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Ontario to introduce tougher used vehicle safety standards in July

For the first time in 42 years, the Ontario Ministry of Transport (MTO) is revising the standards that a used vehicle must meet in order to pass the province’s safety inspection and be considered roadworthy. The new requirements, which affect every aspect of the vehicle inspection process, go into effect on July 1, 2016.

The Passenger/Light Duty Vehicle Inspection Standard, otherwise known as Regulation 611 under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA), sets out which of a vehicle’s components and systems must be checked, and what condition they must be in, for a vehicle to be declared roadworthy. The new rules will amend all 10 existing sections of Regulation 611 (powertrain; suspension; brakes; steering; instruments/auxiliary equipment; lamps; electrical; body; tires and wheels; and coupling devices), and add a road test, during which a technician should note, among other things, the presence of warning lights and proper function of the odometer and the vehicle’s various mechanical systems.

Here’s an overview of the major changes that go into effect this summer:

The powertrain section gains a raft of new checks to items such as the gas pedal, throttle actuator, exhaust system, driveshafts, differentials, clutch and clutch pedal, engine and transmission mounts, gear shifter and position indicator, drive belt pulleys, and fuel system. There’s also a timely new requirement related to hybrid and electric drivetrains.

Tires will be subject to a deeper minimum tread depth, and tires will fail a safety inspection if “any single point on the… tread is below the minimum.”

Requirements for structural integrity will be much more stringent, “to deal with a loss of structural integrity of cab, cargo or passenger body, frame or sub-frame, tailgate, bumper, seats and seat belts due to specified weaknesses, deficiencies, damage, seizure, wear, loss of components or material or improper repair procedures.” All door latches, handles, and hinges will be subject to more rigorous inspection, and all occupant protection systems (including airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners, in cars so equipped) must be tested “via the telltale diagnostic lamp.”

A car or light truck’s suspension will have to meet new standards for ride height, bushings, and shock/strut performance, and there are revised rules for measuring brake lining thickness and ensuring that anti-lock (ABS) and – in vehicles built on or after September 1, 2011 – stability control (ESC) systems work properly. The steering system also comes under increased scrutiny, with new requirements for components such as strut bearings and tilt/telescopic steering column hardware.

In the lighting department, LED (light-emitting diode) brake lights and turn indicators – which are becoming increasingly common – will need to meet a standard for the number of diodes (many automotive LED lights are made up of a large number of individual diodes) that must light up. As well, there are updated rules for vehicle wiring, plus other components such as the horn, speedometer, odometer, and windshield wipers. Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony was pleased to hear about the more rigorous updated standards: “Frankly, it’s long overdue. For years the safety inspection and certification has been a mere cursory examination that fails to protect consumers and take a broader view of public road safety, allowing cars potentially on the brink of failure back out on the roads.”

According to an article published at Canadian industry trade magazine, the new rules were developed in consultation with some of the roughly 33,000 technicians licensed to do Ontario safety inspections. There are more than 12,000 qualified auto repair facilities in the province.

In the December issue of’s CARS magazine, Toronto repair shop owner John Cochrane said the new requirements “add only a few more minutes to the (inspection) process,” but result in a “huge improvement” to the quality of the inspection. Cochrane suggests shops could “comfortably” charge $110 to $120 for the more intensive safety inspection, but Ontario’s Ministry of Transport doesn’t set out a recommended fee for the current safety certificate.

Brian Early, a mechanic at Auto Experts in Oshawa, says he expects “this new procedure to add a good 50 to 75 percent” to the cost of a safety inspection, “to deal with the added time and paper trail.”

The Ministry of Transportation has published a summary of the changes to its inspection standard here.

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