Driving with an empty AdBlue tank: what are the consequences ?

May 12, 2024

Since 2016, most new diesel vehicles have been fitted with a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system to reduce their pollutant emissions. This system uses an aqueous urea solution called AdBlue, which is injected into the exhaust gases to transform harmful nitrogen oxides into harmless water vapour and nitrogen.  Why shouldn't you drive with an empty AdBlue tank?

What are the consequences of driving with an empty AdBlue tank?

Despite repeated warnings from car manufacturers, many diesel vehicle owners neglect the importance of maintaining an adequate level of AdBlue. Yet this neglect can have serious consequences, going far beyond a mere temporary inconvenience. But you can buy AdBlue at a cheaper price, so why take unnecessary risks? 

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Engine stoppage

The main consequence of driving with an empty AdBlue tank is that your vehicle's engine will stop. This is because a safety system prevents the engine from starting if the AdBlue level is too low. This prevents the vehicle from causing excessive pollution by releasing large quantities of harmful nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.

This drastic measure can come without warning, bringing your vehicle to a halt unexpectedly and potentially in less than ideal conditions. You could therefore find yourself in a delicate situation that requires emergency intervention to fill the AdBlue tank or have your vehicle towed.

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Engine damage

Apart from the temporary immobilisation, driving with an empty AdBlue tank can also cause irreversible damage to your engine. AdBlue plays an essential role in protecting the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) catalytic converter from high temperatures.

If the catalyst is not properly lubricated with AdBlue, it can overheat and be significantly damaged. This damage can lead to costly repairs, or even the need to replace the entire exhaust system, at considerable expense to the vehicle owner.

Hefty fines

Quite apart from the technical inconvenience, it is important to note that driving a vehicle with a faulty SCR system, even with an empty AdBlue tank, is an offence under French law. The competent authorities can impose a fine of up to €750 on drivers caught breaking the law.

This financial penalty is designed to dissuade motorists from neglecting to maintain their vehicles, thereby contributing to the deterioration in air quality by emitting excessive levels of pollutants.

Refusal to undergo roadworthiness tests

Last but not least, your vehicle will not be allowed to pass the mandatory roadworthiness test if the AdBlue level is too low or if the SCR system is defective. Roadworthiness test centres are obliged to check that this anti-pollution system is working properly, and to refuse to validate the vehicle if there are any anomalies.

A refusal at a roadworthiness test can lead to further administrative complications, as well as the impossibility of putting your vehicle on the road legally until the problem has been resolved.

How can I avoid AdBlue-related problems?

To avoid AdBlue-related problems, it is important to monitor your vehicle's AdBlue level and recharge it regularly. Most vehicles have a warning light that comes on when the AdBlue level is low. You can also check the AdBlue level manually. You can buy AdBlue at most service stations and car centres.

All in all, driving with an empty AdBlue tank can have serious consequences, including engine stoppage, engine damage, fines and failure to pass roadworthiness tests. It is therefore important to monitor your vehicle's AdBlue level and recharge it regularly.

In addition to the above points, it is important to note that :

  • AdBlue consumption is generally around 1 litre per 1000 km.
  • The price of AdBlue is around €2 per litre.
  • It is important to use only quality AdBlue that complies with the ISO 22241 standard.

By following these simple tips, you can avoid AdBlue-related problems and keep your diesel vehicle running smoothly.