How to Use DEF: A Handling Guide

Diesel Exhaust Fluid is an incredibly useful liquid — so useful that it’s now legally required in all diesel vehicles.

To get the most out of DEF, you need to understand how to handle and use it. DEF is chemically fragile, so it must be treated with the utmost care. To help you handle this fluid appropriately, here’s everything you need to know about DEF storage, transfer, and transport.

Is DEF Hazardous?

Fortunately, DEF isn’t hazardous and won’t burn, stain, or otherwise harm individuals who come into contact with it. As a result, there’s no special protective gear required to handle DEF. However, it’s still important for anyone handling DEF to do so with care.

Why Is It Important to Handle DEF Correctly?

DEF is chemically fragile and can become contaminated extremely easily. When exposed to oxygen, molecules in DEF undergo a chemical reaction, making he resulting mixture it less pure. The less pure the fluid is, the less effective it is.

Additionally, subpar fluid can void your Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system’s warranty, leading to expenses down the road should the system need repair. Speaking of the SCR system, each vehicle has a built-in onboard diagnostics (OBD) tool, which monitors the SCR system’s status. If the system’s not working efficiently due to subpar fluid, the OBD can switch your vehicle into crawler mode.

What Kind of Containers Should Be Used?

DEF can interact with solid material as well as liquid and gas, so it’s crucial that containers be made of compatible material. Both high-density polyethylene plastic and stainless steel can be used in storage, as they won’t instigate a chemical reaction.

While, in theory, you can hold fluid in any container comprised of these materials, it’s advised to use containers specifically made for DEF storage. Storage tanks should have the following:

  • Opaqueness to protect from sunlight
  • Airtight seal to prevent air from entering
  • Durability to withstand long-term storage

How Should You Store DEF?

Maintaining a consistent temperature within the appropriate range is essential to keeping your DEF as effective as possible. In the heat, water evaporates; since DEF contains a large amount of water, this can negatively impact the purity. If evaporation has occurred, the fluid should be disposed of, and the container drained.

Additionally, heat exceeding 24 degree Celsius can negatively impact shelf life, so it’s advisable to store DEF at room temperature. At 24 degree Celsius , fluid can remain viable for up to two years. At 32 degree Celsius , that decreases to one year, and at 35 degree Celsius , it decreases to six months. Extreme cold is also an issue.

To learn more about managing DEF in freezing conditions, read our other article, Tips For Handling Diesel Exhaust Fluid in Cold Weather.

Additionally, you shouldn’t store DEF in a humid environment or direct sunlight. Even if the containers used are opaque, it’s advisable to store them away from windows.

How Should You Handle DEF When Filling Tanks?

Tanks are generally filled using pumps powered by electricity or air. Funnels and other equipment not made specifically for handling DEF should not be used.

How Should DEF Be Transported?

Due to the fragile nature of DEF, it should be transported in the appropriate tanks and secured to prevent excessive movement. Professionals, such as those employed by Blue Network, are trained to carefully manage fluid enroute to ensure its purity upon arrival.

Does DEF Equipment Need Maintenance?

Like any equipment, accessories used to store, transfer, or transport DEF should be maintained with regular inspection. If you notice any damage, the equipment should be repaired or replaced immediately to prevent an impact on the fluid quality.

Any cleaning should be done with de-ionized water. This ensures that no minerals are left behind that may interact with the fluid.

What Should You Do If There’s a Spill?

Occasionally, you may have a spill during transfer. DEF isn’t corrosive, which means it won’t damage equipment should it come into contact with it. However, it’s important to clean up spills, as the area can become slippery and may cause a fall. Be sure to always wear personal protective equipment, such as protective gloves, when cleaning minor or major spills*.

If fluid is spilled on equipment or vehicles, it can be washed away with water. Should it be spilled on the ground or other areas where it may be absorbed, dilute the fluid by generously hosing the area with water. Otherwise, you can use sand or other absorbent, non-combustible material to absorb the fluid and easily dispose of it. Although DEF is non-hazardous, it shouldn’t be poured down the drain or sewers.

What Should You Do If the Fluid Is Contaminated?

Contaminated fluid should be disposed of immediately. The tank and any other accessories the fluid came into contact with should be cleaned before their next use to prevent further contamination.

How Can You Prevent Contamination?

The best way to prevent contamination is only to use DEF with your DEF-related equipment. Additionally, ensure that tanks are properly sealed and stored after every use.

Are you looking for a Diesel Exhaust Fluid provider? Blue Network is proud to supply locations all over Canada. For more information, give us a call at 1-888-732-6668 or contact us online.

* As recommended by our Safety Data Sheet (SDS), please follow the instructions according to the size of your spills.

For minor spills: Clean up all spills immediately. Avoid breathing vapours and contact with skin and eyes. Control personal contact with the substance, by using protective equipment. Contain and absorb spill with sand, earth, inert material or vermiculite. Wipe up. Place in a suitable, labelled container for waste disposal.

For major spills: Clear area of personnel and move upwind. Alert Fire Brigade and tell them location and nature of hazard. Control personal contact with the substance, by using protective equipment. Prevent spillage from entering drains, sewers or water courses. Recover product wherever possible. Put residues in labelled containers for disposal. If contamination of drains or waterways occurs, advise emergency services.

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