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Drive To Clean Exhaust System: How Does It Work?

Drive To Clean Exhaust System
(Last Updated On: September 29, 2020)

Drive to Clean Exhaust System: What Is It?

Drive to Clean Exhaust System or Drive to Clean Exhaust Filter is a message that will pop up on your dashboard, informing you that your DPF is blocked up and requires cleaning, as soon as possible.

Drive To Clean Exhaust System How Does It Work

For example, you may see this message when a Duramax required DPF cleaning.

On the other hand, some other brands such as Chevrolet may display something a little bit different, like  “Cleaning Exhaust Filter Keep Driving.”

Why Do I Get The Drive to Clean Exhaust System Message?

With increasing EPA regulations, every diesel on the highway is required to be outfitted with a Diesel Particulate Filter or DPF.

The DPF is built inline to the exhaust pipe and burns soot from the engine into ash which is then trapped by a filter.

Why Do I Get The Drive to Clean Exhaust System Message

As more and more residue builds up in the filter, it must be cleaned.  This cleaning process is called regeneration or regen for short.

Normally, DPF filter cleaning occurs automatically if the driver maintains sufficient speeds while driving on the highway.

In general, regeneration occurs at 100 to 500-mile intervals. However, there are many issues that may prevent regeneration and therefore cause the clean exhaust system message. Here are some of the issues that can prevent regeneration:

  • Stop and go driving.
  • Short driving distances.
  • Turning the engine on and off by remote.
  • Aftermarket air filters, air boxes, cold air kits, and exhaust add-ons.

What Should I Do When I Get The Drive To Clean Exhaust System Message?

As mentioned before, when you see this message on your dash, your DPF needs to be cleaned and you need to do so immediately.The process of cleaning the DPF is called regeneration.

What Should I Do When I Get The Drive To Clean Exhaust System Message

Now normally, the Drive to Clean Exhaust System or Drive to Clean Exhaust Filter message will appear and stay on the display for a few minutes and then it should change to something like Cleaning Exhaust Filter or DPF is Full Continue Driving which should stay on the display for the duration of the regeneration process.

DPF is full continue driving

Now there are different types of regeneration and the one you choose should depend on certain factors:

  • If the Cleaning Exhaust Filter message appeasers quickly: Use Passive Regeneration
  • If you have been doing a lot of round town driving: Use Active Regeneration
  • If you have been driving short distances: Use Active Regeneration
  • If you have been doing a lot of stop and go driving: Use Active Regeneration
  • If the message appears while driving on the highway: Use Parked Regeneration
  • If the Cleaning Exhaust Filter message does not appear after about 10 minutes after the Drive to Clean Exhaust System message: Use Parked Regeneration

Regeneration: Active, Passive and Parked Regeneration

As mentioned before, the type of regeneration that you use will depend on the factors mentioned above. Now let’s explain each type of regeneration:

Passive Regeneration

Passive regeneration or passive cleaning of a DPF filter utilizes normal exhaust temperatures and nitrous oxide as the catalyst.

This means that this mode of regeneration is automatic and straightforward and so the trapped soot is burned off as the vehicle operates.

In other words, DPF cleaning happens during normal driving. 

When the warning messages appear,  the driver can continue driving as normal if he/she intends to use passive regeneration.

DPF filter is full continue driving

Active Regeneration

Active Regeneration normally occurs during long haul or high speed driving, especially on the highway.

In this case, pressure sensors detect soot overload if normal driving patterns and passive regeneration have not adequately cleaned the DPF.

When the warning messages appears, it is prompting the driver to drive between say 17 to 30-mph speeds for roughly 20 minutes for active regeneration.

An engine control module informs the system to clean the filter using active regeneration.  Exhaust temperatures are raised to dispose of pollutants.

During active regeneration, raw fuel is injected into the diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) system to burn off soot and ash in the DPF.

Driver intervention is not needed for either of the above regeneration processes.

Parked or Operator Command Regeneration

If your diesel-equipped vehicle cannot maintain speed for passive or active regeneration, a driver must use parked or operator command regeneration.

This method allows an operator to initiate regeneration while the vehicle is parked or idle. The particulate filter must be at 100% load for the operator command to work.

Here are the steps to complete parked regeneration:

  1. Start the vehicle and bring it to operating temperature.
  2. Press the information display button and follow and understand the prompts.
  3. Answer yes to start the process and exhaust positioning.
  4. Once an operator regeneration has commenced, the engine will rev to 2000 rpm.
  5. Regeneration process ends, the engine and cooling fan will return to normal. The exhaust system will be hot. The complete regeneration takes about 30 minutes.

If you drive a Freightliner and need more details on how to conduct parked regeneration, please check out this guide open how to regen a freightliner.

While these methods of regeneration are different, they all follow the same basic principle. Diesel particulates burn off at 600 degrees Celsius and above.

Onboard active systems use extra fuel or extra power to the DPF’s electrical structure to complete this burn-off.

Regeneration is the process of eliminating built-up soot and ash from the DPF filter. Every diesel builder has different procedures or displays messages for this process.

However,  the fundamental objective is the same. Each regeneration cycle will last between 9 to 20 minutes.

Other Important DPF Warning Messages

Modern warning system technology is nothing short of remarkable. Today’s digital vehicles are equipped with hundreds of sensors, communicating every conceivable condition, and making repairs easier.

A service technician can diagnose problems quicker, with greater certainty.  Operators need to pay attention to any DPF messages:

  • Exhaust Filter Overloaded, Drive to Clean
  • Exhaust Filter at Limit Drive to Clean Now

Overlooking DPF warning message can lead to a trip to your dealer’s service department. An example message that may show if you ignore warnings is “Exhaust Filter Over Limit, Service Now”.

If the operator sees this message on their screen, there will be a 20% to 30% cutback in torque. Regeneration is disabled, and a certified technician must clean the filter.

Additional messages related to DPF cleaning:

  • Exhaust Filter at Limit, Clean Now
  • Exhaust System Overheated, Stop Now
  • Exhaust Filter Drive Complete

Why Do We Get Emission Errors?

Diesel engine manufacturers have endeavored to produce engines that operate cleaner without generating an overabundance of toxins.

The results in significant internal combustion engines, yielding excellent fuel mileage, exceptional torque and is extremely reliable.

This type of engine design can be applied to a small two-door passenger automobile or gigantic earthmovers and beyond.

Why Do We Get Emission Errors

Engineers have worked continuously to improve diesel exhaust emissions.  In the early days of diesel engines, soot, ash, nitrous oxide, and other harmful particulates billowed from their tailpipes.

In recent decades, two major emission technologies have come into play to help fix these issues:

Drive To Clean Exhaust System is just one of the errors that help you to fix emissions issues yourself.

Diesel Particulate Filters and Diesel Exhaust Fuel

Two primary pollutant control systems exist on modern diesel engines. Diesel exhaust fuel (DEF) and Diesel particulate filters (DPF).

Under certain conditions, a DPF will remove 85% to 100% of the particulate matter coming from diesel exhaust. The filter must be maintained continually, or the DPF will not function correctly.

Diesel Particulate Filters and Diesel Exhaust Fuel

Diesel soot is generated from incomplete combustion of diesel fuel. Carbon and other particulates vary, depending on engine type, size, and fuel used.  Particulate filters have been employed since the mid-1970s and used in vehicles since 1985.

Several filter technologies are in use today:

  • Cordierite is the most common material. Ceramic-based cordierite has excellent filtering properties, inexpensive and thermally efficient.
  • Silicon carbide is the second most common filtering material. The silicon carbide has a higher melting point, but not as thermally efficient.

DPF  filters have developed into the most economical means to capture and dispose of diesel particulate matter.

Regeneration techniques have been able to prolong the life of filters, by “burning off” soot and other carbon particles.

Thermal regeneration is by far the most complete and efficient form of operating particulate filters.

Key Takeaways

The continued progression of DPF and DEF systems are growing pains for emission regulations. In the 60s, there were no automotive standards to control what was coming out of the tailpipe.

Americans could see the impact of dirty diesel fuel, from the billows of black smoke gushing out of exhaust pipes.

Current EPA regulations, which took effect in 2010 have reversed the trend. Modern diesel engines run much cleaner and operate at higher efficiencies.

The 2010 EPA regulations for diesel engines was by far the most significant clean-air regulation in our lifetime. It is believed, the standards will reduce carbon and nitrous oxide emissions by 1 million tons per year.

It is equivalent to removing 35 million passenger cars from the highway. The drive to clean exhaust system is one of those important controls that is helping us to get the job done.

Tags: regenerationdpfdieseldrivingcleaningparticulatesootpassive

Guide to DEF Storage In 2021What Year Trucks Require DEF? Details on Chevy, Dodge, Ford, and Others

Sours: https://donotdpfdelete.green/drive-to-clean-exhaust-system/

We were surprised to see comments by Ford owners on our GPF / Gasoline Particulate filter FAQ asking about the error “Exhaust filter limit reached. drive to clean now“.

We were made to believe that unlike the DPF filter, the GPF was a “maintenance free” filter which would “clean” itself under normal driving conditions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it’s the case.

I’ve been through all the new Ford Ecoboost manuals I can find online and unfortunately, I can’t see anything about the GPF or related error anywhere. As you would expect, there is a section dedicated to the DPF but the Gasoline Particulate filter is not mentioned anywhere.

Some of the Ford forums suggest that this error could be due to a sensor malfunction however we’ve seen comments with increasing frequency from owners with cars under a year old.

Could it be that like a DPF, the GPF requires the same sort of conditions for regeneration? If so this is going to pi** a lot of owners off, especially those that have moved over to petrol cars from diesel cars due to low milages or driving habits that we’re ideal for modern diesel cars.

Is this the start of GPF regeneration issues for petrol car owners?

Having myself already been bitten by issues with DPF regenerations I’m concerned that this issue could be the start of filter regeneration issues on petrol cars. What we aren’t sure about is if this issue with only related to Ford vehicles equipped with GFP filters. 

As per our GFP FAQ article – the GPF regeneration works very differently than a DPF

How does a GPF regenerate?

GPF regeneration can only be performed in “non power” conditions,  meaning that regeneration is normally achieved under deceleration. Deceleration increases the amount of oxygen following through the engine and exhaust system. This in turn raises the temperature of the GPF to around 400c – 700c, igniting the soot contained within the filter. 

In conditions where this is not possible, the vehicles engine management systems alter timing causing it to run lean. This “lean” burn increases oxygen and therefore GPF operating temperatures, allowing regeneration to occur.


Does this only affect certain Ford models?

We understand that in some vehicles the GPF filter is located further down the exhaust system than others. This would suggest why some models in the Ford line up don’t seem to have this issue. We’ll update this when we have some more information.

How to clear the warning / fault

We were lucky enough to find the following image supplied in a forum post of the fordownersclub.com website.

It shows: Gasoline Particulate filter Information Messages

Message: Exhaust Filter at Limit. Drive to Clean


  • Drive at varied range of conditions including highway conditions for 20 minutes or until the message disappears.

  • Avoid prolonged idling

  • Select a suitable gear to maintain engine speed between 1500 and 4000RPM

Until we have any further information we can only suggest that a blast up your local dual carriageway while focusing on periods of throttle off deceleration from high revs. Deceleration increases the amount of oxygen following through the engine and exhaust system. This, in turn, raises the temperature of the GPF to around 400c – 700c

This should help exhaust temperatures reach those required for a GPF regen, it’s certainly worth a shot. 

What is also unclear is what happens if the filter gets too full / clogged? We’ve been made aware of at least one case where an owner has required a “static regen” at cost from their dealer. This is all sounding very familiar if you ask me.

Is there a software fix for this issue?

We’ve been made aware of some rumours of a software fox for this issue however it seems that at present it’s too early to know more. 

We need your help

I just tried to call a couple of Ford dealerships in my area and as I’m not an owner, they were unwilling to help with my questions on this issue.

We’re looking for a Ford Technician or someone with a new Focus / Fiesta ECO boost that could enquire about this issue with their local dealership.

We’re also looking to hear from owners who have experienced this issue. Did you manage to clean it? Did it require a dealer “static regen”? Please let us know in the comments below so we can update this article with information which might help owners result the issue without an expensive dealer visit.

More Information

Check out our other articles about the GPF Gasoline Particulate filter


Image thanks to fordownersclub.com

Sours: https://www.hypermiler.co.uk/gasoline-particulate-filter/how-to-fix-exhaust-filter-limit-reached-drive-to-clean-now-ford-gpf-filter
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The new TITAN XD Diesel with the all-new CUMMINS 5.0L V8 TURBO DIESEL engine provides exceptional Particulate Matter (PM) control based on the latest emission technologies.

The combustion process in the TITAN XD diesel engine produces Particulate Matter (PM) at levels high enough that they must be captured or eliminated in the exhaust system to meet emission standards. This is similar for most diesel engines. You may have seen the black smoke that some diesel vehicles emit.


SOOT – Composed of partially burned particles of fuel that occur during normal engine operation (black smoke). Soot-based PM is trapped and oxidized (changed into a gas) by the regeneration process in the DPF.

ASH – Composed of partially burned particles of engine oil that occur during normal engine operation. Ash-based PMs cannot be oxidized since they are mostly metal and are instead trapped and accumulated inside the DPF. This PM will accumulate and may, in time, clog the DPF, which will necessitate DPF replacement. Ash-based PM should be produced in only very small quantities. Non-approved oils are regarded as a major cause of ash buildup in the DPF.


  1. Aftertreatment Inlet NOx Sensor – Measures the amount of NOx coming out of the engine and entering the aftertreatment system.
  2. DPF Temperature Sensor Module – A three-probe sensor where one probe tracks temperature levels at the DOC inlet, another monitors temperature at the DPF inlet, and the third probe monitors the exhaust temperature as it exits the DPF.
  3. DPF Differential Pressure Sensor – A two-probe pressure sensor where one probe is located before the DPF and the other is located after the DPF. This sensor measures the difference in exhaust gas pressure before the DPF and after the DPF. This measurement is used by the ECM to determine soot load in the DPF.


Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC)

  • The DOC is used to create additional heat, if needed, for the regeneration process.
  • If the ECM, using sensor inputs, determines that additional heat is needed for regeneration, it will command the injectors to inject fuel into the cylinders post combustion (very late in the power stroke or during the exhaust stroke).
  • Fuel injected post combustion will not ignite or burn because there is no oxygen (required for combustion) and there is no pressure (required for ignition).
  • The DOC captures unburned fuel (hydrocarbons) in the exhaust and converts it into flame-free heat.

Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)

  • DPF collects and stores PM on the walls and surfaces inside the DPF.
  • DPF oxidizes soot via regeneration when the temperatures are high enough.
  • Ash is trapped and accumulated inside the DPF. Ash will accumulate and may, in time, clog the DPF, which will necessitate DPF replacement.


Regeneration refers to the removal of soot-type PM from the exhaust via oxidation within the DPF. There are three types of regeneration: PASSIVE, ACTIVE, and STATIONARY. Here, we will give an overview of these three types of regeneration. For regeneration details, refer to the EX section of the ESM.


  • Passive regeneration occurs when the exhaust temperatures are naturally high enough (no additional heat is needed from the DOC) to oxidize the soot in the DPF faster than it is collected.
  • Passive regeneration typically occurs when the temperature of the DPF is above 572°F (300°C). This occurs during highway driving or when driving with heavy loads.
  • Since passive regeneration occurs naturally, it is considered to be normal engine operation. No fuel is added to the exhaust stream during passive regeneration.


  • The term “active” refers to the fact that the ECM must take action to produce additional heat to initiate the regeneration process.
  • Active regeneration occurs when exhaust temperatures are not naturally high enough to oxidize the soot in the DPF faster than it is collected.
  • For active regeneration to occur, the Engine Control Module (ECM) must detect that the DPF restriction has reached a specified limit. Once this limit is reached, the ECM will alter engine operation in order to create exhaust temperatures high enough to actively regenerate the DPF.
  • This is typically done by injecting a small amount of diesel fuel into the exhaust stream, which is then oxidized by the DOC.
  • The oxidation of this additional fuel raises the exhaust temperatures to approximately 1,022°F (550°C), which is needed to regenerate the DPF.


  • Stationary regeneration is performed by a service technician.
  • If the vehicle is operated continually in conditions in which passive and active regeneration are not sufficient to clear soot out of the DPF, a stationary regeneration may be needed. If this occurs, the DPF lamp will illuminate.
  • Refer to the EX section of the ESM for details on stationary regeneration. Make sure to follow all ESM instructions, warnings, and cautions when performing stationary regeneration.

Exhaust system components can become hot enough during operation and testing to cause burns or ignite and melt combustible materials. The exhaust and exhaust components can remain hot after the vehicle stops moving and has been shut down. To avoid the risk of fire, property damage, burns or other serious personal injury, allow the exhaust system to cool before beginning repairs or service. Make sure that no combustible materials are located where they are likely to come in contact with hot exhaust or exhaust components.


Normally, particulate matter accumulated in the DPF is automatically burned and converted to harmless substances during driving. Passive or active regeneration occurs automatically with normal operation of the vehicle. However, particulate matter collected in the DPF cannot be burned under the following conditions:

  • When the vehicle speed remains below 7 mph (11 km/h) for a long period of time.
  • When the engine is frequently stopped and restarted within 10 minutes.
  • When the vehicle is frequently used for short journeys of 10 minutes or less.
  • When the engine is frequently stopped before it has warmed up.

In these cases, passive or active regeneration is not sufficient to burn the particulate matter that accumulates in the DPF. As a result, the DPF Warning Lamp in the meter will illuminate. This is not a malfunction. If the DPF Warning Lamp comes ON, drive the vehicle so that normal automatic regeneration (passive or active depending on the temperatures in the DPF) can occur.


  • As soon as safely possible, drive the vehicle at a high speed more than approximately 55 mph (89 km/hr) until the DPF Warning Lamp goes out.
  • Always follow local regulations.
  • When the accumulated particulate matter has been completely burned, the DPF Warning Lamp will go out. This procedure takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.

NOTE: If the vehicle continues to be driven with the DPF Warning Lamp illuminated and without doing the automatic regeneration, the fail-safe will limit the engine rpm and/or torque. In this case, it is recommended to perform the stationary regeneration procedure.


The TITAN XD has an aftertreatment warm-up system. The aftertreatment warm-up feature activates during periods of extended idle time. The purpose of this feature is to increase the temperature of the aftertreatment system to remove any water condensation that has built up during the idle time.

When the ECM detects that the exhaust temperature entering the aftertreatment system has been below 150°C (302°F) for approximately 2 hours, the ECM automatically increases the engine speed to about 1,000 rpm for approximately 10 minutes, but does not inject additional fuel.

The following conditions must be met to activate aftertreatment warm-up:

  • The brake pedal is released.
  • The transmission is in N (Neutral) or P (Park).
  • The vehicle speed is zero.
  • The accelerator pedal is released.


If the DPF Warning Lamp comes ON and a message is displayed in the Vehicle Information Display (VID), it indicates that particulate matter has accumulated in the DPF to the specified limit (overload condition).

The following are the three DPF warning conditions that can occur:

EXHAUST FILTER OVERLOADED (See Owner’s Manual for Drive Pattern)

When this message is displayed on the VID, the vehicle should be driven on the highway where the road conditions safely allow speeds over 55 mph for at least 45 minutes.

DPF Lamp State: Solid DPF Lamp


Engine torque and speed will be reduced. There are two severities of this message. The MIL will illuminate when the exhaust filter is at the more severe level.

When MIL is OFF: The vehicle should be driven on the highway (over 55 mph) for at least 45 minutes. Engine torque is limited.

When MIL is ON: Driving the vehicle on the highway will no longer recover the DPF. Stationary regeneration is required. Engine speed limited to 2,300 rpm.

DPF Lamp State: DPF Lamp Blinking


Engine speed and torque will be limited. Engine speed limited to 2,300 rpm. Immediate service is required.


DPF Lamp State: DPF lamp blinks quickly.

Sours: http://www.nissantechnicianinfo.mobi/htmlversions/2015_October_November_Issue_4/Diesel_Particulate_Filter.html
Ford Ecosport DPF Issue Solution - DPF / Exhaust Filter Issue Solution - Live Example

How to Clean Diesel Exhaust Filters

Diesel particulate filters, or DPFs, help regulate diesel emissions in an effort to meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Diesel particulate filters usually are placed in the outgoing exhaust flow pipe. Disposable DPFs, normally used only in off-road applications such as heavy equipment, are discarded once they have been filled with particulates. Reusable, passive regenerating diesel particulate filters will clean themselves, while active filters may be cleaned quickly and easily.

Step 1

Refer to the owner's manual to learn which type of diesel particulate filter is in your vehicle. Passive regeneration filters require no effort on the part of the vehicle owner to clean, while active regeneration filters may need temporary driving adjustments to help clean the filter.

Step 2

Check the dashboard to confirm that the diesel particulate filter warning light is on. Typically, driving at slow speeds or in stop-and-go conditions for a long time will trigger this light, which indicates that the exhaust gas has not been hot enough to effectively burn off particulate matter trapped in the filter. Clogged diesel particulate filters may cause poor vehicle performance and will need to be taken to the dealership for professional servicing if a simple cleaning is not performed.

To conduct a simple cleaning, drive the vehicle to a highway or other high-speed roadway. Accelerate until the vehicle reaches speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. Continue to drive the vehicle at speeds above 40 mph for at least 10 minutes, which will raise the exhaust gas temperature to a point that will clear any particulate matter trapped in the filter. Watch for the warning light to turn off, indicating that the diesel particulate filter has been cleaned.

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Overloaded exhaust filter

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How to Manually clean you Exhaust filter on 2017 Ford f250

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