Truck Emission System Failure: Most Common Signs

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Clean Trucks Plan to crack down on the amount of soot, smog, and other pollutants that are released from heavy-duty trucks and diesel engines. Truck emission system failure is more common than it should be, given trucks are designed with the capabilities to communicate when something is wrong.

What is the Clean Trucks Plan?

By definition, the Clean Trucks Plan is a series of clean air and climate policies that the agency will create and implement over the next few years to decrease the amount of pollution that is released from trucks and buses with heavy-duty engines to make way for a zero-emissions transportation future. Trucks emit a level of pollution that negatively affects the atmosphere, but without knowing this, it is hard to understand its severity and why regulations are in place to decrease pollutants. For this reason, it is vital to understand what the diesel fuel in trucks is made of, what pollutants it can produce, and signs a truck emission system is failing. Having this knowledge allows operators to be proactive and get repairs done to eliminate unwanted impurities and emission system failure.

What is diesel fuel, and what pollutants can it produce?

Diesel fuel consists of a combination of hydrocarbons that produces carbon dioxide and water vapor while the engine is revved up. The concentration level of each element depends on the load of the engine. The pollutants emitted from trucks typically come about due to insufficient combustion of fuel, reactive responses from high temperatures and pressure, and combustion of non-hydrocarbon elements that make their way into the fuel. Some of the most common pollutants include: 

  • Unburned hydrocarbons
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Particulate matter 

With truck fuel being made of the powerful elements it is made of, it develops a level of understanding of what it can do. Like most downsides, there are systems in place to decrease the chances. For instance, the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), dashboard warning lights, and unusual odors are in place to give operators a chance to know what may be going on under the hood. 

Signs of Emission System Failure

The emission system is what keeps the engine running cleanly and efficiently. To reiterate, it is in place to limit the pollutants that are released into the environment. If one component of the system isn't functioning appropriately, the engine will struggle to perform at maximum capacity, which can cause damage to the system as a whole over time. Some of the most common signs of emission system failure are: 

  • Reduced fuel economy
  • Dashboard warning lights
  • Bad exhaust smells
  • Loss in engine performance

Either one of these signs communicates there is an issue within the emission system. Inspection will be necessary, and procrastination will result in failure. Engine repair is costly and especially in heavy-duty trucks. Operators should be mindful of how the truck performs at all times by using their sense of smell and paying attention to warning lights such as the check engine notification.