By Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you’ve been following the saga of stranded RVers, it reads like a Shakespeare tragedy. But unlike the outcomes for Cleopatra or Macbeth, some of you may find light at the end of story. A group of intrepid, like-minded, never-say-die RVers in two months have put together a solution that some may find gets their RVs on the road again. From all appearances, it’s a failed DEF sensor workaround.
Not a moment too soon
For some, it couldn’t come a moment too soon. A couple of weeks ago we wrote that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and diesel engine manufacturers had come up with a “fix” of their own. In our opinion, the fix wasn’t their idea. It was, rather, the result of bombardment by RVers and others affected by the DEF sensor debacle. Admittedly, a world-wide shortage of microchips has exacerbated the situation. But not until the EPA and industry were bullied a bit by RVers who’d been sidelined by the problem did they ever come to the decision to take action. Action, we add, that was originally suggested by RVers themselves. Their suggestion was to simply write a piece of software code that would allow rigs with defective DEF sensors to continue to operate without the mandatory “de-rating” that would slow them down to a snail’s pace five miles per hour.
The government solution? A statement issued by the EPA says, in part, “The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) on behalf of its member companies has proposed an industry wide approach that would provide a software solution for vehicles with failed parts to enable them to operate temporarily while the industry works to produce more replacement parts and that, long term, would provide replacement parts through a recall program … The manufacturers must still develop new software code and test it to ensure the software can be installed on vehicles in the field. The companies expect that they will be able to begin fixing some vehicles with failed sensors as soon as this week.” Yeah, you read it right: a software patch – just like RVers had suggested on their own.
Cummins’ talk: “An appropriate time”
That EPA statement was issued 11 days ago. To date, we’ve not heard of any engine manufacturer, Cummins or other, who has come forward to fix ANY vehicles. Last Friday one of our readers received this statement from John Tyner, Cummins’ “Customer Advocacy Leader”: “We are awaiting full approval of the regulatory agencies and are working on the communication strategy in tandem. You will receive a communication at the appropriate time according to the strategy determined between Cummins and the OEMs.”
While Cummins, the EPA, and others were hearing cries from sidelined RVers and apparently dragging their feet, other RVers weren’t just sending emails to them. They were working behind the scenes to come up with a solution. From all over the country, these folks heard about the problem and found each other on the internet. Many of them were tech-savvy, and in less than two months, working peacefully together, they developed a practical DEF-sensor workaround. It didn’t require a boatload of money, nor near-fistfights over approaches. In the end, the efforts of their labor won’t be garnering them motorhomes full of cash. Today, their DEF-sensor simulator is being released free to the public.
What’s it do?
What is a DEF sensor simulator? Simply put, it’s an electronic device that plugs into your RV. If your DEF sensor has gone bad and is telling your engine computer that something is wrong with the DEF system, the engine computer will send you into de-rate mode. If you’ve experienced it, you know it means trouble. You’ll soon lose engine power, and you’ll be forced to get off the road. You’re stuck waiting until whenever parts become available.
The DEF sensor simulator tells the engine that all is well with the DEF system. As a result, the engine computer won’t take that nasty de-rate action. Yes, you’ll need to keep DEF in the system. And you’ll need to check it manually, as you won’t be getting a warning that your DEF level is low. Once the EPA and industry get it together, you can get their software patch – then hope that parts become available soon.
Easy to follow
The DEF sensor workaround group has set up a website that’s rich with easy-to-follow instructions, videos, photos, diagrams, and part sources. Anyone can access the website. You don’t need a membership, and you won’t need a VISA card to get the information you need. What do you need? Here’s a lift from the “Quick Build” page:
“While there are many variations of hardware and software for this project, this page focuses on one method that is proven to work on the majority of tested motorhomes and endeavors to keep the construction process as straightforward as possible.
“Only basic electrical and DIY skills are required for the hardware assembly, no soldering is needed. The software installation in this procedure requires a Windows system and only involves typing some simple commands.”
Run into trouble? You’ll be able to contact the developers for advice in getting a working DEF sensor simulator.
To those who charge that this DEF sensor workaround is illegal, here’s a statement from the development group: “Modifying emissions systems to defeat their purpose is not legal. The DSS [DEF Sensor Simulator] is NOT a means to defeat the DEF system, a DEF system ‘Delete’ or in any way provide a means to discontinue use of the emissions system on your diesel powered equipment.” The developers are not offering any legal advice, as they say this should be viewed as a temporary fix. They strongly recommend that users get a new sensor when available or to take advantage of the Cummins solution as soon as possible.
So how can you get the information you need to build and install this DEF sensor workaround? Here’s the link to the DEF Sensor Simulator webpage.
One final note. If you’re somebody who’s retired from their “old job” and feeling a bit like the horse that’s been put out to pasture, think about this. The folks that developed this simulator that may help hundreds, if not thousands, of RVers out of a jam are not 30-something techies. They have an average age above 60. Look around. There may be ways you can put your skills to work for others, too.