On Wednesday the 8th of October 2014, I took my 2004 Toyota Echo to High Park Master Mechanic located at 2 Howard Park Ave in Toronto to get the mandatory emissions test that I need to renew my license plates. By law, my car must pass the Ontario Drive Clean emisson test every two years before it can be re-licensed to be driven on the roads of this province.
Inside the office, I met Josie Candito the business manager, franchise holder and co-owner of this particular Master Mechanic location.
High Park Master Mechanic has been in the press a lot lately as Josie is very imaginative about how she involves the business in the community. She spends her market8ing budget in ways that help improve the neighbourhood and make the news. For example, the east and west walls of the shop are covered in animal theme graffitti art that was done in an initiative to support the High Park Zoo, and this was covered by Inside Toronto digital newspaper with pictures of the staff against the graffitti in the article.
Josie runs the whole show from her command chair in the main office. She did a quick intake on me and took my keys. Watch Josie on video (video coming) explaining why I should choose High Park Master Mechanic to do the work.
Ontario Drive Clean Emission Test
High Park Master Mechanic doesn't mess around after they get your keys. I went out to get my a book from my car, and discovered my car wasnt there anymore! It was already being driven around into the test bay by the certified emmission test inspector who was this young man seen below aged 25 yrs old.
Confident and not at all bothered by my loitering about inside the working garage, he let me watch the exam and take pictures. Here he is below starting the program on his dockside computer terminal.
As I watched he set about the first part of the exam.. the visual inspection.
Right at the beginning, before testing anything, if the inspector finds any of the following issues, he must insist they are corrected before the emissions test can continue; the reasons being is that the test could lead to injury or false results due to equipment failure,
missing catalytic converter and/or gas cap
defects in the fuel filler pipe
problems with the on-board computer system that would prevent the vehicle from being tested
visible smoke coming from the tailpipe
any problems the inspector believes would prevent the vehicle from being tested safely
If any of these problems had been detected, the issues would have had to have been fixed before the test could proceed. Fortunately my car passed the visual inspection.
Next the inspector began recording all ownership and mileage and vehicle registration information. Here is the inspector taking pictures of my vehicle, license plate and dashboard information.
The Vehicle Identification Number (commonly called a VIN) is a seventeen digit string of numbers that the manufacturer assigns to a specific vehicle and here is found stamped on a plate on the inside of the driver's door.
Lastly, he records my license plate information.
Then he moves into the next phase; he gets out his diagnostic system chip tester. Most cars, vans and SUVs in Ontario, made in 1998 or later, have an on-board computer that monitors the vehicle’s engine and emissions system, every time you drive. The Drive Clean test uses your vehicle’s on-board computer to identify emissions problems.
During the test, the information stored in my vehicle’s on-board computer was checked to determine if my vehicle’s emissions systems were working properly, and are not releasing pollutants beyond the provincial emissions standards. The test uses my car's computer against me!
There is a rumour going around it mnay have more to do with the chip than the engine. This mechanic's meme is due in part to this Jan 2013 CBC marketplace story on how Drive Clean inspectors observed half of the cars they see failing the province's new Drive Clean test was due more to how data is saved in the car's memory chip than the quality of the engine combustion or exhaust.
"Ontario's new emission test, conducted using a vehicle's on-board diagnostic computer chip rather than measuring exhaust emissions straight from the tailpipe, is creating a lot of work for mechanics and a lot of headaches for car owners." 2013 CBC Marketplace
So did I really think I was going to pass this test?
Overall Test Results: FAIL
At this point I had two choices: I could fix the problems, or buy my way out the predicament by paying a small fee for a conditional pass.
Before I could make that decision however, I needed to know how much it would cost me to fix the problem. That's when I was taken to see the master, Mike, at High Park Master Mechanic.
Mike went looking for the problem.
The master compared his notes with the diagnostic reports and then without warning...
He hoisted up my car to get a better look at the problem area underneath...
Mike soon found the issue. But bad news for me, this rusty little corner piece ruined the whole valve box thing, and it would all have to be replaced. If you know more here leave it in the comments and I will add it asap.
Minutes later, in the back office, Mike went online looking for parts.
When the report came back, it was grim indeed. The part in question would cost a three hundred dollars and the labour to install would cost a hundred dollars or more .. or, I could buy a Conditional Pass for under $100.
Conditional Pass in Drive Safe Emission Test
Owners whose vehicles require extensive emissions - related repairs can obtain a Conditional Pass.
A Conditional Pass is only available for a light-duty vehicle that,
- fails an initial Drive Clean test
- has had up to $450 in repairs at a Drive Clean facility to repair emissions-related problems, and
- fails a re-test
A Conditional Pass can only be used to renew your licence plates. It cannot be used to transfer ownership. It is valid for one year.
I took advantage of the Repair Cost Limit clause
Customers like myself can take advantage of the Repair Cost Limit (RCL) to obtain a conditional Drive Clean pass, but we must use the services of an accredited Drive Clean facility like High Park Master Mechanic for an emissions system diagnostic, repair cost estimates and repairs. I could do the repairs myself or go to any local garage, but the RCL would not apply.
The RCL sets a maximum on the amount that you must spend on repairs to qualify for a conditional pass for registration renewal only. Any other repairs that put the total cost above the RCL may be deferred. If my vehicle continues to fail its emissions tests for future registration renewals, I may continue to obtain conditional passes - but I will have to meet the requirements of the RCL each time.
The RCL does not apply to repairs covered by a manufacturer's warranty or repairs that are required before a Drive Clean facility will test a vehicle. The RCL varies, depending on where in the Drive Clean program area where your vehicle is registered.
While the car was up on the hoist, the master himself circled the vehicle and put air in my tires.
Then he set about changing the oil.
Oil is the life-blood of the engine. Modern motor oil consists of various weight mineral or synthetic oils combined with additives for engine protection. Oils may come in single or multi-grades and meet various oil performance standards. Multi-grade oils usually start out as single-grade base oils, such as SAE 10W (Society of Automotive Engineers is a large standard-setting organization for the automotive industry). Then viscosity-index improvers are added to modify viscosity. The end result is an SAE 10W-30 oil capable of flowing like a 30W oil at cold temperatures and a 10W oil at higher temperatures. The American Petroleum Institute also has classifications for oil, which are intended to address the formulation for different engine applications. You may see these designations also mentioned in your owner's manual or on the oil filler cap of the engine. The SH designation was designed for 1996 and older engines. This designation is now obsolete. The API SJ designation was introduced in 1996 and applies to all automotive engines currently in use. The SL designation was released in 2001 and offers improved performance for 2002 models, such as fuel economy and control over engine deposits. There are numerous other designations, but they are generally obsolete or do not apply to today's cars.
What is the purpose of engine oil? Why change the oil?
Engine oil lubricates, cleans, and cools critical parts of the engine. The oil's additives also help to suspend dirt, where it can be drained at the next oil change.
Periodic oil and filter changes keep your engine clean on the inside. Motor oil can become contaminated by dust, metallic shavings, condensation, and even antifreeze. Additives break down over time and can also act as contaminants. The best advice is to follow the guidelines provided in the vehicle owner's manual, but every 5,000 kilometres or 3 months is a good rule of thumb for oil and filter changes. Many car manufacturers today are recommending extended oil drain intervals for some drivers. However, if you regularly make short trips in your car, drive in stop-and-go traffic, idle for extended periods, drive in dusty or dirty air conditions, tow a trailer or live in a cold-weather region, it's best to stick with a 5,000- kilometre/3-month regimen.
A parting message, a smily face from Mike the master and contact information for Josie Candito.
I High Park Master Mechanic Key Chain Branding!
Josie Candito gave me a first aid kit.
I added the experience to High Park Master Mechanic page on Yelp.