While announcements have been made in various sectors about impending emissions inspection programs–and there is of course the Drive Clean program awaiting expansion in Ontario–the country’s oldest emissions testing program is moving into phase two.
AirCare II, as it has been termed, will be operating in the same Lower Mainland area of British Columbia, and represents a change from an ASM test–which was judged the best option nearly a decade ago when the program began–to a full I/M 240 regimen. The centralized system will continue to perform all testing at contracted multi-lane facilities, while repairs will continue to be performed by the independent sector.
There are a number of changes taking place at the facilities, notably the use of chassis dynamometers to perform the tests, but counterpeople should be aware that there are also some changes in equipment requirements.
There have always been minimum equipment and training requirements for AirCare Certified repair outlets, and the changes being made now are in line with the tighter regimen of testing to be performed at the test centers.
The primary additions to the technician’s toolbox will be a lab scope and an OBD II compliant scan tool. Performance specifications for these items have been prepared, and several manufacturers have made submissions to have their units approved for the program.
Shops will still be required to have a diagnostic analyzer with the BAR 97 standard being added to the list, which also includes BAR 84 and BAR 90.
Shops will also be allowed to use a portable gas analyzer, but this cannot serve as the primary diagnostic tool.
In addition to these shop floor diagnostic tools, garages looking to retain their official repair center status or join the AirCare ranks will be required to have a personal computer with Internet access. This is to allow them access to the test and repair data on vehicles and the repair forms. One upside is that going to an online system will eliminate the need for an imprinter, leased by most shops, which is required under the current system. The Internet access system will likely be ready for testing within 30 to 60 days.
Instead, Under AirCare II, shops will have password-protected access to the vehicle data and repair form filing. They will also have access to a vehicle’s repair history.
There is also a point of clarification on the personnel front. While it won’t affect most AirCare shops, all such shops will now be required to have a full-time AirCare technician on staff. As mentioned, while this won’t affect many shops, there have apparently been examples of AirCare technicians rotating through several shops.
All these requirements do not come into effect until AirCare II does, which brings up another point or two. While the program was initially scheduled to launch in September, that date has now been pushed back to January 1, 2001.
While shops will not be required to adhere to the new requirements until the program comes into effect, it is advisable that shops acquire the equipment as soon as they have a list of approved items. This way they will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their operation in time for the new testing regimen.
Never Forget Training
While many customers may choose to purchase diagnostic equipment through channels other than your store, you should still support their purchase of these advanced diagnostic devices by providing a venue for training where possible.
Whether or not your customer base is faced with emissions testing, they are going to find the benefits of proper diagnostic tools harder and harder to ignore. They will, however, only get the most out of this considerable investment in equipment if they become highly proficient on both the equipment and proper diagnostic procedures.
You should do what you can to help them get there.