?

Austin Northcutt:

So we have a couple of different ones that we work on. You know, if there’s somebody outside of our territory, we do have a UPS program where we will send them pre-packaged boxes and a UPS label, so they can ship the filter to us. And once we get the filter, we turn it around and ship it back to them within 24 hours, then we also work with our fleets and any fleet that would be interested in creating a rotation. So they will have a clean filter in their shop at all times that matches their trucks. And that way, if the truck comes in, their technician removes the dirty filter, puts the one that’s in rotation back into the truck and can ship us the dirty filter, or we can pick it up depending on if they’re in our territory.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s fantastic, it’s all about service in the trucking industry, isn’t it? So I’d like to learn a little bit about the history of your company. When, when did DPF Xpress get started?

Austin Northcutt:

We’ve been open for about three and a half years now. We originally started with our sister company, a 1-800-RADIATOR selling heavy-duty aftermarket cooling products and some aftermarket DPFs. Once we started doing that, we saw the demand for the cleaning and how everyone was so interested in it. And it was plagued by just complications and problems. So we started doing our homework, we traveled to some other cleaning locations, some manufacturers of equipment and saw multiple styles and decided we want to get into it. I would definitely say that the challenge would have been learning the different styles of cleaning and what the different levels of cleaning are and how to combat contaminations, whether it’s oil or fuel and just beating everybody’s fear. Because again, people have been burned by after treatment system and so many times, and just combating that. I mean, everybody knows if your radiator goes bad, if you don’t replace it, you’re not driving. There’s a little bit different ball game when it comes to your after treatment system.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, so once you started to get some more experience in that and you started to make some progress what’s the thing that you would say has changed the most from when you first started to today?

Austin Northcutt:

Definitely the confidence in the cleaning side of it and the experience. It’s another ball game once you actually get your hands dirty and you can see the different things. You know, I get in there with our technicians and clean filters with them that way we know what we’re seeing, and being able to go to a customer and again, tell them that they have a small coolant leak or that we can see something going on and just know that we’re helping them is comforting.

Jamie Irvine:

So are you only in the locations in the Southeast or do you have multiple locations?

Austin Northcutt:

So right now we are currently doing all of our cleaning out of our Columbia South Carolina location, which our footprint and reach goes to the Charlotte, North Carolina, Asheville, North Carolina, and in the Kingsport Tennessee, but we shuttle everything back to the Columbia location currently.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, that makes sense. And I assume the very fact that, like you said, with your sister company, you’re responding to a need, you’ve got sight set on growth across the country to be able to provide service to a growing number of fleets as time goes on. I’m just guessing.

Austin Northcutt:

Oh, a hundred percent.

Jamie Irvine:

Fantastic. We’re just going to take a moment to hear from our sponsor. We’ll be right back. This episode is sponsored by DPFXFIT a manufacturer of DPF and DOCs that offer OEM durability and performance with aftermarket affordability. To learn more, go to DPFXFIT.com. Before the break, we were speaking with Austin Northcutt of DPF Xpress. We were talking about the different kinds of DPF cleaning. And we’re talking about their plans of servicing a larger number of customers as time goes on. Austin, one thing that I’d like to talk to you about is sometimes cleaning a DPF is just no longer an option. Tell me about refurbished filters. At first, before we talk about just the refurbished filters, let’s talk about what in the marketplace recently that created an opportunity, and then we’ll kind of describe the actual process of what a refurbished filter is all about.

Austin Northcutt:

So before the changes in the market recently, we were collecting filters from fleets and owner-operators, anyone that we could, that we could verify that was a good core. We would do inspections on it to make sure that the substrate was intact, then we would clean it and resell it to the customers at a discounted rate. With recent changes, with the market, we have been able to collect an extensive amount of Cummins core filters, which will be going through the same process.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, I’m sure when you heard the announcement, it was like, “Hey, this is an opportunity”, because for anyone who’s not aware if you’re just listening to this episode for the first time, and you’re new to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report, Cummins killed their, what they call the ReCon Program, which is in essence, an exchange program. And so all of those cores became available and you’ve capitalized on that to be able to provide this refurbished option. And I assume beyond just the initial testing, once that filter is refurbished it is of a quality level that your customers can count on.

Austin Northcutt:

Yes, sir. A hundred percent. We’re not going to send anything out the door that I wouldn’t put my name on or put on my own truck.

Jamie Irvine:

Exactly. And the refurbished option is a great option. And I’m sure that there are specific times when like an owner-operator or a fleet would prefer that. I mean I’m thinking of one scenario where the truck is going to go to auction in a year and the DPF filter is just not able to be cleaned, a refurbished option is perfect for something like that.

Austin Northcutt:

A hundred percent, that or if somebody was wanting to get into creating a rotation of a clean filter waiting on them, and they needed a little bit cheaper option than spending the money on a new aftermarket or new OEM, that would be the way to go.

Jamie Irvine:

When a customer comes to you and they need a new something to totally replace or add to their inventory. You’ve got the cleaning option, you’ve got the refurbished option, but you also sell aftermarket new. Can you tell us a little bit about that product?

Austin Northcutt:

Yes sir. So we sell aftermarket, DPF, DOCS and SCRs, and we do source from multiple suppliers depending on quality and best costs. We can pass that along to the customer. And we do keep those filters in stock. If we don’t have it in stock, we will drop ship to the end user, whether in our territory or if we need to ship it out to the Southwest or anywhere except California.

Jamie Irvine:

So there’s definitely a legislative reasons for that. So when you look to the future, I’m kind of curious what your thoughts are on this. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people. If you just rely on the media headlines, you’d have the impression that investment in the aftertreatment and diesel engines in general, it would be a waste because we’re all going to have electric vehicles in the next five years. Is that how you view things?

Austin Northcutt:

Not really. I think that it’s going to be around for quite awhile. Obviously there is the push for the electric trucks and things like that, but looking into the media and other things, there are some electric companies out there that are running into emissions problems. So I think they’re going to have the same fight.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah and really at the end of the day, I think the trend for the next let’s say 20 years is that diesel engines will be part of our trucking industry and also with changes in regulations, there’s going to be new technology and changes to the way that the emission systems work, which more than likely is going to offer a company like yours who’s been so quick to respond to the need opportunities to provide greater service.

Austin Northcutt:

We pride ourselves in wanting to do and provide whatever we can to the end user and the customer, whether it’s a fleet or an owner operator, or anything with a diesel engine in it. When it comes to the emission sides of it, if we do get 5, 10 years down the road and DPFs are a thing in the past, we were going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re ahead of that. And if there was an electric push, we’re going to find a way to get into that, whatever they can be a need to service the customers on aftermarket level and save them time and money.

Jamie Irvine:

And really Austin, that’s what it’s all about – it’s supporting the industry. How important do you think education is? You know, we kind of started our conversation at the top of the episode, talking about the different kinds of cleaning. I think there’s a lot of confusion out there. How important is education with helping customers make really good decisions around their aftertreatment products?

Austin Northcutt:

It’s extremely important. You know, I talk to so many people that have had a bad experience or they’ve been burned by the aftertreatment system, whether that’s just a filter not being cleaned properly or anything upstream that can cause issues and going on with that there’s so many visits I’ll do a talk to a customer where they think that their filter’s, the problem, and it just wasn’t diagnosed properly. There’s so much that plays into it. So I definitely recommend people doing their homework, whether it’s talking to a company like us or reaching out to anybody they may know and ask as many questions as they can.

Jamie Irvine:

Looking at the entire system and identifying upstream problems, to me, that’s a message, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about. How important really is that at the end of the day?

Austin Northcutt:

Oh, it’s extremely important. If you’ve got something going wrong in your engine where you know, a bad bearing or your NOx ratings through the roof, it’s going to throw all kinds of different codes and make you chase your tail for hours, trying to figure out what’s going on.

Jamie Irvine:

Does the condition of the filter before you clean it, when you look at that filter, are you able to detect perhaps what’s going on in the system elsewhere by the condition of the filter?

Austin Northcutt:

To some degree, yes sir, with a DOC, if you get one of those in, and it’s got a lot of face plugging on it, that might indicate that there’s a fuel injector sticking open. And you can tell when there’s oil or coolant fuel, that’s gotten into the DPF. The same thing goes with a Def doser sticking open. You can see the indications of the Def fluid crystallizing and drying up. So there are a few things that our technicians are trained to look for and be able to call the fleet and say, “Hey, I hope you know that you’ve got a small coolant leak that you need to look for, or we’ve got signs that there’s some oil getting into this filter, you need to look upstream.”

Jamie Irvine:

But it’s still dependent on the actual repair technician to do their part then, and take that information that you can provide them and go and investigate further.

Austin Northcutt:

Yes, sir, one hundred percent. If we say, or any cleaning companies able to indicate that we definitely recommend getting ahead of the ball game and looking upstream, because something small can cause a big issue down the road,

Jamie Irvine:

Right, and the long-term impact on a fleet, especially a fleet where they’re looking at the total cost of operation, you know, unscheduled downtime is such a killer because it’s not just the cost of the additional repairs that weren’t planned for, but then of course the fleets are maybe losing business or they’re letting customers down and that has a negative impact on their company, which then of course, that’s something that you’re trying to help alleviate.

Austin Northcutt:

Yes, sir. We want to try to make sure that they don’t have to deal with that. And saving time and money and eliminating headaches is our end goal.

Jamie Irvine:

In the past, and maybe you can answer that a little more clearly than me, but I seem to understand that there has been an issue of misinformation in the industry. And a lot of people sometimes can be confused, especially around service intervals and things of that nature. So how are you helping your fleets to kind of understand what they should be doing?

Austin Northcutt:

Well, when it comes to the service intervals, we definitely recommend that they go by what the engine manufacturer service intervals are, but then working with somebody that like a trash company, that’s a lot of stop and go at high idle times that may not have a service plan for their DPFs, working with them to make sure that they’re servicing them every 4,500 hours or getting out on the highway to open up the truck as much as possible, you know, small things like that.

Jamie Irvine:

Right, so vocation and application definitely play a role in what the service interval should be.

Austin Northcutt:

Yes, sir, anything that’s a stop and go, whether it’s a waste truck, school bus, a line truck, that’s gonna sit in idle while it’s working on a power line, anything that’s having a lot of idle time is going be a problem.

Jamie Irvine:

That makes a lot of sense. Well, Austin, I appreciate you taking some time today to talk to me and share your deep expertise on that. You know, sometimes people remember what we say last. What’s the one thing you want people to remember about DPF cleaning?

Austin Northcutt:

That is not a bad thing. You know, DPF systems, aftertreatment systems, they’re not as bad as people think they are. They are designed to work efficient with an efficient engine. If there’s something going on, just really dive into it and stay ahead of the game. If you’re an owner-operator make sure that you’re servicing your filter that way you can save yourself some time and some money

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Austin Northcutt from DPF Xpress to learn more, go to DPFxpress.com. Austin, thank you for being on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. Thanks again. Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And I just like to remind everyone to focus on cost per mile and, let’s keep those trucks and trailers rolling.

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