October 3, 2001

TT #27 Ontario Drive Clean Emission Control Testing Program

By: Rob Lowe

Technical Tips #27 


 Notes And Updates: Ontario's Drive Clean has adopted a revised approach to Emission Testing which no longer uses the dynamometer to road test the vehicle. With the increasingly sophisticated on board diagnostic (OBD 11) systems, emission compliance can be determined by querying the computer. This method is more accurate, less demanding of time and less expensive to obtain the required documentation to allow licence (title) renewal.

Ontario Drive Clean will expand its coverage areas in 2001

We live in an area that has required that a Drive Clean inspection be completed before licence renewal. I will be required to have our motorhome tested prior to our next license renewal. In 2001 the Province will be expanding the areas covered, and. this expansion of areas covered will continue to grow each subsequent year. Many people are unaware that motorhomes are required to be tested, thus I thought a review of the program might be helpful for everyone. Any vehicle older than three years is required to be tested. The most up-to-date information can be obtained from the Drive Clean website at www.driveclean.com The following is a summary of the information I obtained from this web site, with my comments added in italics.

How is the Drive Clean test done? 
At an accredited Drive Clean facility, an approved inspector will drive your car or light-duty truck onto a dynamometer. This machine is like a treadmill that allows the vehicle to be "driven" on one spot at different speeds. A probe is placed in the tailpipe of your vehicle. The probe is connected to a gas analyzer and computer, which can measure the concentration of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons (including volatile organic compounds) and carbon monoxide.

When the inspector accelerates your vehicle to a steady speed of 40 km per hour, an emissions reading is recorded. Several of these five-second readings are taken and then averaged by the computer.

The test results will be compared by a Drive Clean computer to emission standards for the vehicle and its model year. For example, if you drive a 1986 model car, it will be tested against 1986 emission standards with an allowance for vehicle deterioration. If your vehicle has a safety problem, or releases visible smoke from the tailpipe it will not be tested until it has been repaired. Such problems could lead to injury, and/or malfunctioning of the test equipment.

Some vehicles such as motorhomes cannot be tested on the light duty dynamometer found at most Drive Clean facilities. Some heavy-duty truck servicing facilities (such as truck dealers) do have the heavy duty dynamometer designed for testing all gas powered motorhomes. Diesel powered rigs are tested using the same static test that customers at light duty facilities will receive. During a static test, the vehicle is operated in neutral through a number of prescribed RPM ranges and the results analyzed and compared to the allowable limits.

How much will it cost?

A typical Drive Clean test should cost you no more than $30 plus GST (PST may apply if repairs were done at the same time). If your vehicle fails, a retest at the same facility will cost no more than $15 plus taxes, with a limit of two retests at this price maximum.

Properly tuned vehicles should be able to pass the test by a wide margin. Information from some 38 North American jurisdictions with programs similar to Ontario's Drive Clean shows that 80 per cent of passenger cars and light-duty trucks pass inspection. Since your vehicle failed, it is not running well enough to meet the emission standards for its make, model year, and engine size. You will receive a Vehicle Emissions "Fail" report, two Repair Data Forms for "Serviced" and "Recommended" repairs, and a guideline entitled "Common Causes of Excessive Exhaust Emissions".

Now you will have to decide who will do the repairs. For registration renewals in 1999 and 2000, (Note that is the first two years the program is operating in your area) you need not spend more than $200 if repairs are done at an accredited Drive Clean Facility. The facility will ensure that the forms are completed correctly and that the serviced plus recommended items total at least $200.

The $200 limit does not apply if you have the repairs done elsewhere, or do them yourself. The limit also does not apply to replacement of a missing gas cap or catalytic converter, non-emission-related repairs, or repairs to correct a vehicle smoking problem.

Vehicles being transferred to persons living in the Drive Clean Program area must first pass the Drive Clean test - there is no repair cost limit.

Once repaired, bring your vehicle back to a Drive Clean facility for a retest. You will only be charged $15 for a retest if you go back to the same testing facility. Present the repair data forms, completed by a Drive Clean facility within the past 60 days, in case your vehicle fails again and you want to obtain a Conditional Pass Certificate. You will need to bring a Pass or Conditional Pass certificate to a vehicle licence office to obtain your registration renewal. You will need a Pass report to transfer ownership to a person who wants to plate the vehicle for an address in the program area.

Tip: Getting a Repair Estimate.

Before any work begins on your vehicle: Verify that the facility is accredited to do Drive Clean Repairs if you want to use the $200 repair cost limit. Obtain a written estimate. Request that all emission-related repairs (new and used parts, labour, diagnostics) be listed separately from any non-emission repair estimates so you can identify the emission related items that may qualify for the $200 RCL.

You will receive a computer-generated report at the Drive Clean facility. It will state if your vehicle emissions "pass or fail" and give you an analysis of the pollutants coming from the tailpipe. If you fail, you will receive a fact sheet describing some of the possible causes of failure. Vehicles failing must be repaired and retested until a pass certificate is obtained.

Your pass result is automatically relayed to the Ministry of Transportation computer, so that your vehicle's registration can be renewed. That's all there is to it. However, we do recommend that vehicle owners have their pass certificates with them to a licence issuing office or self-service kiosk, in the event there is some confusion.

Drive Clean pass certificates should also be kept as an important part of the vehicle's service records. The Drive Clean test results for your vehicle will be valid for ownership transfers and registration renewals for up to six months from the date of the test.


Sample Test Printout

Vehicle Emissions Inspections Report The results of the emissions inspection for vehicles are transmitted lectronically to DMV. Until the data is transferred, you may need to present a printed report to register your vehicle for a period of up to two (2) years.


As I mentioned earlier this year, the tires on our Bounder were past the point of requiring replacement. Some of the tires were eight years old, even though the Bounder was built in September 1993. I elected to replace the Michelin XPS rib tires with the same tire type. The comparison between the new tires and the original equipment tires was noteworthy. Tire tread depth at 70,000 kilometers was in excess of 50% so it would appear that I could have achieved 150-160,000 kilometers (100,000 miles) out of the old tires. However the sidewalls were very rigid, and inflexible although they showed no sign of cracking or weather-checking. Our Bounder is stored inside and we usually cover the tires if parked for any length of time. Obviously ozone and radiation had damaged the tires even with this extra care. We experienced two inner dual blowouts over the past year, one involved tread separation occurring on a hot summer day and the other a sidewall blowout in freezing weather.

After the tires were replaced I noticed an immediate improvement in the ride, even with the same air pressure (10 pounds per square inch above sidewall rating as recommended by Michelin). Pavement tar strips cause less jarring with the suspension absorbing the impact. As often occurs in these situations, we had grown accustomed to the gradual deterioration in the ride and it was only after replacement that we realized how much better the ride was with the new tires. My hope is that we will wear these tires out. It is hard to throw away tires that look perfectly good especially when there is less than 50% wear, however we have peace of mind knowing that tire problems and blowouts should not be a concern for a few years. My advice is do not exceed six years on the original tires, and always check the pressure frequently, cover them when possible and never use any tire treatment on tires.


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