Soot filter fraud not detected by auto inspection

Summary

Up to tens of thousands of diesel-fuelled cars without the required soot filters are passing environmental inspections every year, according to the industry federation

Cheaper to remove it

An investigative report by Flemish public broadcaster VRT has revealed that diesel vehicles that have had the soot filters removed continue to pass motor vehicle inspections in Belgium. The practice, according to industry federation Goca, has been going undetected for up to 10 years.

Soot filters, which filter fine particles, are fitted by law to diesel vehicles. Removal of the filter is illegal, but many garages will do it, VRT found, with some garages advertising the service openly.

There is no advantage to removing the filter unless it is defective, which can cause other problems in the motor, according to VRT. Replacing it costs between €1,500 and €3,000, while having it removed costs only €450.

The investigation also found that the removal of the filter went undetected during the autokeuring, or auto inspection. According to Goca, which oversees regulations concerning inspections and drivers’ licenses, the techniques for measuring soot emissions are out of date and do not provide reliable results. Goca said that possibly tens of thousands of cars without filters pass the inspection every year.

Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts said that if there is a suspicion that the filter has been removed, owners should be required to obtain a certificate of compliance from an official dealer. Techniques for measuring emissions should also be brought up to date, he said. He will enter talks with the industry to decide how to proceed.