Old badly maintained vehicles that belch smoke like this one no longer face pressure to clean up their act now that the AirCare program has ended.

Old badly maintained vehicles that belch smoke like this one no longer face pressure to clean up their act now that the AirCare program has ended.

Smoky beaters keep belching in post-AirCare era

Metro Vancouver officials watch for uptick in old vehicles returning to road as car ads celebrate 'no more AirCare'

The death of AirCare may be breathing more life into old beaters.

Aging cars and trucks that might have struggled to pass the now-terminated emissions monitoring program are increasingly popping up in online advertisements, some with jubilant reminders that the days of mandatory tests are over.

A 1997 pickup going for $2,200 in Langley is just one of the ads that boasts “no more AirCare.”

Another seller of a $999 “beater” truck with “loud and stinky” exhaust in Surrey’s Clayton area is just as blunt.

“AirCare? Who cares? Not an issue to insure this truck,” the Craigslist ad says. “If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint, then I will have to defer you to the bicycle section. Maybe you can install a nice basket on the handlebars to haul your stuff.”

The province pulled the plug on the AirCare program effective Dec. 31 on the basis it became obsolete as vehicle pollution controls improved.

But Metro Vancouver protested the cancellation, fearing air pollution might worsen without the required repairs and retesting for vehicles that failed AirCare.

Regional district officials say they’ve also noticed the recent ads and intend to track vehicle registrations through ICBC to see if more older models now turn up on the roads.

“We’ll see if there’s a bump in older vehicles that return to the fleet in 2015 compared to 2014,” senior engineer Derek Jennejohn said.

In previous years, he said, there’s been a consistent number of vehicles that got reinspected after failing AirCare – usually meaning they made a trip to the garage to clean up their emissions.

But Jennejohn said thousands of vehicles that would normally be expected to get a re-test never showed up in the second half of 2014.

“It’s possible those vehicles were just temporarily insured or put aside and waited until 2015 to reinsure and return to the road in their failing condition,” he said. “That’s a concern to us. Our board has directed us to try and prevent backsliding in the gains that have been achieved through AirCare.”

He said another potential indicator to watch is if fewer old vehicles than usual are now retired through the Scrap-It program for rebates.

Many motorists hated AirCare, considering it an inconvenient, costly and pointless imposition if their car routinely passed.

The failure rate had fallen from 14 per cent in 2007 to less than eight per cent, but more than 34,000 vehicles still failed last year.

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