When do I need an emissions test?


Checking the amount of air pollutants your vehicle emits is part of a driver's responsibility in Ontario. Maintaining your vehicle with regular inspections and small repairs helps keep your automobile running smoothly and efficiently with fewer greenhouse emissions. Matching Ontario's commitment to reducing air pollutants, emissions testing through the DriveON program ensures any vehicles on the road meet rigorous standards to protect the environment and the atmosphere.

Read on to learn more about the emissions testing process for certain vehicles.


Do Passenger Vehicles Need an Emissions Test?

Light-duty or passenger vehicles aren't currently required to complete emissions testing. The Canadian government enforces standards for new vehicle manufacturing, and current regulations require all new light-duty vehicles to operate emissions-free by 2035. Under the DriveOn program, passenger vehicles don't need to complete official tests; however, in the future, this may change as the DriveOn platform creates a national system for testing and storing emissions data on drivers and vehicles.

What Is an Emissions Test?

An emissions test is a vehicle assessment used to determine the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by a vehicle while in operation. The purpose of the test is to limit the release of designated pollutants into the atmosphere by enforcing standards required to drive a vehicle throughout Ontario. If a vehicle fails to meet the requirements determined by the Emissions Performance Standards program, drivers are subject to fines or mandatory repairs. Emissions tests involve three parts: the pre-test inspection, the opacity test and an onboard diagnostic systems check.


Before completing a check of the vehicle's emissions, technicians look for possible malfunctions or obvious problems with the vehicle. The pre-test section involves several visual and verification checks including:

  • Monitoring the fuel system for any leaks or problems.
  • Securing gas caps by identifying any missing or broken parts.
  • Checking the vehicle's catalytic converter.
  • Confirming legal and updated vehicle records and permits.
  • Ensuring the motor governor works properly.
  • Watching for excessive smoke or other heavy emissions lasting longer than five seconds.

Opacity Test

If your vehicle passes the pre-test, technicians continue with the opacity test. This part of the assessment involves a more specific examination of the vehicle's exhaust emissions. Opacity checks ensure a vehicle doesn't exceed the acceptable emission percentage. Regulations allow for up to 40% opacity percentage in vehicles produced during or before the year 1990. Automobiles manufactured from 1991 to 2007 are allowed a 30% opacity percentage while the newest vehicles manufactured from 2008 to the present pass with a 20% opacity percentage.

Computer Diagnostic Check

Finally, the last step in an emission test involves scrutinizing the correct operation of onboard computers. During this final phase, technicians check to see if the emission control systems of the vehicle operate correctly. This check only applies to vehicles weighing between 4,500 and 6,350 kilograms. However, some heavy diesel vehicles may be exempt from testing. Check with the DriveON program to find up-to-date information on exempt vehicles.

When Is an Emissions Test Required in Canada?

According to the DriveOn: Emissions and Safety Inspection Program, emissions tests are required for all heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles with a registered gross weight of over 4,500 kgs. You're also required to complete the test for heavy commercial vehicles when you register a vehicle as a new owner (unless the vehicle is the current model year) or you're renewing a license plate sticker for an automobile over seven model years old. Ontario requires you to test heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles annually.

Drivers whose vehicles require emissions tests receive a renewal notice through the mail with more specific details about the timeline for completing the assessment. You must complete the emissions testing on time to renew your vehicle registration in Ontario.

Where Do You Go to Get an Emissions Test?

As of February 2023, you can only complete an emissions test from a certified DriveON center. While in the past, most repair shops could perform an emissions test before or after maintenance, the new program requires technicians to get certified by the Emissions and Safety Program. DriveON offers a searchable database to help you find a government-approved vehicle inspection center nearby. If you're used to visiting a specific place, check with your local repair shops, dealerships, and oil change services to find DriveOn-certified technicians to perform your emissions tests.

Technicians who want to become official emissions testers must register with the DriveON program and undergo training. They are also required to purchase a tablet computer to process the digital files used to document and certify the test. Facilities currently offering emissions testing must also register to transition to the DriveON program. If you've completed a test from a technician in the past, they may still operate the test under the new requirements.

What Happens After an Emissions Test?

Following a successful emissions test, you'll get a digital PDF file of your results which lasts for 12 months. If you fail the test, you'll receive a report detailing emission problems and instructions about repairing your vehicle before retaking the test. Once you complete repairs, you can retest to qualify for registration renewal.

After the vehicle undergoes an emissions test, you can search its history by looking up an emissions inspection report. Just locate the vehicle identification number (VIN) and enter it into the database to view the report. You can find a VIN number in any of the following places:

  • On the dashboard of the vehicle.
  • On the green ownership certificate from the Ministry of Transportation.
  • On your vehicle insurance form.
  • On the Statement of Compliance label, found on the driver's side door opening.

What Is the Purpose of the DriveON Program?

Ontario's new DriveON program is an initiative combining safety inspections and emissions tests for heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles into one digital platform. The program aims to eliminate or lessen harmful emissions but also protect consumers. The DriveON program is designed to reduce fraud and save money and time for commercial vehicle owners. DriveON also ensures that only safe vehicles travel Ontario's roadways. By conducting tests through approved vehicle inspection centers, drivers can confidently renew their registrations through an efficient assessment process.

Check with our service department to learn more about the emissions testing process and requirements or to schedule maintenance. When you're ready to find your next car or truck, stop by and check out our inventory of brand-new and pre-owned vehicles including all-electric models and certified pre-owned automobiles.


Ohio EPA vehicle emissions testing by Tim Evanson | Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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