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What is AdBlue?

By Amanda | 03-07-2018

With the new Euro6 emissions regulations coming into play from April 2018 onwards, the usage of AdBlue is increasing rapidly, but for those motorists who have no idea what it is, which vehicles it is for, and how to use it, we've provided a comprehensive guide below.


What is AdBlue?

When diesel engines burn fuel, they release a range of polluting compounds and chemicals into the atmosphere. One of the ways the automotive industry has tried to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants escaping into the atmosphere is via a process known as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which is designed to remove these oxides from exhaust gas.

Despite SCR proving to be highly effective, it does require small amounts of liquid solution to be injected into the exhaust - this is AdBlue. AdBlue consists of a liquid solution of urea. When it reacts with a hot exhaust system, it releases ammonia, which in turn produces a chemical reaction that converts dangerous Nitrogen Oxides into harmless water vapour and Nitrogen. These harmless gases can be released safely from a car exhaust without causing any damage to the atmosphere.

How does AdBlue work?

AdBlue works on a metered system pre-set by your vehicle's manufacturer, meaning all you need to know if when your vehicle needs more of the solution, and how to fill it up. You can find instructions in your vehicle's handbook

Is AdBlue safe to handle?

AdBlue is a safe product composed of 67.5% de-ionised water and 32.5% urea. Automotive urea is not the same as human urea, it is a man made substance created by exposing synthetic ammonia and carbon dioxide to heat. Although it’s non-toxic, AdBlue is corrosive and can cause irritation to your skin, eyes and lungs, so always wash your hands after filling. It's also important to rinse any spills from your car’s bodywork  as it can damage paintwork.

Does my vehicle use SCR technology?

If you drive a heavy goods vehicle such as a truck, coach or bus, your vehicle will have been using SCR technology from as early as 2004, and some car manufacturers such as Mercedes and VW have been using it in their diesel passenger cars for nearly as long.

News of the latest Euro VI emissions regulations from the European Commission have catapulted SCR technology to the forefront of passenger car technology. The Euro VI regulations introduced in 2014/15 require nitrogen oxide emissions to be reduced by a huge 56% compared to Euro V levels. This means that most diesel engines over 1.6-litres in capacity will require an AdBlue tank in future.

Why might I need to use AdBlue?

AdBlue was previously only a dealer service item. Cars would go the necessary 10,000 miles between services, and mechanics would then access the sealed tank containing AdBlue and top it up accordingly. However, in the past few years service intervals have risen and vehicles are now subject to a weight penalty - carrying up to 60-litres of AdBlue affects CO2 emissions and company car tax rates. So, if you have AdBlue in your vehicle in the future, it will need to be in a much smaller tank, and you may need to start topping it up yourself.

How will I know when to use AdBlue?

It is predicted that an average mid-sized family diesel car will consume around a litre of AdBlue every 600 miles. At present, tanks of AdBlue vary in size from 5-20 litres, meaning a high mileage diesel driver might have to top up their AdBlue levels fairly frequently.

Cars will be built to monitor AdBlue consumption and you'll receive a series of dashboard warnings as the level starts to drop. Once the AdBlue has been used up, a car may not start until the tank is refilled, so it is important not to ignore the warnings.

How do I use AdBlue?

Using AdBlue is simple. On most cars, the AdBlue filler cap is located next to the diesel filler.. In older cars, the AdBlue filler cap might be located inside the vehicle or under the bonnet. Refer to your handbook to find its exact location.

AdBlue is widely available in sizable containers which dispense without drips, from local dealers and shops such as Halfords or Amazon. It's worth shopping around for the best price, but in general a litre should cost you around £1.50.

When buying AdBlue, you should check it meets the correct specification. Look for the ISO 22241 number on the packaging. This may also appear as ISO-22241-1, ISO-22241-2, ISO-22241-3. This will ensure the AdBlue doesn’t damage your car’s SCR catalyst – a costly repair.

Most cars will require you to add a minimum amount of AdBlue (usually around 3-5 litres) when refilling - this should then remove the warning message from your car's dashboard.

Does my car use AdBlue?

The newer your car, the more likely it will use AdBlue to reduce its emissions. New models launched in 2016 onwards will almost definitely use AdBlue.

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