Close this search box.

The eco-friendly buddy: what’s the particulate filter for?

It’s widely known that any vehicle has many components that are essential and necessary for its proper functioning. The particulate filter is no exception. Understand more about this vital component.

Man driving a car through the fog

Particulate filter: what it is and what’s used for

“How can I clean the particulate filter?”. Or “How can I regenerate the particulate filter?”. All these questions are valid when talking about this component, so we understand your doubts.

But don’t worry. We have the answers.

An eco-friendly component

The particulate filter is one of the many components in your car, located in the exhaust pipe. Its primary function is to trap solid residues — harmful to the environment — generated by diesel engines and, more recently, by gasoline engines too.

The particulate filter traps these residues in an inner mesh. As such, the component must be emptied frequently to ensure the best possible performance.

But how does that happen? By burning off its waste.

This emptying process has a specific name: filter regeneration (don’t worry, you’ll understand this in a bit).

If the filter is in good condition, it can retain up to 80% of these substances (cancerous for people, as they’re so small and enter our bodies through the air).

Ensuring that the particulate filter is in good condition is essential for everyone’s health, including the vehicle’s. But how do you know this? By scheduling a maintenance appointment or by speaking to your mechanic.

When to replace the particulate filter

The particulate filter’s health also depends on your trips’ length — so you shouldn’t make short trips only (especially if you have a diesel car).

Remember that particulates burn at high temperatures — if you make short trips, the particulate filter cannot reach the ideal temperature to burn off the residues.

You should make a more extended trip each week to allow the component to reach higher temperatures. Maintain a speed between 62 to 68 mph (100 to 110 km/h). This way, the vehicle reaches the ideal temperature for the particulate filter to burn off the malicious substances.

The right timing

You should replace the particulate filter at around 118,060 mph (190,000 km) — a milestone that serves both diesel and gasoline vehicles.

Until then, if you mix short trips with long ones, you’ll certainly preserve the health and proper functioning of the component.

Note that some particulate filters use a specific oil recommended by the manufacturer. If your vehicle is one of those, you should load the additive directly in the workshop.

Parts of a disassembled car at the mechanic's

How to clean the particulate filter: 3 ways to do it

You’ve already understood the importance of keeping the particulate filter in good condition, right?

To use the component so that it doesn’t compromise the proper functioning of the vehicle (whose turbo and tires must be preserved), it must regenerate frequently.

But please don’t check or even clean the particulate filter without professional supervision. Instead, visit your trusted mechanic to have them assess the health of the component there.

They’ll then assess the type of cleaning to do.

1. Heat treatment

“How can I clean the particulate filter?”. That’s a common question.

Heat treatment cleaning is the way to go in most cases. It’s when a professional submerges the component in a specific detergent to ensure the filter is thoroughly cleaned — to weld it back on later.

2. Additives cleaning

Professionals use detergents, pressurized water, and other cleaning products in this case. As the cleaning is done, the particles come out of the filter, which ends up being clean and unclogged (since this is the only way it works properly).

3. Ultrasonic cleaning

Last but not least, the particulate filter can also be cleaned by ultrasound.

In this case, professionals place the component in an ultrasonic machine that, using its own vibrations and also high-temperature water, extracts the particles from the filter.

This is an important time for a professional to assess the particulate filter’s condition. Unfortunately, the truth is that the component can no longer be cleaned in some cases because it’s not in good condition.

At such times, the professional will even have to assess whether it’s better to replace the component — which is most likely to happen at these times. This is the only way to avoid affecting the car’s operation.

Remember to ask someone to clean the particulate filter every 621 mph (100,000 km) or when the engine light (on the dashboard) turns on.

Can the particulate filter be cleaned on the go?

Yes, it can happen without human intervention. We call this (active or passive) regeneration of the particulate filter. Learn how to tell them apart.

Active Regeneration Cleaning

Active regeneration happens when the filter’s capacity reaches its limit — around 45%.

At that point, the vehicle increases fuel injection into the combustion to raise the gases’ temperature, which consequently burns the harmful residues. At such times, you may notice:

  • The cooling fans running;
  • The “Start/Stop” deactivation;
  • Increased fuel consumption;
  • A different odor coming from the exhaust pipe.

Passive Regeneration Cleaning

If you drive on highways, the exhaust pipe temperature is much higher, so the burning of residues happens naturally (passive regeneration).

This regeneration uses Adblue, a specific additive. This liquid facilitates the burning of harmful substances at a lower temperature than the one required in active regeneration.

You’ll find this additive in a tank next to the fuel tank, which is automatically mixed with the fuel whenever the vehicle is filled up. So just go to a gas station when you need to fill up with Adblue.

What about gasoline cars? Do they have particulate filters?

Many people have this question, but the answer is yes.

The particulate filter in gasoline cars was implemented in 2017, thanks to the Euro 6c standard.

This European Union imposition focuses on reducing emissions of polluting gases into the atmosphere (from gasoline cars, which use passive regeneration). And the goal is to reduce to one-tenth the number of particles emitted.

So don’t forget: everything involving vehicles needs close and regular maintenance. And cleaning (or replacing) the particulate filter is no exception.