AirCare Colorado Blog
Nothing says 'vehicle maintenance' like falling leaves and jack-o-lanterns, right?!
It's October, National Car Care Month, not just the month for candy love, but a time for a little car love too. Get ready for those cold, snowy days ahead with some basic vehicle maintenance. Simple checks and service can ensure your safety and keep your car running and you out of the cold.
The not-for-profit Car Care Council recommends the following basic fall maintenance:
- Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
- Check the hoses and belts to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.
- Check the battery and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
- Check the brake system annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.
- Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.
- Check engine performance to make sure it is delivering the best balance of power and fuel economy and producing the lowest level of emissions.
- Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.
- Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
- Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
- Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a free copy of the council's popular Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.
Imagine your surprise, and frustration, when you take your vehicle for its periodic emissions inspection and the inspector tells you she can't test your vehicle because it's "not ready." Or, you already had an inspection but your vehicle failed. You had repairs done and have now returned to the inspection station for the retest but the inspector tells you he can't test it because it's "not ready."
What?! The engine starts, the vehicle is drivable, what does "not ready" mean?
It basically means that the computer in the vehicle that monitors the emissions control systems is "not ready" to be tested because it has been recently disconnected or reset.
Newer vehicles - less than 12 years old - now require an OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) inspection. The OBD inspection is a "plug-in" computer test rather than the road simulation test that is given to vehicles that are 12 years and older.
Vehicles equipped with OBD systems continuously self-test their emissions control systems using various monitors. These tests are commonly referred to as "readiness monitors." These monitors identify whether a vehicle's computer has completed the required "self-tests" while the vehicle is being driven. Basically a continuous on-road inspection.
If a self-test has been completed, the system will be reported as "ready." An incomplete self-test will be reported as "not ready." A vehicle with "not ready" status cannot be inspected until all of the self-tests are completed and the monitors are set to "ready." This generally means driving for a while to complete at least one full drive cycle, sometimes more, and then returning to an Air Care station for an reinspection.
WHAT CAUSES A "NOT READY" DESIGNATION?
- Recent vehicle repairs in which diagnostic trouble codes have been cleared with an OBD scan tool
- The battery was recently disconnected or replaced
- The vehicle's computer requires a software upgrade
- A pending problem has not yet illuminated the "check engine" light
To allow the vehicle's monitors to become "ready" it must be driven so that the self-tests can be completed and the monitors can be reset to "ready." To do this, the vehicle must run through its specific drive cycle, which depends on the vehicle make and model and which monitor(s) need to be reset. In most cases, two drive cycles are required to reset the monitors.
HOW DO I KNOW HOW LONG TO DRIVE TO RESET THE MONITORS TO "READY?"
A drive cycle generally requires combined city and highway driving and includes cool periods. You can drive the vehicle as directed in the owner's manual (look under OBD), or consult with your repair technician who should be able to tell you to complete a vehicle or monitor specific drive cycle.
If your vehicle failed the inspection, be sure to complete the drive cycle and return within 10 days to get a free reinspection.
Some significant changes to the vehicle emissions inspection program took effect in January 2015. For all of those folks whose vehicles didn't require an inspection in 2015, but will in 2016, here are reminders of those changes.
Collectively, the January 2015 changes improved customer convenience for a large number of Coloradans in the program area while continuing to protect air quality.
Among the changes:
- Extension of the initial model year exemption for newer vehicles from four to seven years. This change reflects improvements in vehicles that allow gasoline-powered engines to start out cleaner and stay cleaner longer.
- Beginning in the eighth model year and extending through the eleventh model year, the vehicle inspection process will include an inspection of the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD and OBDII) systems. Instead of being tested on the dynamometer (the “treadmill” test), vehicles will be “plugged in” to read the codes in their on-board computers.
This means if your “Check Engine” light is on, you will not pass the inspection. Don’t ignore it, get it checked!
- Hybrid vehicles, beginning in the eighth model year, require an OBD inspection.
- Two all-wheel drive lanes at every station (except tiny Castle Rock).
- Testing to accomodate over and under-sized tires at three emissions inspection stations, Sheridan, Ken Caryl and Ft. Collins.
- Credit cards are now accepted at all stations!
Find out about all of the changes at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/emissions-testing-changes-2015.
2015 Put a Cap on Ozone program runs from
June to August 2015
The Front Range’s recent string of Action Days for Ozone pollution are a reminder of the importance of reducing emissions from motor vehicles. This summer, Denver-metropolitan and North Front Range area motorists whose vehicles are found to have faulty or missing gas caps during an emissions inspection are receiving coupons good toward the purchase of new caps at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores.
Ozone pollution occurs primarily in the hot summer months when emissions from a variety of sources, including industry, automobiles and smaller, gas-powered engines, chemically react in the presence of sunshine to form a harmful ground-level pollutant. Not to be confused with upper atmosphere ozone which provides protection from ultra-violet rays, ground-level ozone is harmful to the health of all humans, particularly the elderly, the very young and those with respiratory disease.
Because ground-level ozone pollution is generated by so many different sources, there is no single solution to its prevention. However, it has been determined that one, relatively simple action can have an immediate and significant impact. Studies show that the reduction of emissions from faulty or missing automobile gas caps can bring about a meaningful reduction in the region’s ozone readings. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Regional Air Quality Council, Envirotest Corp. and NAPA Auto Parts have joined forces to implement a program that replaces faulty gas caps with new gas caps during the height of the summer months.
Coupons, for $10 toward the purchase of a new gas cap at any participating NAPA store, will be given after a vehicle fails the gas cap portion of the emissions inspection at an Air Care Colorado station; the average retail price of a new gas cap is $10 – more for specialty caps. There are more than 30 participating NAPA stores along the Front Range, with at least one shop nearby each Air Care emissions inspection station.
In a typical month, more than 2,500 vehicles fail the gas cap portion of their emissions inspection at Air Care Colorado stations. The “Put a Cap on Ozone” program aims to aid in replacing up to 5,000 gas caps by August 31, which could amount to savings of up to:
- 1.25 tons per day of volatile organic compounds (VOC) – a type of pollution that can contribute to ground-level ozone formation
- 22,000 gallons of gasoline lost due to evaporation during hot summer months
- $57,000.00 - the cost of 22,000 gallons of evaporated gasoline
- Between now and August 31 the driver of any vehicle that fails the Colorado emissions test due to a faulty or missing gas cap will be provided with a coupon redeemable for a new gas cap at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores.
- Gas cap coupons will be provided at the 18 Air Care Colorado Testing Stations in the metro Denver and North Front Range areas.
- Following gas cap replacement, vehicles will be required to repeat the emissions testing procedure.
For more information on the gas cap program, call the Air Care Colorado Hotline at 303-456-7090 or visit www.aircarecolorado.com.
For more information on solving the ozone problem, call the Regional Air Quality Council at 303-629-5450, or visit www.raqc.org.
What is a “Readiness Monitor"?
Most light-duty 1998-and-newer model year vehicles are equipped with an electronic emission control monitoring system known as On-Board Diagnostic (OBD). This system continuously monitors, tracks and stores information about the emission control devices and emission-related engine components on a vehicle. These self checks are referred to as "Readiness Monitors."
Most vehicles have between seven and 11 monitors, or self checks, that the computer system performs. The computer looks for specific speeds, temperatures, levels, and pressures from various sensors. When the vehicle’s computer receives the a signal from a particular sensor, it runs the readiness monitor check. Once the vehicle’s computer completes the check of a monitor, the readiness system status is set to “Complete” or “Ready." If the vehicle has not completed the self check, the status is reported by the computer as “Not Complete” or “Not Ready."
When a vehicle's emissions are inspected at an Air Care Colorado emissions inspection station, the vehicle's readiness monitors must be set to "Ready."
What causes a vehicle to be “Not Ready”?
Unset readiness monitors do not necessarily mean that anything is wrong with the vehicle. It simply means that the vehicle has not had a chance to complete all of its self checks to confirm that the vehicle is operating properly. There are several reasons why a vehicle may be “Not Ready." The most common are:
- Recent vehicle repairs or maintenance in which diagnostic trouble codes have been cleared with an OBD scan tool
- A recently disconnected or replaced battery
- Pending problem that has not yet illuminated the "Check Engine" or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL)
What happens if a vehicle is presented for an inspection and it is "Not Ready"?
If monitors are not "Ready," it is impossible to know if a vehicle is operating properly because the self checks have not been completed.
Vehicles between eight and 11 model years old require an OBD inspection. If a vehicle computer displays "Not Ready" codes during its initial inspection, the vehicle will either:
- Automatically be inspected with an alternate I/M 240 dynamometer test, or;
- If the vehicle cannot be tested on a dynamometer, due to size or other restrictions, it will be rejected from testing and sent away until more driving is completed and the monitors are set to "Ready."
If a vehicle returns for a reinspection, after a failed test, and the Readiness Monitors are set to "Not Ready," the vehicle will be sent away until more driving can be completed and the monitors are set to "Ready."
How does a vehicle become "Ready"?
Vehicles perform self checks during normal courses of driving. Vehicle drive cycles differ, but generally driving for a week, give or take a few days, should be sufficient for the computer to conduct all of the necessary self checks. However, to be certain, contact your dealership or repair shop to determine the manufacture's specific drive cycle for your vehicle.
There are some significant changes headed our way in 2015 for the auto emissions inspection program in the Denver-metro area and North Front Range!
Collectively, the January 2015 changes should improve customer convenience for the greatest number of Coloradans in the program area while also protecting air quality.
Among the changes is the extension of the initial model year exemption for newer vehicles from four to seven years. This change reflects improvements in vehicle technology that allow gasoline-powered engines to start out cleaner and stay cleaner longer.
Beginning in the eighth model year, and extending through the eleventh model year, the vehicle inspection process will include an inspection of the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD and OBDII) systems. Instead of a driving test on the dynamometer (the “treadmill” test), vehicles will be “plugged in” to read the codes in their on-board computers.
This means if your “Check Engine” light is on, your vehicle will not pass the inspection. Don’t ignore it, get it checked!
Older gasoline hybrid vehicles (beginning in the eighth model year) will require inspection for the first time, also using the OBD "plug-in" test.
Other improvements to make the inspection process easier include adding more all-wheel drive lanes, offering more inspection options for vehicles that previously could not be inspected on the dynamometer, like vehicles with larger or smaller tires, and finally, we're taking credit cards!
For a good overview of what's on the horizon, visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s webpage at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/emissions-testing-changes-2015 for a good overview of what’s on the horizon.
Colorado Bike Month
Colorado is a premiere bicycling state. To celebrate bicycling for transportation, fun and health, Colorado has designated each June as Bike Month. At the same time, Colorado joins a nationwide effort to encourage cycling novices and enthusiasts to experience the fun and freedom of safely riding a bike to work, school, errands and recreation
While there will be many events around the state throughout the month, the highlight of the month is Bike to Work Day when employees leave their cars at home and enjoy bicycling to work. The number of Bike to Work Day participants has risen steadily since 1995, and due to the popularity of bicycling in Colorado that trend is expected to continue this year.
To learn more about the benefits of bicycling to work, school and errands, please click here.
Often people believe an illuminated check engine light is just an electrical malfunction. In reality, a check engine light is one of the most effective and critical signs that your vehicle is functioning improperly. When illuminated, a check engine light alerts you to a variety of existing potential problems.
The check engine light is part of your vehicle's onboard diagnostics (OBD) system. The OBD system constantly monitors your vehicle's major operating systems most importantly, the engine and transmission. The primary purpose of monitoring these systems is to insure the vehicle is operating at top efficiency with the lowest possible emissions (http://1.usa.gov/1m8evet).
There are many reasons behind an illumined check engine light. The most common malfunctions that can cause the check engine light to illuminate include a loose gas cap, a faulty oxygen or mass airflow sensor, and worn down spark plugs and wires.
Because an illuminated check engine light can be potentially hazardous to your vehicle and the environment, it is important to visit an OBD certified technician within a couple days of the light going on. If the light is flashing, the condition is more urgent and should be checked immediately.
A technician will plug a computer into your vehicle, genreally located underneath the dashboard on the driver's side,
so the device can read the codes from your car's computer system. From the test, the check engine light codes tell your technician whether there is something wrong and points him or her in the right direction (http://bit.ly/1h7I6k5).
A check engine light isn’t necessarily a sign of costly repairs, but it is an important part of your OBD system to insure optimal vehicle functionality, personal safety and environmental safety.
We think everyone can agree that the winners of this year's Kids 4 Clean Air Colorado poster contest have amazing talent.
Students in grades 1 through 8 were challenged to learn a little about their age group's clean air theme - there were four - and then to depict that theme in an original artwork poster. 100 entrants rose to the challenge in spectacular form. The artwork was so well done in fact, that there were two first place winners in the 3rd and 4th grade category! The winners each received a new bicycle, helmet and water bottle, and a Radio Disney rally at their schools.* And, each winner's school was awarded a $1,000 grant for an environmental initiative of the school's choosing. The submissions were evaluated on the use of the Air Quality (theme) message, the visual effectiveness, originality and universal appeal.
And the winners are...
1st & 2nd Grade category theme - Put a Cap on Ozone! Broken or missing gas caps can allow up to 30 gallons of gasoline to evaporate per year.
Winner: Paige, 2nd grade
3rd & 4th Grade category theme - Stop at the Click! If you help out by filling the family car with gas, you might be tempted to put just a little extra in after the gas pump clicks off, or you might see your mom or dad do this. Don't. It's bad for the car and bad for the air.
Winner: Chayse, 4th grade
Winner: Vishva, 3rd grade
5th & 6th Grade category theme - Engines Off! When your parents are waiting to pick you up from school or soccer practice, leaving their car running creates nasty pollution, as well as wastes gas.
Winner: Julie, 5th grade
7th & 8th Grade category theme - Maintenance Matters! Keeping up with your car maintenance is not only important to keeping your car running, but also to protecting our air.
Winner: Rae, 7th grade
Many local and state governments have adopted laws and ordinances that limit vehicle idling to combat increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Each law and ordinance varies in who it targets, the basic overall structure, and the penalties associated with not complying, however, the overall objective of each law and ordinance remains the same – to protect air quality by reducing emissions created by unnecessary vehicle idling.
Colorado Laws and Ordinances
- Aspen – Limits vehicle idling to five minutes in any one-hour period and the vehicle must be attended to at all times
- Basalt – Limits vehicle idling to no more than two consecutive minutes
- Denver – Limits vehicle idling to five minutes in any one-hour period and the vehicle must be attended to at all times.
- Johnstown – Vehicles weighing more than ten thousand (10,000) pounds are forbidden from idling for more than 15 minutes in any one-hour period
- Greenwood Village – Vehicles weighing more than twelve thousand (12,000) pounds are restricted from idling for a consecutive period longer than five minutes
- Mountain Village – Limits vehicle idling to five minutes within any one-hour period and the vehicle must also be attended to by a licensed operator
- Telluride – Limits vehicle idling to 30 seconds and vehicle must be attended by a driver. Idling time permitted is extended to three minutes for starting an engine in cold weather
- Winter Park – Limits vehicle idling to no more than 15 consecutive minutes
In addition to the laws and ordinances listed above, Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1206, more commonly known as the "puffer" law, allows law enforcement officers across the state to immediately ticket individuals who have left a vehicle running unattended for any period of time.
Additional Laws and Ordinances from across the United States
- District of Columbia – Limits vehicle idling to three minutes while the vehicle is parked, stopped, or standing, including for the purpose of operating air conditioning equipment in the vehicle
- Salt Lake City, UT – Limits vehicle idling to two minutes within city limits. First offenses are provided a warning, however, subsequent offenses can result in a fine up to $410
- Park City, UT – Limits vehicle idling to three minutes and carries a $100 fine for violators
- Minneapolis, MN – Limits vehicle idling to no more than three minutes in any one-hour period. Vehicle operators may idle for up to 15 minutes in temperatures less than zero degrees or higher than 90 degrees
- Vermont – School buses shall not idle the engine on school grounds for more than five minutes within a one-hour period and must turn off the main engine upon arrival
Common Exemptions Found in Idling Laws and Ordinances
- The ambient outside air temperature has been less than twenty (20) degrees Fahrenheit for each hour of the previous twenty-four (24) hour period; or
- The latest hourly ambient outside air temperature is less than ten (10) degrees Fahrenheit.
- The idling restriction in subsection (a) shall not apply to emergency vehicles; to vehicles engaged in traffic control operations; to vehicles which are being serviced; to vehicles that must idle to operate auxiliary equipment, including but not limited to pumps, compressors or refrigeration units; or to vehicles en route to a destination that are stopped by traffic congestion.
- The time during which transportation vehicles are actively loading or discharging passengers shall not be included in the computation of the five (5) minutes determined herein to be a prolonged or unreasonable period of time. A transportation vehicle shall be defined for purposes of this section to mean motor vehicles designed to transport a minimum of sixteen (16) persons
What Can I Do?
- Encourage your elected officials to adopt an idling ordinance. For example, the City and County of Denver's Idling Vehicle Ordinance limits idling to five minutes in any one-hour period. Denver Police have the authority to ticket any vehicle left idling for a period longer than five minutes and can ticket immediately any vehicle left idling unattended ("puffer" law).
- The Colorado State idling law, passed in 2011, allows local governments to limit idling by some of these vehicles (commercial diesel vehicles of 14,000 lbs or more) to no more than 5 minutes within 1 hour. Communities can impose a fine of up to $150 for first time offenses and up to $500 for second offenses and beyond.
- Read the US EPA's Model Idling Ordinance.
- Use this sample idling law as a template to draft your own legislation for your community
WHEN YOU STOP, TURN YOUR ENGINE OFF!
- See more at: http://enginesoff.com/2_7_laws_ordinances.htm#sthash.TPYx4SsI.dpuf