2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel: DEF Jam V: Running It To Empty
April 13, 2015
It was that time again. The DEF gauge on our 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel was buried in the red zone. This time I decided to let it run way down for a couple of reasons.
First, I wanted to make sure it was low enough to accept three 2.5-gallon jugs, which are cheaper on a per-gallon basis than 1-gallon bottles. Last time I pulled the trigger too early and only had the confidence to add 6 gallons. For this go-around I made sure the DEF tank was empty enough to get into the no-restart countdown messages, figuring that would ensure that three 7.5-gallon jugs would fit.
Second, I wanted to see if the no-restart countdown warning was obnoxious and dire enough to trigger an EV-style range anxiety response in the pit of my stomach. Would I be sweating it or would it be no big deal?
I decided to add a twist to make it even more interesting. With the needle firmly in the red zone, I headed to the Arizona border to see a friend, hoping to coax the Ram into a warning somewhere along the way.
It worked, but not until I'd turned around and headed home. The 500-mile warning winked on just after I crossed over the Algondones Dunes, otherwise known to the dirtbike and sand rail crowd as Glamis.
It was a routine event on the level of a seatbelt warning. There was a chime and a message that hung around for 20 or 30 seconds, then winked off. A small dash icon winked on to indicate the truck had stored this message. At this point I was 220 miles from home. The office, where my trio of 2.5-gallon DEF jugs waited, was another 60 miles beyond that. This was going to be a piece of cake if the mileage countdown was at all accurate.
The warning came back on (and then faded) each time I stopped and re-started the engine on the way home, counting down in 10-mile increments. The truck was not going to let this slip my mind, but not in an annoying sort of way.
Sure enough, the countdown had dropped to 280 miles when I pulled into my driveway - plenty of remaining distance to take care of it in the next day or so at the office.
I'd ordered my DEF online a week prior. Amazon had shipped it out the next morning and it arrived one day after that. The cost: $11.97 per jug before tax. Shipping was free because I'm signed up for Amazon Prime.
Tax included, I paid $39.33 online for 7.5 gallons, cheaper than what it cost to buy 6 gallons at my local auto parts store the last time. And it came to my door.
My plan to run down the DEF into the warning zone was a good one. All 7.5 gallons fit, but just barely. I needed to slow way down while pouring the last gallon of the final jug to let the tank breathe so it wouldn't spit back. In the end, the DEF gauge was pegged past the Full mark.
I'm not OCD, but I can see how people that are would find all of this satisfying.
In the end we drove 6,858 miles at 914 miles per gallon. Based on the Amazon price, that works out to 0.52 cents per mile or about $5 every 1,000 miles.
Toward the end the countdown warnings were clear and effective, and there was never any feeling of urgency, no electric vehicle-style range anxiety about running out. After all, 500 miles is a long way. And the needle had nudged into the red some 750 miles before that. It's pretty hard to imagine someone being caught off-guard.
Besides, every decent-sized gas station and auto parts has the stuff on the shelf. Running it down like this is no big deal even if you miscalculate and have to buy some on the road.
The payoff here is I was able to pour in three complete jugs that I bought for cheap online and fill the tank without having any left over to take up space in the garage.
You don't have to fill it up, of course. It'd be even easier to buy one jug every couple months and be content keeping the needle somewhere in the middle. It's all so ridiculously easy that DEF maintenance is no reason to avoid diesel.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 27,941 miles