How does your car run?
Vehicles tested for emissions at Environment Canada clinic

Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 16/98) - We've all been to the doctor, but how about your vehicle? When was the last time you had someone inspect your vehicle from top to bottom to make sure it's running efficiently?

If you happened by the Yellowknife community arena last Friday and Saturday the car doctor was in to serve your needs for free.

Bringing your car to an emissions clinic is like going to a doctor. You fill out a short medical-like form describing your vehicle and wait, until an emission specialist is available. When the specialist is ready you move ahead, pop the hood and an inspection is done.

Once the engine is looked over, another specialist is waiting with an iron rod to insert into the exhaust. Don't feel violated, they say it allows them to record emission levels.

This summer Environment Canada held over 2,000 similar emission clinics. Yellowknife was the last stop for the year.

"What we're looking for here is the pollution control equipment. There's a variety of pollution control equipment on vehicles," Brian Heppelle, senior environmental engineer with Environment Canada in Yellowknife said last Friday.

"The other thing we test for is the fuel cap to see that it's a good tight seal so there's no emissions coming out of there evaporating. It can also affect the amount of fuel you use as well."

The emission team, made up of volunteers, also checks a vehicle's exhaust system and reviews the basic integrity of the engine.

If vehicles meet emission standards it's passed and you're done. If a vehicle fails, based on the company's own set emission standards, a list of suggestions is given to the owner which they can take to their mechanic.

Heppelle said during last year's clinic, Yellowknife vehicles came out looking "fairly good" compared to other areas across the country.

"We came in the top three or four as far as how we rate for number of passed vehicles as well as participation. We were among the highest participation centres in Canada last year. We tested almost 200 vehicles," he said.

Carol Burelle, with the air pollution prevention arm of Environment Canada said this is the 13th year for the emission clinics.

She said thousands of people visit the clinic to make sure their vehicles are running cleanly and efficiency.

"You never know especially if you've bought a vehicle and you're not the original owner. Sometimes you don't know if anything has been removed from it," she said.

The key to a clean-running vehicle is regular maintenance.

"A lot of people who come through are happy also to see that their vehicle a lot better than is expected. If you do regular maintenance on a vehicle it does make a difference," she said.