Relax Ontarians – the “OEM or Illegal” Law is Bogus

In October of 2015, the Ontario provincial government published an updated version of their ancient, outdated Passenger Light Duty Vehicle Inspection Standard, aka the document that mechanics follow when they inspect your car. The term “OEM standard” immediately struck fear into the hearts of car enthusiasts everywhere, who quickly dubbed the new standards the “OEM” or “illegal” law. A petition went out on change.org almost immediately under the assumption that any part that isn’t an OEM replacement would be deemed illegal. I can assure you that there is very little to be concerned about.

The government defines as “OEM standard”:

"The manufacturing methods, component and assembly quality levels, and performance levels set by the manufacturer of a vehicle or vehicle component to ensure a vehicle is able to perform safely as intended.”
“Parts supplied by OEM, and established aftermarket manufacturers of parts intended for direct replacement of OEM parts, are generally considered to meet OEM standard”.

Basically a part that’s designed to replace an OEM part, and isn’t made out of cheese and meets the same performance standards that a manufacturer has to comply with. For engine mounts, that likely means thickness and quality standards, for an exhaust, sound levels and part quality; you get the picture. That’s not to say that everything needs to meet the ‘OEM standard’, in fact, the term shows up in the guide very few times.

Powertrain

OEM standard comes up five times in the powertrain section. Two of those times it refers to the quality of accessory belts and fuel tank hose clamps, so no issue there. The guide requires exhaust mufflers to meet ‘OEM standard’, which can be interpreted to mean that they need to be:

  1.  designed as a direct replacement to the old muffler (ie: no ebay, generic mufflers welded on)
  2.  meet the quality and noise standards that OEM manufactures need to abide by

How would a technician know that a part is designed at a direct replacement? The answer is simple – they won’t. As long as the muffler meets standard noise limits and has nice neat welds, you’ll likely be fine.

The same goes for exhaust mounting hardware. This will probably cause an issue for some people; the way we’re interpreting the guide, because the mounts must meet the “OEM standard,” they must use the OEM mounting locations. How will technicians determine what’s an OEM mounting location and what isn’t? Chances are they won’t.

 The final time the term “OEM standard” is mentioned is when discussing engine mounts. The guide states that mounts must be, “equivalent to OEM standard.” The key word here is “equivalent,” meaning that parts don’t need to be a direct replacement, but must meet all the same quality and thickness requirements as an OEM part. Forced induction, built motors, ridiculous engine swaps – those are all safe. (Assuming you pass emissions)

Suspension

A lot of people assumed that the new guide would effectively kill “stance,” but that doesn’t appear to be the case. No ride height standards are provided, so long as one side of the car isn’t “25 mm, higher or lower than the other.”

There are a few no-brainer clauses found here. You’ll fail your inspection if:

  1. “there is no or very limited suspension travel”
  2. “the suspension system allows a tire to contact any part of the vehicle frame or body”

So basically, you can’t be rubbing as you roll into the shop, and your suspension can’t be so stiff that it has zero travel. I know that the latter condition is going to break many hearts in the stance community, but let me be absolutely clear – having zero suspension travel is simply dangerous. You can slam a car to the floor and have loads of suspension travel; take a look at Randy’s M3. Zero suspension travel means a pothole on the highway could unsettle your car and send you into a guardrail. For the sake of your own livelihood, slam your car responsibly. Either buy a set of quality coilovers that allow for plenty of travel while low, or go bagged.

Wheels and Tires

Tires now must have at least 2mm of tread, regardless of wearbars. Wheel spacers are also banned, so you’ll be forced to use adapters in order to adjust your wheel offset. That’s a bit of a bummer if you’re only looking for a 4mm adjustment or if you have extended studs.

Final Points:

  • Use an aftermarket exhaust that isn’t likely to wake the dead or fall off during your daily commute
  • Slam your car using either a quality coilover that allows for plenty of suspension travel or install an airbag system and don’t use spacers.
  • None of this actually matters until you decide to sell your car, or change ownership as that’s the only time you’re required to get your car inspected. 
  • If you read the guide, you’ll notice that it’s impeccably detailed, so expect the cost of an inspection to increase dramatically.
  • Your mods are safe Ontario 

Link to the complete guide: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/trucks/pdfs/passenger-light-duty-vehicle-inspection-standard.pdf

Special thanks to Andrew Zhang from A.Z Photography for letting us use these awesome images!

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