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The Drive Clean test: what you need to know

What is it?

Ontario set up the Drive Clean program in 1999 to reduce smog-causing pollutants from car exhausts. The idea is to tests cars regularly for emission problems and to keep faulty cars off the road if the kinks can’t be fixed.

When do I need it?

You’ll need to get your car Drive Clean tested it once every 2 years once your car is 7 years old. It’ll cost you $30 and a re-test will cost $17.50 if you need one.

Ontario’s transportation ministry will notify you if you need to get the test when you receive your registration renewal papers.

Your car must also pass the emissions test if you’re planning to sell it to someone other than a family member and it is an older model than the current year.


These cars don’t need the Drive Clean test:

Most hybrid electric vehicles

Cars with a model year before 1988

Cars plated Historic

Light-duty farm plated cars

Kit cars


How do they perform the test?

Depending on the car, the test could involve:

  • An on-board diagnostic (OBD) test that reads emissions information from your car’s computer
  • A tailpipe test that measures emissions from the exhaust
  • An opacity test that measures smoke density in diesel cars

Where can I get it?

Pick any accredited Drive Clean facility that’s convenient for you.

What are the possible results?

Your car can receive any one of four possible results:


Congrats! Your car passed the test and you have nothing to worry about. The ‘pass’ is good for 1 year from the date it was issued.

Conditional Pass:

This means you’ve failed your initial test, and have paid up to $450 in repairs at a Drive Clean facility to fix your emissions-related problems but still failed a re-test. Your conditional pass is valid for 1 year and can be used to renew your licence plates, but can’t be used to sell your car.

Not ready:

This happens if your car’s computer isn’t ready to check or communicate emission info. It sometimes occurs when your on-board computer gets erased after your car battery’s been disconnected, drained or replaced. It can also happen if your car has recently been repaired. This means you’ll need to get your car “ready” for a test. Once it’s ready, you can get it re-tested.

Get ready for a Drive Clean re-test:

If your car was not ready the first time around, you need to drive it around for a few days in normal conditions, or check your car’s manual for a drive cycle and complete one cycle.


Readiness conditional pass:

This happens when your car was “not ready” the first time around and found “not ready” again when you went for the re-test. But still, no emissions problems have been identified, so you can renew your licence plate sticker. To qualify for this conditional pass, make sure you follow these procedures between tests:

  1. Wait at least 24 hours
  2. Drive at least 30 kms
  3. Don’t clear the diagnostic codes on your car’s computer


If your car has an emission problem, it’ll fail the test. You will get a Drive Clean Vehicle Inspection Report that you can take to an accredited Drive Clean facility for repairs if you want a conditional pass. Otherwise you can go to your own mechanic and get the problems fixed before you take a re-test.

Tip: Mechanics say that if your check engine light is on, it is probably an emissions-related problem. Don’t go for a Drive Clean test with your check engine light on.


Farida started writing for ingenie in 2015. She got her Ontario licence in 2014 and her first car was a manual 2003 VW Jetta GLS 1.8T. Follow her on Twitter.