What is Adblue diesel exhaust fluid?

By David Bonnici, 29 Nov 2016 Car Advice

Adblue in Diesel engine

Adblue is an additive used in many new diesel cars, but what is it and what’s it for?

WHAT IS ADBLUE?

AdBlue is the marketing term for a fluid used in the catalytic convertor fitted to the exhaust systems of some diesel cars. It is injected into the exhaust gases and burnt at very high temperatures to break down harmful nitrogen oxides.  Some diesel engines need AdBlue to help them meet tough Euro 6 emissions standards that regulate what level of harmful emissions can come out of a car’s exhaust.

WHAT CARS USE IT?

It’s is common in trucks and is now used in a number of late model diesel cars and SUVs produced by a growing number of manufacturers including Renault, Citroen, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Ford, Mazda, and Toyota. Mercedes-Benz calls its AdBlue systems “BluTec”.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

AdBlue is composed of de-ionised water and urea, an organic compound that is also used as a fertiliser, although the finished product is much purer.   

UREA IS IN URINE. CAN YOU USE THAT INSTEAD?

We’d love to say yes, but no, you can’t. Your pee is only about 3 percent urea – the other bit is mostly water -- which is well short of the 32.5 percent needed for AdBlue to do its thing.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

AdBlue isn’t mixed with the diesel fuel. Instead, it it works with the exhaust gasses after they come out of the engine. It is stored in a separate storage tank with its own inlet, and is sprayed into the exhaust stream in measured doses. It then reacts with the nitrogen oxide in the exhaust gasses and, via the catalytic converter,  is transformed into nitrogen and water.

Adblue

WHAT HAPPENS IF I ADD IT TO THE FUEL TANK?

If you accidentally pour AdBlue into the fuel tank, don’t start the car. The fuel tank will need to be drained as it could damage the engine and corrode fuel lines.

Despite the harm caused by pouring AdBlue in the fuel tank, most cars have the two inlets next to each other, though you can clearly tell them apart as the AdBlue cap is generally blue and the pipe is too small for a fuel filler.

DO I NEED ADBLUE FOR THE CAR TO RUN?

AdBlue isn’t required for the engine to work. However, because it keeps emissions within legal requirements, the car’s engine is programmed to stop working if there is insufficient AdBlue, or another liquid in the tank. You should get sufficient warning via your car’s multi-function display before this occurs.

WHAT IS ADBLUE CONSUMPTION LIKE?

The average car uses about 5 percent of AdBlue as it does diesel fuel, which is about a litre for every 1000km travelled. The storage tank is designed to be big enough so the AdBlue lasts within scheduled service intervals. If you run low before your next service, you can top it up yourself.

IS IT DIFFICULT TO TOP UP?

Topping up is as simple as refilling your window washer reservoir. However, while AdBlue is considered a non-hazardous liquid it is corrosive –be sure to wash any part of your body and the car paintwork affected by a spill. And don’t forget the above warning about getting it in your fuel tank.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

It’s relatively inexpensive when compared with something like motor oil. That said, the price can fluctuate based on the cost of urea production, which requires plenty of energy, mostly in the form of natural gas. Prices can also vary based on what car manufacturer you’re buying it from.

For a ballpark figure, we checked with a Volkswagen car dealer in Melbourne and found a 2.0-litre bottle costs $27.60, while for just $2.40 more you can get a 10-litre bottle. There are different brands so check if it’s suitable for your vehicle. If in doubt buy it from your car manufacturer.

AdBlue has a shelf life of at least 12 months so you could get a couple of top ups out of it.