How to Clean Ford F250 Exhaust Filter? A Step-by-Step Guide

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The exhaust filter, also known as the diesel particulate filter (DPF), is a vital component of the exhaust system in Ford F250 diesel trucks. This filter traps and removes soot and other particulate emissions to lower the vehicle’s environmental impact. However, over time, the DPF can become clogged with soot and need cleaning. Cleaning the DPF regularly is essential for maintaining proper exhaust function and engine performance.

How to Clean Ford F250 Exhaust Filter? A Step-by-Step Guide

When Does the Ford F250 Exhaust Filter Need Cleaning?

The Ford F250 exhaust filter should be cleaned every 60,000 to 100,000 miles depending on driving conditions and habits. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to clean the DPF:

  • Reduced engine performance – Lack of acceleration, decrease in fuel economy, or rise in engine RPMs while driving at a steady speed are telltale indicators of a clogged DPF. The soot buildup increases exhaust backpressure that the engine must work harder to overcome.
  • Exhaust filter cleaning message – Most Ford F250s have an electronic monitoring system for the DPF. When the soot accumulation reaches a set limit, a warning light or message like “Exhaust Filter Cleaning Required” will illuminate on the dashboard.
  • Excess exhaust smoke – Higher than normal exhaust smoke, especially during acceleration, points to a blocked DPF that needs cleaning.
  • Burning smell from exhaust – Extreme soot buildup can cause the DPF to overheat and burn off some of the trapped particulates. This may produce a burning odor from the tailpipe.

Failing to promptly clean an overloaded DPF can lead to severe and expensive problems like engine damage, DPF failure or even turbocharger damage due to excessive heat.

How Does the Ford F250 Exhaust Filter Cleaning System Work?

Most modern Ford F250 trucks have an automatic exhaust filter cleaning process called DPF regeneration that burns off the accumulated soot. Here’s how it works:

  • Sensors in the exhaust monitor soot levels in the DPF.
  • When soot accumulation nears the limit, the engine computer initiates regeneration.
  • The regeneration process raises exhaust temperatures to burn off the trapped soot and clear the DPF.
  • There are two types of regeneration:
    • Passive regeneration – Occurs automatically during normal driving when the exhaust reaches optimal temperatures.
    • Active regeneration – The engine computer takes control of the engine to increase the exhaust temperature for cleaning the DPF. Active regeneration only happens if passive regeneration hasn’t sufficiently cleaned the filter.
  • The exhaust filter cleaning warning light turns off after regeneration completes.

The regeneration cleaning process takes 20-30 minutes of highway driving. If the warning message remains even after attempted regeneration, the DPF may need manual cleaning.

When Should You Manually Clean the Ford F250 Exhaust Filter?

Manual cleaning is required if the automatic regeneration fails to adequately clean the DPF. Common scenarios that call for manual filter cleaning include:

  • The exhaust filter cleaning message does not disappear after regeneration.
  • The truck is used for frequent short trips that don’t allow the exhaust to get hot enough for passive regeneration.
  • The diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank has run empty, which prevents regeneration.
  • The truck has been parked for prolonged periods without running the engine.
  • The DPF has not been cleaned for over 100,000 miles.

Attempting to manually clean the DPF without addressing underlying issues can cause the soot to immediately accumulate again. A Ford dealer should diagnose the truck before manual cleaning to check for problems with the regeneration system, DEF system, engine malfunction, or oil contamination.

What’s Needed to Manually Clean Ford F250 Exhaust Filter?

Manual Ford F250 exhaust filter cleaning involves removing the DPF and washing out the trapped soot. Here’s a list of required tools and supplies:

  • Pickup or floor jack – To safely lift the truck for access to the exhaust system.
  • Jack stands – To support the truck once lifted.
  • Wheel chocks – To prevent accidental movement.
  • Wheel blocks – To block the rear wheels when lifting the back of the truck.
  • Basic hand tools – For removing exhaust components to access the DPF.
  • Gloves – To protect your hands from burns and soot.
  • Face mask – To prevent soot inhalation.
  • Safety glasses – To keep soot out of your eyes.
  • Pressure washer – To provide a high-pressure water jet for cleaning the DPF.
  • Compressed air – To blow out loose soot and debris through the filter inlet.
  • Cleaning solvent – To break down stubborn soot deposits (optional).
  • Clean rags – To wipe down components.

Also make sure you have the exact replacement gaskets needed to properly reinstall the DPF. Never reuse old exhaust gaskets.

Step-by-Step Guide to Manually Cleaning Ford F250 DPF

Follow these steps to thoroughly wash out the soot in your Ford F250’s clogged diesel particulate filter:

Safety First!

The exhaust system gets very hot. Make sure the truck has been off for several hours and avoid skin contact with the exhaust components. The DPF will also be covered in harmful soot, so wear protective gear and exercise caution not to inhale any soot. Work in a well-ventilated area.

1. Raise and Support the Truck

  • Park the truck on level ground. Engage the parking brake and block the rear wheels from both sides with sturdy wheel chocks.
  • Raise the front of the truck using a pickup or floor jack. Secure it on jack stands for safety.
  • Raise the rear also and place wheel blocks in front and behind both rear wheels. Lower the truck onto the blocks to lift the rear wheels off the ground.

2. Allow the Exhaust to Cool

  • Let the truck sit for at least 3 hours after running to allow adequate cooling time for the exhaust components.
  • Visually inspect the exhaust path from the DPF back to confirm everything is cool before touching any components.

3. Locate the Diesel Particulate Filter

  • On most Ford F250 models, the DPF is located under the truck bed, directly rear of the catalytic converter.
  • It’s identifiable as a large cylindrical canister with an inlet pipe and outlet pipe.
  • The outlet pipe has a temperature sensor attached with wiring leading back to the engine computer.

4. Detach Exhaust Components to Access DPF

  • Loosen the clamps securing the inlet and outlet pipes to the DPF using a screwdriver or pliers.
  • Separate the inlet pipe first by disengaging it from the forward exhaust section.
  • Next unlink the outlet pipe from the tailpipe. The DPF can now be removed.
  • Take care not to bend or damage the temperature sensor wiring.

5. Physical Cleaning of the DPF

With the DPF removed from the truck, here are two methods to wash out the soot:

  • Use a pressure washer – Set the washer to a narrow high-pressure stream. Methodically wash from end to end while rotating the filter to dislodge the packed carbon soot through the outlet opening.
  • Use compressed air – Insert the air nozzle into the DPF’s inlet opening. Blast compressed air through the filter while collecting the soot blowing out the other end. Wear a particle mask to avoid inhaling any dislodged soot.

Repeat either process until no more soot emerges. For extremely heavy deposits, a solvent-based cleaner may help dissolve some of the carbon. Make sure the filter is completely dry before reinstalling.

6. Reinstall the Cleaned DPF

  • Before reinstallation, make sure the engine computer codes are reset to remove any check engine lights related to DPF faults.
  • Reattach all exhaust pipes leading to and from the DPF with a fresh gasket at every joint. Secure with the mounting clamps.
  • Ensure all components are properly aligned and connections are leak-free.
  • Reconnect the outlet temperature sensor wiring. Make sure it’s routed away from any heat sources or sharp edges that may damage it.
  • Start the truck and visually check for any exhaust leaks after clamps have warmed up and sealed. Quickly turn it off to avoid any soot accumulation.

7. “Bake” the DPF to Complete Cleaning

Once mechanically cleaned and reinstalled, the DPF needs heat cycling to:

  • Dry out any remaining moisture from cleaning.
  • “Bake” the DPF to cure any cleaning chemicals or residues.
  • Allow the engine computer to complete a full regeneration cycle to recondition the DPF.

To accomplish this:

  • Start the engine and let it idle for about 10-15 minutes to gently warm up.
  • Take the truck for an extended drive at highway speeds around 45-60 mph for 20-30 minutes. This allows the exhaust to get hot enough for passive DPF regeneration.
  • Park the truck and keep the engine idling for another 10 minutes prior to shut down. Avoid immediately switching off after a drive.

The exhaust filter cleaning message should now reset since the accumulated soot has been washed out. If not, the DPF may need replacement by a professional. Continued proper maintenance is key to avoiding premature DPF failures.

Best Practices to Maintain a Healthy Ford F250 DPF

Cleaning the exhaust filter when required helps prevent irreparable damage. But following proactive maintenance practices can minimize DPF problems:

  • Stick to the recommended diesel engine oil – Ford F250 trucks need diesel-rated motor oil that meets Ford specification WSS-M2C171-F1. Using the wrong oil can accelerate DPF clogging.
  • Prevent oil contamination – Regular oil changes prevent oil from degrading into insoluble particles that contaminate the DPF.
  • Address check engine lights promptly – Diagnose and repair any issues the engine computer flags to keep the regeneration system working properly.
  • Drive at highway speeds regularly – Frequent high-speed driving allows passive regeneration that naturally cleans the DPF.
  • Install a DPF monitor – An aftermarket DPF monitor provides real-time data on soot levels and alarms for early cleaning.
  • Use a diesel fuel additive – Reputable additives help boost cetane levels for more complete combustion and reduced particulate emissions.

Following the step-by-step filter cleaning procedure when required, along with proactive maintenance of the diesel exhaust system, will help avoid any major repairs and keep your Ford F250 running smoothly for years. Consult your owner’s manual or local Ford dealer for more specifics on maintaining the DPF. Proper care of this emissions equipment also keeps the air cleaner for everyone.

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