How To Clean Ford F350 Exhaust Filter?

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Key Takeaways:

  • The Ford F350 uses a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to reduce exhaust emissions. Cleaning it regularly is important.
  • There are two methods to clean the F350’s DPF – manual cleaning or drive-to-clean.
  • Manual cleaning involves removing, soaking, rinsing and reinstalling the DPF.
  • The drive-to-clean method involves highway driving for 20-30 mins when prompted.
  • Avoiding short trips and low speeds during drive-to-clean allows the DPF to fully regenerate.
  • A software hack disables DPF cleaning but isn’t recommended as it can damage the engine.

The exhaust filter on the Ford F350 plays a crucial role in reducing harmful emissions from the diesel engine. Known as a diesel particulate filter (DPF), it traps soot and particulate matter from the exhaust to lower environmental pollution. However, over time, the DPF fills with trapped particles and requires cleaning to remain functional. A blocked DPF negatively impacts engine performance and fuel efficiency. Therefore, knowing how to properly clean the Ford F350 exhaust filter is essential for maintaining the heavy-duty truck.

This comprehensive guide will evaluate the recommended methods for cleaning the DPF on a Ford F350. It covers both the manual cleaning steps for removing and soaking the filter, as well as the drive-to-clean approach using highway driving when prompted by the vehicle. The benefits and limitations of both options are analyzed in depth. Additionally, the guide examines if software hacks to disable the DPF cleaning process are advisable. Through evaluating these key considerations for keeping the Ford F350’s exhaust filter operating optimally, truck owners can make informed decisions on the best approach.

Thorough, expert-backed information on properly cleaning the complex DPF system allows Ford F350 owners to extend the life of this critical emissions component. By detailing the hands-on and computer-assisted cleaning methods, drivers can avoid the high replacement costs of a failed filter. Understanding the steps, procedures and techniques outlined in this guide empowers owners to keep their heavy-duty trucks running smoothly while maintaining cleaner exhaust emissions.

How Does the Ford F350’s Diesel Particulate Filter Work?

The DPF on the Ford F350 is responsible for capturing and storing exhaust soot that would otherwise pollute the air. It functions by forcing engine exhaust through a porous ceramic filter substrate covered with tiny pores that allow gases and air to pass through but trap over 85% of diesel soot particles. The pores prevent the collected particulate matter from exiting the tailpipe.

Over time, the filter fills with more and more trapped soot. This causes exhaust flow restrictions and backpressure that robs engine power and performance. At a certain point, the DPF has to be cleaned to avoid clogging. Ford’s F350 models since 2008 are equipped with an active regeneration system that burns off the accumulated soot through high exhaust temperatures while driving. But this cannot fully clean a filter that has become excessively dirty from buildup over months or years of use. So both manual and drive-to-clean methods are required periodically.

When Should the Ford F350’s DPF Be Cleaned?

Knowing when to clean the Ford F350’s diesel particulate filter is important. If left for too long, the truck will display warning lights or go into limp mode due to excessive filter blockage. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to clean the DPF:

  • The engine computer triggers a “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” message and prompts highway driving. This usually activates around 300-500 miles of city or short trip driving conditions.
  • The truck lacks power during acceleration and feels sluggish.
  • Exhaust backpressure builds up leading to reduced fuel economy.
  • The check engine light activates with diagnostic trouble codes related to excessive soot load.
  • Excessive white, blue or black smoke comes from the tailpipe.

These symptoms typically start appearing after 30,000 to 50,000 miles of driving, but intervals can vary based on engine and filter size. Annual filter cleaning is recommended for trucks that often drive in stop-and-go traffic or conduct short trips. For vehicles mostly driven on the highway, cleaning every 60,000 miles or as needed based on symptoms is usually sufficient.

Can the Ford F350’s DPF Be Removed or Bypassed?

Some Ford F350 owners contemplate removing or bypassing the DPF altogether to avoid having to clean it. However, in newer truck models this is neither possible nor legal. The DPF has been a required emissions control device on all new diesel-powered vehicles in the US since 2010. Removing it will trigger a check engine light for an emissions control system malfunction.

The vehicle’s computer uses sensors to monitor the DPF’s functionality for emissions compliance. Even disconnecting the sensors to fool the computer into thinking the filter is still present will eventually lead to the truck going into limp mode after several drive cycles without seeing normal DPF activity. This safety mechanism prevents excess pollution from an altered emissions system.

The only way to fully remove the DPF is to install a pre-2007 diesel engine that never came equipped with one. But that involves extensive modifications and runs afoul of EPA regulations. Additionally, an older engine will lack the modern efficiency, power and reliability improvements of current designs. Given the extensive drawbacks and regulatory prohibitions, removing or bypassing the filter is not a realistic option for most Ford F350 owners. Proper periodic cleaning is far preferable.

What is Needed to Manually Clean Ford F350’s DPF?

Manually cleaning the Ford F350’s diesel particulate filter involves removing it from the truck and soaking it to dissolve the accumulated soot. Here are the required tools and supplies:

  • DPF cleaning fluid – Special solvents are made to dissolve and break down trapped soot and ash.
  • DPF cleaning tank or bucket – Large enough to fully submerge the filter. Avoid using a sink or tub inside.
  • Eye protection – Gloves and apron also recommended for safety.
  • Clean rags, brushes, approved lubricant.
  • Torque wrench, standard wrenches, socket set.
  • Jack, jack stands, blocks or ramps to access underside.
  • Replacement filter gaskets/mounting hardware as needed.

The cleaning fluid containing strong detergent solvents designed specifically for DPF cleaning is a critical specialty chemical required for this process. Using alternate chemicals found around the shop can damage the filter. Investing in the proper supplies helps ensure a thorough cleaning without harming the filter.

What is the Process for Manually Cleaning Ford F350’s DPF?

Here are the key steps involved in manually removing and cleaning the Ford F350’s diesel particulate filter:

Step 1: Remove the DPF

  • Safely jack up the truck and support it on stands to access the underside. The filter is mounted in the exhaust system under the vehicle.
  • Locate the DPF which is a large round canister typically before the muffler.
  • Disconnect exhaust piping to access the filter’s inlet and outlet flanges. Unbolt the flanges to free it from the exhaust.
  • Carefully lower the filter out of the truck and transport to the cleaning area.

Step 2: Inspect and Prep the DPF

  • Visually check for cracks or external damage. A damaged filter cannot be cleaned and must be replaced.
  • Use compressed air to blow out loose surface debris.
  • Note the filter’s orientation for accurate reinstallation later.
  • Pour the recommended amount of DPF cleaning solution into a sufficiently large tank or bucket.

Step 3: Soak the DPF

  • Fully submerge the filter in the cleaning solution.
  • Let it soak for at least 1-2 hours. For severely clogged filters, an overnight soak may be required.
  • Use a brush to periodically agitate the surface which helps dissolve trapped soot.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry the DPF

  • After soaking, lift the filter out of the solution and spray off exterior using a water hose.
  • Allow the filter to fully air dry which typically takes around 2 hours.
  • Once dried, inspect ports and surfaces for any remaining debris obstructions.

Step 5: Reinstall the Cleaned DPF

  • Replace any worn or damaged gaskets on the filter’s inlet and outlet flanges.
  • Lift the filter back into position in the underside exhaust piping.
  • Reconnect the exhaust by bolting up the flanges to the filter’s mating surfaces.
  • Torque bolts to the factory spec to avoid leaks.
  • Remove the jack stands and lower the truck. Start the engine to check for exhaust leaks.
  • The engine computer will automatically reset and initiate a fresh recalibration for the cleaned filter.

When performed thoroughly, this manual cleaning process can restore a clogged Ford F350 DPF to like-new condition. Expect to pay $150-$300 in supplies, equipment and labor costs to have it professionally cleaned by a shop. Doing it yourself saves on labor fees but requires more effort.

What Does Ford Recommend for Cleaning the DPF?

Ford specifically recommends avoiding aftermarket additives or manual cleaning methods. Their advised approach is to initiate a programmed “self-cleaning” regeneration cycle when prompted by the truck’s computer. This involves steadily driving the vehicle uninterrupted at highway speeds for around 30 minutes when the “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” message is displayed.

The forced regeneration cycle brings the DPF up to very high temperatures which burn off collected soot. Ford states this method cleans the filter most effectively when initiated as soon as prompted. Delaying action once the warning message activates can allow excess soot buildup requiring manual cleaning.

The key steps for Ford’s recommended drive-to-clean method are:

  • When the “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” message displays, immediately schedule time to take the truck on the highway.
  • Drive at a steady 60-70 MPH for 20-30 minutes without stopping. This allows the filter to reach optimal regeneration temperature.
  • Avoid quickly accelerating. Gradual increases in speed are better for the regeneration process.
  • Do not turn off the truck until the “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” message turns off.
  • Resist the temptation to reset the warning message without performing the drive. This will only delay the required cleaning.
  • After the message deactivates, more city/highway driving is recommended to prevent a repeat of the warning.

The drive-to-clean method requires far less labor than manual cleaning. But it relies on the vehicle owner promptly performing the highway driving when prompted. Otherwise, regenerating the overloaded filter becomes difficult and manual cleaning may eventually be required anyway.

What Should Be Avoided When Cleaning the DPF Through Highway Driving?

Certain actions should be avoided when trying to clean the overloaded DPF through an active regeneration highway drive as recommended by Ford. These mistakes prevent the filter from fully regenerating and clearing the “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” warning:

  • Don’t ignore the message – Delaying the required highway drive allows soot to continue building up. The filter gets harder to clean the longer the warning is ignored.
  • Avoid short trips – Brief drives at low speeds keep exhaust temps too cool for regeneration. Stick to steady highway driving.
  • Don’t make frequent stops – Stopping at traffic lights or pull-offs drops the temp each time. One 30-minute steady drive is ideal.
  • Don’t use fuel additives – Aftermarket additives can damage the DPF during active regeneration when temps exceed 1100°F.
  • Don’t turn the truck off prematurely – Wait until the “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” message deactivates to turn off the engine after the drive.

By being diligent and avoiding these missteps, the truck’s computer can automatically clean the filter sufficiently through occasional highway driving. But if improper regeneration habits lead to excessive soot accumulation, manual cleaning becomes the only option.

Does an Aftermarket Tuner Benefit DPF Cleaning in the Ford F350?

Many Ford F350 owners use aftermarket tuners to adjust engine parameters for increased power. These electronic tuning devices can also alter the DPF regeneration programming. Two potential ways a tuner could help clean a clogged filter:

  1. Allowing regeneration at lower vehicle speeds. This enables active cleaning during normal driving to prevent excessive soot buildup in the first place.
  2. Initiating a forced regeneration cycle on-demand regardless of DPF soot load. Helps burn off some accumulation from routine use.

However, tuners disable the truck’s factory safeguards intended to protect the filter from excessive temperatures during regeneration. This can lead to thermal damage or failure in a filter weakened by accumulated debris and ash. Use of aftermarket tuners also voids Ford’s engine warranty.

Overall, a tuner offers no benefits over Ford’s recommended highway drive when prompted by the vehicle’s computer. For severely clogged filters, manual cleaning remains the most effective and safest method. While tuners provide added engine performance, they should not be relied upon as a primary DPF cleaning strategy.

Is There a Software Hack to Disable DPF Cleaning in Ford F350?

Some heavy-duty truck owners intentionally hack the Ford F350’s stock engine computer software to disable the diesel particulate filter cleaning cycles. This prevents the irritating “Cleaning Exhaust Filter” warning message prompting highway driving. The hack fools the computer into believing the DPF was recently cleaned to reset the soot load readings.

However, this leaves the filter continuously clogging with trapped soot unabated. It will eventually overload and clog completely. The truck may end up in limp mode to prevent catastrophic failure. This creates a false sense of neglecting maintenance without consequences.

Disabling the cleaning cycles also increases exhaust smoke opacity and NOx output as soot exits the tailpipe. This negatively impacts air quality and violates emissions regulations. Any detectable ECU software tampering can also void Ford’s engine warranty coverage.

Rather than attempting short-term circumvention, owners should learn how to properly care for their truck’s DPF. Hacking the cleaning prompts only leads to poor engine performance, increased costs, and unnecessary emissions for the owner and environment.

Does Ford Offer DPF Cleaning Service or Maintenance Plans?

Ford does not offer direct cleaning services or scheduled maintenance plans focused on just the diesel particulate filter. However, DPF-related maintenance is covered under the following:

  • The Ford Protect PremiumCARE extended warranty provides for cleaning and replacement due to mechanical breakdown or normal wear. Additional plan fees apply.
  • Ford dealers perform DPF cleaning upon owner request for an additional charge. Most dealers charge 2-3 hours labor based on their shop rate.
  • Ford’s complimentary multi-point inspections check for DPF-related error codes and recommended repairs.

The automaker focuses more on designing self-cleaning vehicles rather than promoting manual filter service. But Ford dealers can still properly maintain the DPF when the owner requests it. Cleanings outside of warranty simply incur added shop fees.

How Much Does DPF Cleaning or Replacement Cost for Ford F350?

Based on dealer prices and professional shop rates, here are the typical costs to have the Ford F350’s diesel particulate filter cleaned or replaced:

  • Dealer DPF Cleaning – $150-$300 for 2-3 hours labor plus any parts/supplies.
  • Independent Shop Cleaning – Around $200-$350 parts and labor.
  • DPF Replacement with Installation – $1,000-$1,800 for parts and 3-5 hours labor.
  • Used/Remanufactured DPF – $750-$1200 to reduce replacement part cost.

Cleaning a mildly clogged DPF costs significantly less than replacement. But if the filter is allowed to overload with excessive soot and ash, repairs may no longer be possible. Regular maintenance prevents the need for the full filter assembly being replaced.

Does an Aftermarket DPF Work in the Ford F350?

Aftermarket diesel particulate filters are available from third-party manufacturers as a lower-cost replacement option. However, Ford states only their original OEM filters are designed and validated to work properly in F350 models. Some drawbacks to aftermarket DPFs:

  • Inferior materials unable to withstand Ford’s regeneration temperatures.
  • Improper sizing leading to reduced filtration efficiency.
  • Lack durability compared to Ford’s 100,000 mile OEM filters.
  • No control over quality with potential manufacturing defects.
  • Missing required temperature and backpressure monitoring sensors.
  • Risk voiding Ford’s emissions system warranty coverage.

While cheaper initially, aftermarket filters may not hold up over the long term compared to Genuine Ford Parts. Their use also introduces uncertainty in maintaining emissions compliance. The OEM filter is the wise investment in the long run.

Does Ford Offer a DPF Delete Option for the F350?

Ford does not provide a diesel particulate filter delete option from the factory in F350 models. All F350 trucks manufactured in the last decade come standard with a DPF to comply with EPA emissions regulations. Requests to remove it or disable the cleaning system are declined by Ford.

Eliminating the DPF goes against federal compliance standards Ford must adhere to as an automaker. While they offer customizable engine calibrations for various motorhome applications, the emissions aftertreatment hardware itself cannot legally be removed or modified to bypass the filter. This forces all Ford trucks to remain emissions compliant regardless of their secondary vehicle purpose.


Maintaining the Ford F350’s diesel particulate filter by cleaning it at the recommended intervals is vital to keeping these heavy-duty trucks running smoothly. Both manual and drive-to-clean methods are effective when performed properly at the first sign of clogging issues. While software tuning options or deletes may seem expedient, they ultimately shorten filter life and lower engine performance. Ford’s prescribed techniques allow the DPF to last up to 100k miles before needing replacement. By staying ahead of soot accumulation in this essential emissions component, F350 owners can optimize engine power and avoid unplanned downtime. Consistent care and maintenance keeps the filter clean and the truck hauling without limitation.

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