Half of cars fail new test: mechanics
Ontario's new DriveClean vehicle emissions test process is supposed to be quicker and more accurate, but instead it's giving some independent and dealer garages a major headache.
Under the new DriveClean guidelines introduced this January, vehicles from model years 1998 and newer will undergo an OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) test instead of an emissions test directly at the tailpipe.
A government-approved OBD test unit, plugged in under your dashboard, monitors the self-tests your vehicle performs on its own emissions control systems while driving, and checks for signs of tampering at the same time, so the test can't be cheated.
Garages who beta-tested the new DriveClean process before its province-wide release were told it would take roughly ten minutes, but that didn't include the driving required to reset the car's on-board computers.
"It was marketed as a faster, hassle-free way to test vehicle emissions, but dealers are finding that's often not the case," Frank Notte, director of government relations for Ontario's Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), told Autos by Sympatico.
According to the Ontario government's DriveClean website, a day or two of normal city and highway driving should prep the car for its emissions test, but to be on the safe side, it suggests putting the car through a detailed five-step process.
Some garages are finding it takes days of driving around – and sometimes up to 20 pre-test steps, depending on the car's make – for a car's computer to reset itself so that it can pass the test.
Mechanics in Ottawa told the CBC about half of all vehicles, even new ones, fail the test the first time.
"In a lot of cases, it's delaying the delivery of the vehicle to the consumer," Notte explains how the test has impacted dealership garages. "The car buyer gets worried the dealer is being dishonest, or that there's something wrong with the car."
The old test took about half an hour and could be performed on a car at any time.
Vehicles less than seven years old are typically exempt from the test, but dealerships are required to put resale or used vehicles through the DriveClean regardless of their age.
TADA is asking the Ontario government to make some sort of change to the DriveClean test, which they complain isn't working and is forcing car owners to "add hundreds of kilometers on their new vehicle, wasting time and gasoline."
At the very least they would like the seven-year exemption broadened to new and used cars – something they've been asking for for years – or for the DriveClean OBD software to be fixed or upgraded.
"DriveClean had indicated to us there may be some problems, but they didn't expect them to be big problems, and they mainly expected them on older vehicles," Notte says. "But already too many dealers have reported too many horror stories to us."
(CBC and TADA)