In The Media
Steve's Automotive in Woodstock provides some guidance for the new Drive Clean program
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:59:05 EST PM
Derek Booy, the service manager at Steve's Automotive in Woodstock, looks at the computer monitor while performing an emissions test on a car with a lit check engine light. On Jan. 1, the province changed its Drive Clean program, adopting on-board diagnostic testing as its preferred method.
WOODSTOCK! It's an easy warning to ignore, and many of us do.
But with the changes to Ontario's Drive Clean program, we now ignore our car's check engine light at our peril. As of Jan 1, 2013, that yellow malfunction indicator also indicates an automatic fail if you bring your vehicle in for a mandated emissions test.
I ignored that check engine light.
On Tuesday morning, my aging car, a 2002 Honda Civic, failed the test, which indicated problems with (my) emissions system.
"We have failed," said Derek Booy, the service manager at Steve's Automotive in Woodstock. "Most of the time, it gives you the code, and a description of the failure."
In my case, the code “aP1457“ indicated a problem with the evaporative system, which takes fuel fumes from the tank and burns the vapours in the engine.
The problem could be as simple as a "small and easily repairable“ hole in a vacuum hose. Of course, the problem might involve replacing a canister or solenoid, which would be a little costlier. If repairs are estimated to exceed $450, motorists can receive a conditional pass that is good until the next test.
Whatever the problem, the car eventually needs to be fixed, preferably at an accredited Drive Clean repair facility, before getting re-tested. A successful emissions test is necessary for biennial plate renewals unless you get the conditional pass and ownership transfers.
"Let's say it's part of the oxygen sensor system," Booy explained. "I would have to fix this and then rerun it through the oxygen sensor monitor."
Until this year, the check engine light didn't mean an automatic failure of the vehicle emissions inspection. Before 2013, a large hose was placed over a vehicle's tailpipe that, after a 40-second test, would provide a count of exhaust emissions. Now, provincial testers are plugging in, using on-board diagnostic testing that provides computer-based emissions results.
Booy begins the test by recording information from my car, jotting down the licence plate number, mileage and weight before taking photographs of the exterior and the VIN plate. The information and photos are then uploaded to the province
"They want to make sure the VIN that I've entered matches the VIN that comes out of the computer," he said.
Booy then turns the key to check the lights on the dash, specifically the telltale Malfunction Indicator Lamp, which is very definitely on in my car. Since the beginning of the year, a handful of motorists have tried to fool the new system by disconnecting the battery or clearing the codes with a handheld ODB-II scanner.
While that might temporarily remove the check engine light, it doesn't beat the test.
"That does happen," Booy said. "People are trying to beat the system."
The report, however, will indicate the vehicle's monitors are not ready for the test, which also means a fail.
"This is to prevent someone from disconnecting the battery and bringing it in for a test." This 'not ready' result, Booy added, is why some new cars have also failed the test. While this result is intended as a safeguard to prevent cheating, Booy said some people, including a few major media outlets, have described it as a "glitch in the system" because of this latter problem. The solution, however, is simple.
There's a generic drive cycle your car can do (to get ready for the test), Booy explained. It's about 30 minutes of driving in total, and your car will be ready for the test. Nine point nine times out of 10, that drive cycle works.
The test itself is split into two portions; one that reviews the monitored systems and one that focuses on the diagnostic trouble codes, if applicable. The car's on-board system is connected to the inspector's computer with a cable and, after making sure the two are communicating, the actual test starts.
It only takes a few seconds before the printout indicates an Overall Test Result: Fail.
I shouldn't have ignored the warning.