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The Insider: Feeling the (Ad)Blues

By / 3 years ago / Comment / No Comments

This month, I’m suffering from the AdBlues. Having read the available information, taken on board the published advice and informed our drivers well in advance, reality suggests we may have been misinformed. It was all supposed to be so easy.

Many new Euro6 engines need AdBlue, but it was suggested replenishment would be only roughly every 9,000 miles and likely to be topped up at a service; or if you were feeling handy, you could top it up yourself. Mind you, with service intervals often set at 12,500 and above, simple maths should have flagged that as optimistic.

The 9,000 miles estimate has proved somewhat different. Imagine our surprise when the warning light flashed on at just 3,000 miles from new on one vehicle. Tank capacity varies between manufacturer, although around 17 litres seems to be the norm. One of our drivers presented his line manager with a receipt for a just-in-case supply of 45 litres of the stuff – and then realised his was one of those cars requiring top up by a dealer. Money down the drain. He should have read the handbook first.

But the process is inconsistent. Some vehicles can indeed be topped up using fluid purchased and applied by the driver; but other manufacturers have mandated the car must be taken into the local dealer for replenishment, on a fill it while you wait basis. That’s going to be fun. When the manufacturer sells enough cars, expect to see a queue snaking down the street as we all await our turn. Dealers will have to take on extra employees just to add the AdBlue. And eventually you’ll have to book an appointment, which means if you leave it too late the car won’t start and you won’t be able to use it.

Then there was the hire car which announced it was out of AdBlue and would not restart unless it was refilled within the next 60 miles. That’s 60 miles from when it was delivered to us, so the dashboard countdown clearly wasn’t working on that one.

The driver rang the hire company, who suggested the car was taken to their nearest depot – which was fine, except the depot operatives said they hadn’t been trained to refuel AdBlue and refused to do so. They sent the perplexed driver to a local garage who got him on his way – but the dashboard counter wasn’t reset and so the light came on again, meaning the car would probably fail to start next time. Back to square one, at which point the hire company helpfully just swapped the car out for us.

And as for being told one particular car model required ‘special’ AdBlue – they had to be kidding; I mean, you know what this stuff is made of? It ‘goes off’ too, apparently, if you keep it too long.

As if I weren’t fed up enough of the subject already, someone had a further laugh at my expense when they jokingly said (and I fell for it at the time) that the fix for the cheating Volkswagens was to retrofit a very large AdBlue tank in the boot. I bet my face was a picture.

The only good advice I can give my drivers at the moment is “read the manufacturer’s handbook”. The silver lining to the AdBlue cloud is that if they do that, they may learn other important features about the car, otherwise overlooked. Is it just me, or does it grate on you too when someone gets into their diesel, puts the car in gear then starts the ignition and drives away at full pelt? I was always told that was really damaging to the engine.

The use of AdBlue technology helps breakdown harmful NOx so I accept that’s a good thing. Like countless other new initiatives, we’ll all soon get used to AdBlue and the only steam involved will be that involved in the tail end of the process, rather than that which is currently coming out of my ears!

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