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AdBlue: A guide for fleet managers

By Amanda | 18-02-2019

Maintaining your AdBlue levels is key to keeping your business fleet on the road

What is AdBlue?

AdBlue is a brand name for an additive that is used to clean up diesel emissions known as selective catalytic reduction (SCR).

The solution, also known as diesel exhaust fluid, is fairly new technology and is used to treat exhaust gases and remove harmful pollutants, including Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), of which nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the most harmful. It is biodegradable, water soluble and colourless. It has been used for a number of years in commercial vehicles (since 2002) and most recently came into force for diesel cars too. Here at Arrow Self Drive most of our commercial vehicles require AdBlue, with the exception of Fiats, which emit fewer gases from their exhaust systems and are therefore compliant without the need for additives.

The AdBlue fluid is stored in the tank of the vehicle and has its own funnel to put the fluid into, but unlike petrol or diesel it is not injected into the engine; instead, it is fed into part of the vehicle’s exhaust. A chemical reaction converts the harmful NOx exhaust gases into harmless nitrogen and water.

Why do we need it?

AdBlue was developed in response to an emissions regulation put in place by the EU to protect air quality and the health of the population by reducing harmful emissions.

All diesel cars and vans registered after September 1, 2015, have to emit a maximum of 80mg/km of NOx.  To be compliant, you will need to keep your AdBlue levels maintained at all times.

How and when do we top it up?

A warning light in the cab comes on signaling when a top-up is needed. It is imperative that you do not ignore these warnings, but act immediately and top up to the manufacturers recommended level.

Consumption varies from one vehicle to another and can also depend on driving style; the more economical drivers are, the slower it will be used up. Some diesel vehicles need a top-up every 3,000-4,000 miles, whilst some manufacturers claim that their vehicles require a top-up every 12,500 miles (fitting with the service interval of some, but not all, models)

Usage for trucks

The average use of AdBlue versus diesel for tucks is 4 to 8%

Local distribution: Approximately 500L per annum

National distribution: Approximately 1,000L per annum

When we bring your vehicle into our workshops for its scheduled service we will automatically top up your AdBlue and charge you for your usage. But in the meantime, we suggest that you maintain your own levels by topping up every time you fill up on fuel.

Availability and cost

AdBlue is widely available in 5,10 and 20L cans, 200L drums and 1000L Intermediate Bulk containers (IBC’s) or via designated AdBlue dispensing systems.

Most truck stops and some service stations have AdBlue at dispensing pumps.  Alternatively, you can buy portable containers at garages and filling stations and supermarkets or you can purchase it online at Amazon or Halfords. Prices start at roughly £1 per litre if bought in small amounts but can be much less if you run a large fleet and buy in bulk.

What happens if it runs out?

If the warning light is ignored and the AdBlue runs out, the vehicle will lose power and will not restart until it is replenished. The engine may or may not shut down, but some engines automatically limit engine performance when AdBlue supplies are depleted.

If your engine is equipped with SCR technology your vehicle will reduce its emission according to legal standards. Emission legislation allows only small amounts of NOx. If you exceed this limit when running without AdBlue, you may be running illegal limits and be liable for penalties.

If your vehicle has shut down there will be no permanent damage to the vehicle but it will cost you in terms of time and money. For a start you will need to have your vehicle recovered, secondly, the vehicle will need to be taken back to the dealership for it to be reset and filled up (at a cost) All the time you be incurring off-road costs and will be one vehicle down until it is ready to go again. We advise drivers to keep a supply on board and keep an eye on their vehicle’s warning light to monitor any depleting levels.


For users with bulk usage, there is a wide variety of storage and dispensing options, starting with a 210-litre drum fitted with a hand-operated pump, ranging right up to a 15,000-litre bulk tank fitted with overflow and spill alarms, plus a telemetry system that places repeat orders when stock level reaches a pre-determined minimum. The volume of AdBlue consumed will determine which option is the most appropriate. An IBC holding 1,000 litres is a convenient method of storing and dispensing AdBlue for small fleets. The point where AdBlue consumption exceeds one IBC per month is reckoned to be where it justifies investment in a storage tank. A typical tractor unit will consume AdBlue at the rate of 4-8% of diesel consumption.

There are no specific regulations applying to the storage of AdBlue. The Environment Agency has issued a set of guidelines which you can access through their website.

According to the Environment Agency, AdBlue,  if stored correctly - “poses minimal risk to operators and a limited risk to the environment.” Nevertheless, the Agency adds that AdBlue is “very polluting to surface water and groundwater” so there are guidelines if you have a spillage and failure to follow them means there is a risk to a water source, it has powers under the Anti-Pollution Works Regulations 1999 to issue a works notice forcing the necessary improvements to be made.

The quality of AdBlue is of the utmost importance. Contamination can result in damage to your SCR catalyst or after treatment and increases in harmful emission.


  • Protect AdBlue against any contamination at all times
    • (fuel, oil, water, dust, dirt, metals, detergent etc.)
    • Don’t put anything inside the AdBlue container. This will • compromise quality.
    • Make sure that you do not mix AdBlue with diesel or any • other liquids.
    • Do not try to mix your own AdBlue, urea quality is very
    • important.
    • If you use a jug or vessel to transport AdBlue, make sure • that it is clean. Do not use vessels that have previously • been used to transport diesel or oil.
    • Use AdBlue dedicated materials instead.

What do I do when I have accidentally put AdBlue in my diesel tank?

Do not start your engine!

Depending on the amount of AdBlue, you may damage your engine when you start it. You should empty and clean your tank. You will have to empty the whole tank and discard the mixture.

For further instructions on emptying and cleaning your tank, please contact your vehicle supplier.

What do I do when I have accidentally put diesel in my AdBlue tank?

Do not start your engine!

Even the slightest drop of diesel will pollute the AdBlue in your tank. One drop of diesel will pollute up to 20 litres of AdBlue. Running with polluted AdBlue will disrupt your SCR system. To prevent further damage to your vehicle, it is best to contact your vehicle manufacturer. You may need to replace certain AdBlue components.

If you are a customer and need any assistance or have questions relating to AdBlue, please call our workshops and we will help in any way we can.




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