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Drive Clean was established to reduce pollutants contained in vehicle emissions. Some pollutants dirty our local air, and others – greenhouse gases – are linked to climate change.
From 1999 through 2008, Drive Clean reduced smog-causing emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from light-duty vehicles by an estimated 266,000 tonnes. During the same period, the program also reduced emissions of carbon monoxide, an air toxic, by about 2.5 million tonnes and carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, by more than 250,000 tonnes.
Drive Clean also reduces particulate matter emissions from trucks and buses by an average of more than 200 tonnes per year. “Particulate matter” refers to tiny particles – 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair – that can be inhaled and cause health problems for some people.
Independent experts evaluate Drive Clean results annually, which we post here.
Many factors contribute to the better air quality we now have. However, as long as vehicles burn fuel we will need Drive Clean to monitor vehicle emissions systems.
The Ministry of Transportation will send you a vehicle licence renewal application about three months before your vehicle’s registration expires. Vehicles that require a test are marked with an asterisk (*) on the registration form.
You can also use our online form or phone the Drive Clean contact centre toll free at 1-888-758-2999 to confirm whether or not your vehicle model year needs a test.
Normally, a Drive Clean pass is valid for 12 months from the date of issue. There are a few exceptions:
Transfer of Ownership
Your light-duty vehicle is required to have an emissions test every two years to renew the registration if:
Vehicles that are even model years require a test for registration renewal in odd calendar years and odd model year vehicles require a test for registration renewal in even calendar years.
Vehicles manufactured before 1988 do not require emissions tests. Check if your vehicle needs a test.
*NOTE: Prior to September 1, 2011, emissions systems needed to be tested when vehicles became five years old. As a result, during 2011, five- or six-year old vehicles whose registrations expired on or before August 31, 2011 had to be tested. On September 1, 2011, Drive Clean testing changed from five to seven years.
Vehicles built in 1988 were the first to comply with new, significantly tighter vehicle emissions and durability standards for that time.
While 1987 and older light-duty vehicles are exempt from Drive Clean, they are still subject to the Environmental Protection Act. Anywhere in Ontario, Provincial Officers can stop and inspect a vehicle suspected of emitting excessive exhaust smoke or of having emissions control equipment tampered with or removed. Penalties include warnings, notices, tickets and summonses. For serious infractions, officers can use legally binding Provincial Officer Orders, and/or seize vehicle licence plates.
As a consumer-protection measure, used vehicles must pass the emissions test in order to transfer ownership if the model year is older than the current calendar year.
This requirement helps to ensure that consumers do not unwittingly purchase a used vehicle with emissions problems.
There are two exceptions to this rule:
Exemption forms for family transfers and lease buy-outs are available at ServiceOntario counters.
It is the responsibility of the buyer and the seller to determine who pays to have the vehicle tested. Cars manufactured before 1988 are not subject to Drive Clean testing.
*Note: Your car will still need a Drive Clean test if it’s reached the age when a test is needed in order to renew the registration (i.e., when it is seven years or older). If this is the case, even if you qualify under one of the exceptions above, you must get your vehicle tested in order to renew the licence plates. See the example below:
Family transfer example
If Dad gives his son his seven-year-old car, the car may need to be tested, not because of ownership transfer but because it is seven years old. If the car has already had its Drive Clean test, then it doesn’t need to be tested again now. But, if Dad didn’t get the test done prior to transferring the ownership, then one IS required now because the car is seven years old.
If Dad gives his son that same car next year, the car will not need a test. That’s because:
ServiceOntario will notify you when your car needs a Drive Clean test. If it is needed for registration renewal, the notice will be in the package that’s mailed to you. If it is needed to transfer ownership, the clerk will advise you at the counter.
You can also use the tool on this website, Find out if you need a test.
To take advantage of the repair cost limit (RCL) your repair estimate and actual repairs must be emissions-related and conducted by a certified repair technician employed by an accredited Drive Clean Facility. However, you do not need to have the diagnostic or repairs performed at the facility that provided the initial emissions test. If you use another accredited facility for diagnostics and repairs, the repair technician will complete and sign a repair data form. With this form, you can have the vehicle retested at the facility where the initial emissions test was performed at a reduced fee.
The RCL cannot be applied if you have the repairs done elsewhere, or if you do them yourself. The limit also does not apply to the cost of replacing a missing gas cap or catalytic converter, non-emissions-related repairs, warranty repairs or repairs to correct a vehicle's smoking problem.
*NOTE: A conditional pass cannot be used to transfer the ownership of a used vehicle. This is an important consumer protection measure, since a conditional pass indicates a vehicle has ongoing emissions-system problems that require further repairs.
Drive Clean improves our air quality because it identifies polluting vehicles and requires them to be repaired. However, sometimes owners cannot afford to fully repair or replace a grossly polluting vehicle. Drive Clean offers the repair cost limit to help these people.
The repair cost limit ensures that faults in a vehicle's emissions system are diagnosed and that at least some are repaired. Most Drive Clean-like programs in North America have a similar feature to assist vehicle owners.
Despite the repair cost limit, Drive Clean recommends you make all required repairs to your vehicle’s emissions system. A well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel, saving money at the gas pump, as well as emitting fewer pollutants.
The maximum fee that Drive Clean facilities may charge for a light-duty vehicle emissions test is $35. You can have up to two retests at $17.50 each after repairs, if the retests are conducted at the same facility as the initial test. Facilities may charge less, and it is a business decision whether they do so. All applicable taxes are extra.
If you chose to get your vehicle repaired at a different Drive Clean facility, you can still get reduced retest fees at the original facility that did your test. Ask the technician who did the repairs to complete and sign a "repair data form". Take this to the facility where the initial emissions test was performed and they will retest your vehicle at the reduced fee rate.
If you perform repairs yourself or have them done at a non-Drive Clean facility, bring all relevant receipts for parts or repairs to make sure you qualify for the reduced retest fee. You will not, however, qualify for the repair cost limit unless repairs were done by a certified Drive Clean repair technician.
You will be given a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) with "pass" or "conditional pass" clearly printed on it. You can then renew your vehicle registration online at ServiceOntario or at a ServiceOntario centre. Please retain your VIR pass or conditional pass with your vehicle's maintenance information.
Vehicles fail because their emissions exceed standards. You will need to have the emissions problem diagnosed and repaired before you can have your vehicle retested. You need to pass the test to renew your licence plate sticker or transfer the vehicle ownership to another person.
For more information about next steps, please read the brochure “My Vehicle Didn’t Pass the Drive Clean Test” in the resources section, or ask for a hard copy at your Drive Clean facility.
You can retire your older vehicle in an environmentally responsible way. Find out how by visiting Car Heaven (please note that when you click on this link, you will be leaving the Ministry of the Environment’s website).
A “not ready” test result means we weren’t able to access or read enough information on your car’s built-in computer in order to complete the test. Before you get your vehicle retested, you will need to drive around to reset your vehicle’s computer. A day or two in normal highway and city conditions will usually suffice, or you can take your car through a generic drive cycle (link to insert). There may be other ways to reset the computer. Talk to your Drive Clean facility staff about the best way to get your vehicle ready.
Once you get your vehicle ready for re-testing, return to the facility that did the original test. They will retest for a $17.50 fee plus taxes.
There are four measures in place to ensure Drive Clean tests are fair:
We have zero tolerance for fraud or consumer abuse within the Drive Clean program. If you have any concerns, we want to hear them. Please contact the Drive Clean contact centre toll free at 1-888-758-2999. The ministry is serious about protecting vehicle owners and will investigate your complaints.
The Ministry of Environment takes non-compliance very seriously and acts on all instances of fraud. Between April 1, 2006, and October 1, 2011, the ministry obtained 78 convictions that resulted in $683,675 in fines for Drive Clean fraud.
The ministry works with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Government Services to identify and reduce the risk of fraud.
Heavy-duty diesel vehicles, such as trucks and buses, are subject to Drive Clean, throughout Ontario.
Light-duty vehicles and non-diesel heavy-duty vehicles are affected if they’re registered in an area that extends across southern Ontario from Windsor to Ottawa. The program boundaries are defined by postal codes and generally follow county and regional borders for its northern boundary. This highly populated area has a history of poor air quality due to its high concentration of vehicles and major transportation corridors. Almost 90 per cent of the province’s light-duty vehicles are registered there.
You can view a map of the program area program area (PDF) and you can use this search form to find out if your vehicle will require an emissions test. You can also call the Drive Clean contact centre at 1-888-758-2999 for assistance with any question about the program.
There are options available. Refer to the Ministry of Transportation website or call the Drive Clean contact centre at 1-888-758-2999 for information and instructions on registering or renewing the registration for an out-of-province vehicle.
For late renewals or vehicle transfers, a Drive Clean pass certificate must be valid on the date of the transaction.
You may get a temporary vehicle registration ($15 for 10 days) from a ServiceOntario centre that will allow enough time for you to have your vehicle tested and get any needed repairs done prior to renewing your regular vehicle registration. For any questions regarding licensing issues, please contact the Ministry of Transportation at 416-235-2999 or 1-800-387-3445 from within Ontario.
Please report a smoking vehicle by completing this online form. Alternatively, you can call the Drive Clean contact centre at 1-888-758-2999 with the following information:
Please be assured we are doing everything we can to stop these types of occurrences.
Drive Clean has zero tolerance for fraud or consumer abuse. If you have any concerns, we want to hear them. Please call the Drive Clean contact centre toll free at 1-888-758-2999. The ministry is serious about protecting vehicle owners and will investigate your complaints.
Drive Clean’s customer service standards are posted in the ministry’s Service Excellence section. There, you’ll find standards for customer complaint resolution, handling applications to become accredited Drive Clean Facilities, and issuing conditional pass reports for out-of-province vehicles.