By Scott Linden
“Limp mode” is looming. And while there’s still concern among diesel pusher and pickup owners over the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) sensor issue, it may soon pale by comparison to a shortage of the primary ingredient in DEF itself. Worldwide supply chain problems may soon make it difficult for American RVers to get the critical fluid, sidelining their rigs and travel plans.
China is the number-one producer of urea, a key ingredient in fertilizer, and diesel exhaust fluid. Anticipating food shortages, that country is restricting its export of the compound, forcing many other users of the product to get in line for what’s left. That cascade effect is currently impacting trucking in Australia and agriculture in South Korea. America’s trucking industry is also anticipating a shortage, according to Vitaliy Dadalyan of A2C Logistics, a Chicago cargo brokerage firm.
Prices are already going up here, and with agriculture and trucking the principal users it stands to reason RVers may be left holding the (empty) bag as supplies shrink. That blinking light on your dashboard threatening to limit your speed to 5 mph may make more frequent appearances.
The U.S. may be better off than many countries, as Canada provides much of our urea, a derivative of ammonia. But as worldwide shipping and production pipelines constrict, high-volume users could start a bidding war or hoard supplies, leading to empty shelves at auto parts and big-box stores. Adding to the threat: hurricanes have damaged many Gulf Coast plants.
What can an RVer do now? Lay in a supply and store carefully. Top off your DEF tank when possible, at truck stops selling in bulk. DEF should be stored away from temperature fluctuations, between 86 degrees and 12 degrees, Fahrenheit. Keep jug caps tightly closed to prevent contamination and evaporation (the fluid’s only other ingredient is distilled water). Store in original containers, as it could corrode steel, carbon and aluminum tanks or bottles.
Don’t. Just don’t.
And what about the old wives’ tale of peeing in your DEF tank? Human urine contains a much different urea content than is required for the making of DEF. It also contains additional compounds and dissolved ions that a diesel engine’s catalytic reduction system (SCR) cannot handle. On top of the differences in chemical makeup, human urine has a much higher concentration of water (95%, while DEF is 67.5% de-ionized water).
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