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DPF Filter Buildup: How to Clean a DPF Filter Yourself?

Diesel particulate filters or DPFs are installed within the exhaust system in a lot of cars. They get rid of soot and ash, thus reducing emissions and making sure you can drive your car in an environmentally-friendly way. But over time, ash and soot tend to build up in this filter, and you may wonder how to clean a DPF filter yourself.

Often, DPF filters will show a DPF symbol on the dash panel, indicating that your filter needs cleaning. You can clean the diesel particulate filter by using a DPF cleaning additive that you can purchase online or from local motor supply stores. You can also remove loose ash with a pressure gun, and use heated water to pressure-wash the filter.

Let’s take a look at these steps in more detail so you can properly clean your DPF filter and get rid of the soot and ash it gathers.

Look for the DPF Warning Symbol

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When a DPF filter needs cleaning, your car will let you know about it through the dash panel. You should see an orange or yellow rectangular symbol that has a few circles in the middle.

What this warning symbol is telling you is that there is a buildup of soot on the DPF and that the level is high and could be damaging to your car. If you see this symbol, you should clean the DPF filter as soon as possible.

Use DPF Cleaning Additives

checking car DPF
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There are special additives that you can use to clean your DPF filter. You can purchase a product like this either from the motor supply store in your area or online.

What DPF cleaning additives do is break down the soot and ash that built up. They contain fuel-borne catalysts that help in the process. In order to maintain the DPF clean, you should use such an additive once every 3-6 months.

These additives can be found for quite decent prices, as they will usually cost between $13 and $26, depending on a few factors.

Pour the additive into the car’s fuel tank. But before you do this, you should also make sure you’ve read the label. Any directions given by the manufacturer should be followed.

Turn off the car, then open its fuel tank and insert the additive’s nozzle. You can now start pouring the necessary amount into the tank.

Once you’re done, simply start driving your vehicle normally. Go for at least a 15-30-minute ride. This will get the cleaning additive running. No matter the engine you have and the speed you are driving at, the additive will start working soon.

Now that you added the solution, the DPF warning sign on the dash panel should disappear.

Compressed Air and Pressure Wash

fixing a car
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If the cleaning additive is not enough, you should consider using a high-pressure cleaner to help you dislodge the ash. This will work mainly for the ash that is already loose, and not for the stuck particles of soot.

A high-pressure cleaner will backflush compressed air into the vehicle’s filter. You should know that this method is mainly used by professionals, and not everyone has a tool like this at home. Even if you happen to have one, you should be very careful while using it for this procedure.

Once you do this, you can also perform a pressure wash on your filter using heated water. Ideally, the water should be sprayed in the opposite direction of the flow of the exhaust.

How Long Do DPFs Last?

car repair
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Each diesel particulate filter will last according to the amount of care the driver offers, and the driving style of the car owner.

When the car is only taken on small trips, such as less than 20 minutes, the risk of the filter being clogged increases. This is because the filter has to regenerate way more frequently since the engine cannot reach the temperature effectively. More pollution will happen internally.

In general, a particulate filter will last between 100,000 and 180,000 km in a passenger car. It should last longer once you find out how to clean a DPF filter yourself by using a DPF cleaning additive regularly.


It may be hard figuring out how to clean a DPF filter yourself and you may be scared to do it as you do not want to damage the filter or car. But if you’re careful enough, you should get the job done quickly.

You can use a DPF cleaning additive as well as different tools like a high-pressure cleaning machine and a pressure washer to dislodge leftover particles. If all your attempts fail, though, you should certainly take your car to a mechanic.


How can I know when my DPF filter is clogged?

There are a few signs to look out for if you think your DPF filter is clogged. Usually, you will see a DPF malfunction light coming on or a symbol appearing on the dash panel. You can also tell whether it’s clogged or not if you notice more fuel consumption or if you see the engine management light on.

How much will it cost to replace a DPF?

In some cases, a DPF cannot be cleaned, or it may be damaged because you attempted to clean it through various methods. In this case, you can replace it, but you should prepare your budget for this. It may cost $1,000 or more to replace the filter, which is often why many decide to delay this replacement.

Can you clean the DPF without help?

It is possible to clean the DPF filter yourself, without requiring the help of a mechanic. However, it depends on how bad the buildup is and the method you use to clean the filter. If things are too bad or you cannot clean the filter, you should always reach out to a professional, even if it costs an extra penny.


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