Don’t follow the fault code – follow the smoke signals

Repairing a DPF successfully means you need to follow the clues all the way to the source of the problem

Published:  14 November, 2019

When this 2010 Vauxhall Insignia arrived at our workshop recently, we were asked the common question: “How much to clean my DPF?” As always, we informed the customer the first thing we needed to do was to undertake an assessment, so we could determine why the car was having DPF problems and what was required to fix it. This assessment is much more than a fault code read, often perceived as a ‘diagnostic check’ and this highlights the difference. The fault codes present on the car were ‘P2453 DPF Pressure Sensor A Circuit Range Performance’ and ‘P2458 Mass Air Flow Sensor Performance’.
    
Opening the bonnet, we were not surprised to see a new MAF sensor and a new DPF pressure sensor. This is frustrating as the owner has paid for these unnecessary parts to be fitted on the basis that ‘the computer said they were faulty’.
    
Looking at the DPF pressure sensor fault first, the ECU was reporting a circuit range fault. This may look like a faulty sensor but is in fact caused by excessive DPF pressure. The pressure is measured by the sensor. The signal is sent back to the ECU as a voltage so the excess pressure causes an excess voltage signal and in turn the ECU reports what it can see. The DPF back pressure was in excess of 150MB at idle indicating we must clean the DPF after addressing the cause of the problem.
    
Moving on to the MAF performance fault. Again, the ECU only reports what it sees as incorrect; in this case incorrect air flow. This is obvious when analysing live serial data so our next step was testing the intake system for leaks to confirm our suspicions. As you can see there was a significant leak from an intercooler pipe. We found a cause for both issues. The split pipe would have initially caused the MAF fault but in turn would lead to the DPF pressure sensor fault due to the excessive soot being produced with the major boost leak.
    
After consulting the customer, we repaired the car, replacing the intercooler pipe. Root cause now taken care of we had the easy part – cleaning the DPF. Our weapon of choice for DPF cleaning is always the JLM Lubricants’ Clean & Flush. With the step one chemical we left it to soak for a few minutes. After running the engine for a few minutes, we flushed the DPF out with the step two JLM DPF flush.

After the clean we had a healthy 6MB of back pressure in the DPF and the pressure sensor fault was cleared. An extended road test confirmed the fix.





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