The Great Ontario Drive Clean Swindle

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
the great ontario drive clean swindle

For one Canadian auto writer, an emissions test turned out to be a giant time-and-money-suck that should have never happened in the first place, all thanks to an unscrupulous mechanic. Is anyone surprised?

Matt Bubbers’ BMW E30 flunked the DriveClean test the first time around at a “national chain”. After paying the $30 test fee, Bubbers had to take his car to a specialist garage for a $30 “consultation”. According to the regulations, the car can get up to $450 in repairs to help it pass. If the car doesn’t pass on its second time around, it is given a”conditional pass”, meaning that Bubbers could renew his registration, but the car couldn’t be sold.

The E30 ended up passing, and the results looked great according to the test printout. So why the discrepancy? According to Bubbers

“The shop fails your car by not warming it up properly. Then they offer to repair it, up to a cost of $450. After the repairs, it may pass or it may not. If it doesn’t, you’ve just lost $450, plus the cost of two tests, plus the entire value of your car. And the shop makes a profit on the repairs.”

Par for the course in Onterrible.

Join the conversation
6 of 36 comments
  • Potemkin Potemkin on Jul 18, 2012

    Drive Clean in Ontario was and is a make work project which generates revenue for the province via the Goods and Services portion of our Harmonized Sales Tax and remitance of a portion of the test fee to the province by the tester. The cost of the test equipment and training vs how much you have to give back to the province shut out honest small garages. The honest guys weren't willing to sell you what you don't need just to make a buck. Canadian Tire is the only one that does Clean Airs within a 100 miles of me, don't know about dealers (I trust them less than CTC). Every 2 years I pony up $35 a car, bring the tester coffee and donuts and then cross my fingers. I had a car fail, they put it on a OBD and then retested and it passed. I got charged $35 for the test and $70 for the OBD, What a rip.

  • Toxicroach Toxicroach on Jul 18, 2012

    Wait, if the repairs would be over $450, the car becomes unsellable? Would car insurance cover this possibility?

    • Steve65 Steve65 on Jul 19, 2012

      Why would it? It doesn't cover other mechanical failures, unless you bought an extended warranty or mechanical coverage.

  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Jul 19, 2012

    The last time I got one of my vehicles inspected ( Texas ) I took it to the neighborhood place and was having some other work done. When I went to pick it up toward the end of the day on a Saturday found out they had forgot to do the inspection . There were another couple of cars in the service bays and a number of parked cars in the way . To my surprise the guy never checked my insurance card or even moved the car into the service bay , just slapped the sticker on , even with a "check engine " light on .Guess it was to much trouble to move the other cars.

  • Obbop Obbop on Jul 19, 2012

    Where is the wondrous "free market" that is supposed to drive out the bad so the cream of the crop can rise to the top?

    • Les Les on Jul 19, 2012

      You're having a laff, aren't you?