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Drive Clean tweaks test process after driver complaints

Published February 8, 2013
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In response to complaints from drivers and dealers — highlighted by several stories and columns in Wheels — the province is tweaking its controversial Drive Clean testing process.

Effective immediately, Drive Clean will now allow a conditional pass to be issued after two “not ready” tests, under certain conditions.

As of Jan. 1, Drive Clean tests have tapped into the vehicle’s OBD (on-board diagnostics) system, instead of using a dynamometer and tailpipe gas sensor. Readings from your car’s computer determine whether it’s an emissions pass, fail, or “not ready” (also considered a fail).

More: Drive Clean changes causing big headaches

More: Drive Clean test has outlived its usefulness

I sounded the alarm in a column even before the new test began and Wheels has been turning up the heat ever since. Frank Romeo, who writes our Dealer column and is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, has been chronicling the mounting frustration among dealers.

Dealers, because of the sheer volume of e-tests they require, were infuriated that newer used cars (unlikely to fail for emissions) couldn’t pass the e-test because the OBD system was “not ready” — usually because the vehicle’s battery had been disconnected or the OBD reset during repairs or maintenance.

And Drive Clean’s suggested driving cycle to prepare vehicles for the test was both time consuming and didn’t always work.

Some horror stories include a 2008 VW Jetta owner who had a “not ready” failure. He drove 1,000 km, yet the OBD still wasn’t ready on the re-test. Another motorist drove for two weeks, still tested “not ready,” and feared not being able to renew his plate on time.

Peter Gerson of GB Auto Service in Thornhill advises that certain vehicle makes apparently cannot pass the OBD test and instead require a two-speed idle (gas analyzer) test.

The inherent problem with OBD testing is that it doesn’t take into account the effects of winter temperatures on vehicles, says Gerson. The evaporative system may not operate fully in cold weather, so the on-board computer can never complete the self-test and give the monitor a “ready” status.

Under the changes announced Thursday, a conditional pass can be issued after two “not ready” tests, provided that:

-At least 24 hours have passed between tests.

-The vehicle has been driven at least 30 km between tests.

-The battery was not disconnected nor OBD codes cleared within the last 30 km.

-The number of “not ready” monitors hasn’t increased.

As a result, the total e-test cost is $52.50 ($35 test plus $17.50 retest).

Resale vehicles that have failed twice for “not ready” can pass a two-speed idle tailpipe test instead. However, not all Drive Clean facilities are equipped for such tests.

In that scenario, the total e-test cost is $87.50 ($35 OBD test, plus $17.50 retest, plus $35 two-speed idle test).

However, the changes do not apply to vehicles with the “check engine” light illuminated, which remains an automatic fail and must be investigated and corrected.

For additional information go to driveclean.com or call 1-888-758-2999.

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