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Driver who serviced car wasn’t prepared for Drive Clean headache

Published March 4, 2013
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Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: My car was serviced on Jan. 11 then failed Drive Clean on Jan. 21 as my vehicle’s computer indicated “not ready.”

They said a new OBD e-test is now used and, if your car was serviced (e.g. battery replaced), it’s a minimum of two weeks before the on-board computer will reset for Drive Clean.

So, because of Drive Clean’s newest swindle, motorists might end up ticketed for expired plates because their car was “not ready” for an e-test needed to renew their sticker.

A: While I sympathize, Wheels readers were forewarned last year of the new Drive Clean OBD (on-board diagnostics) test coming in 2013. I even advised that those requiring an e-test in 2013 could avoid possible dire consequences by preemptively taking the old dyno test in 2012 since tests are valid for one year.

Many who had a lit “check engine” light followed my advice, and bypassed the new OBD test – which considers that an automatic fail – until 2015.

More: Drive Clean changes causing big headaches

More: Avoid an unnecessary emissions test. Here’s how

Readers were cautioned that disconnecting the battery or clearing trouble codes with a scanner would result in an automatic OBD e-test fail as the system would indicate “not ready.”

Even if your battery wasn’t replaced, it may have been disconnected for safety reasons during vehicle servicing – thereby clearing the on-board computer.

On Feb. 7, Drive Clean announced that motorists who fail twice for “not ready” can receive a “readiness conditional pass” provided 24 hours have elapsed before the second test, it’s been driven at least 30 km more, battery not disconnected nor OBD codes cleared in last 30 km.

So, one way or another (clear pass or conditional), your Drive Clean ordeal for this plate renewal should be over at your retest. If the “check engine” light is on though, you will fail and have to spend up to $450 on repairs.

If your plates have expired, you can purchase a temporary “T” sticker, valid for 10 days, to keep driving your vehicle legally until it passes Drive Clean.

Without a temporary validation, you can indeed be ticketed if driving with expired plates.

Mohamed Bouchama of Carhelpcanada.com, a non-profit consumer group, adds:

The new OBD e-test is also causing great difficulty for used car dealerships as many vehicles with a lit “check engine” light easily passed the previous dyno test, but now this is an automatic fail – making such vehicles unsellable. It’s also not uncommon for dealers to replace a battery, so now these cars will have to be driven for a few days before they can obtain a Drive Clean pass and be delivered to the buyer – if they’re willing to wait.

Drive Clean does little, if any, good for the environment. It’s my opinion that consumer interest is best served if the program is eliminated entirely.

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