EPA caught VW cheating - how does the car know it's being tested?

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Apparently Volkswagen/Audi cheated on the USA emissions tests since 2009 to 2015 by turning off the EGR to lower nitrogen oxide emissions ONLY when the car was being tested for emissions.
REFERENCES: http://blog.ucsusa.org/volkswagen-caught-cheating-vehicle-recall-887 http://www.engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/10688/VW-Caught-Cheating-on-EPA-Tests.aspx http://hothardware.com/news/vw-intentionally-programmed-engine-software-to-cheat-emissions-tests-forced-by-epa-to-recall-482k-vehicles etc.
My question is HOW did the car *know* it was being *tested* for emissions?
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On Sat, 19 Sep 2015 00:19:10 +0000 (UTC), Ewald Böhm

My guess is that anytime something was connected to the diagnostic connector the car turned on all the emissions systems. I know that here in AZ they have been doing the emissions test for cars for quite a few years now by plugging into the diagnostic connector and reading the computer looking for pending codes that haven't turned on the CEL. If you have more then a couple pending codes you fail. My PT is a 2009 model and it's always been tested that way so the time frame is certainly doable.
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On 9/18/2015 8:19 PM, Ewald Böhm wrote:

I found that interesting for two things. I assume the car's computer knows an instrument is plugged in so it changes the program.
I also find it interesting that a large allegedly reputable company would do something intentional to cheat like that. Too easy to get caught or ratted out.
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On Fri, 18 Sep 2015 22:45:53 -0400, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

According to the news reports, VW admitted culpability.
If I were the owner of the affected cars, I would NOT bring them in for the recall, since it's not a safety issue.
They will definitely lose performance after the "fix" (while they will also do worse on emissions testing results).
It's a lose:lose situation for the car owner to get the car "fixed", I think, because of those two results.
Do you agree? Is there anything "good" that will happen if the owners "fix" their cars?
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On 9/18/2015 9:42 PM, Ewald Böhm wrote:

If the test procedure for those cars is changed to test the "real" emissions, they will FAIL. If you care about air quality, you have to do that. Here in Oregon, you don't get your license plates renewed if you fail.
You want VW to FIX the problem consistently with the original driveablilty and economy. Since that's likely not possible, what do you do now? Force them to replace the whole car?
Fix the emissions by reprogramming the computer (Let the air quality test people enforce owner compliance. Maybe require a recall complete document. Maybe require VW to supply a zillion adapters to make the tests right.) AND refund the owner the current (pre-disclosure) bluebook value of the vehicle...let that be the fine and paid to the people actually financially harmed? That sounds like a simple solution that puts the cash where it's needed and fixes the emissions and hits VW where it hurts. No fuss, no muss, no new laws, just enforce the existing ones. It's a win-win...except for VW.
OR we could just Fine them billions and fritter it away wherever such fines are frittered?
Do nothing and get a better gas mask?
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Some cut.
Some states, like Nebraska, do no testing. We had some testing for horns, lights, etc. back in the 70s, but dropped it. I think the testers hollered too loud about the low testing fee allowed. I wonder how many of the non-compliant vehicles will end up in states with no testing.
-- Using Opera's mail client: http://www.opera.com/mail/
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On 9/19/2015 8:40 AM, Dean Hoffman wrote:

Passenger car testing of any type has ALWAYS been a scam and is enacted for generating revenue. Nothing more, nothing less. "Unsafe" cars have NEVER been a significant proximate cause of accidents nor does smog testing of these vehicles lead to measurably cleaner air. These two concerns are best addressed at time of manufacture.
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In the early years of safety checking, at least in Ontario, the initial passs rate was quite low - and the requirement that a cat pass a safety check when changing ownership took a LOT of dangerous crap off the road. Annual safety checks in Ontario only affect commercial vehicles - and again there is a pretty high failure rate - and since selective enforcement has been in place the number of wheels coming off commercial vehicles and killing drivers of other vehicles has dropped SIGNIFICANTLY. Enforcement is the key.
As for emission testing - in the early years it had merit. There were a LOT of "gross poluters" on our roads - and it was very simple to defeat emission controls and change the calibration of an rngine (by adjusting timing, rejetting carbs etc) so that what left the manufacturer and what was on the road were not necessarilly the same.
With today's computer controlled vehicles, unleaded gas, etc, the VAST majority of vehicles pass, even when 20 years old - if reasonably maintained, and the OBD2 only testing is a total farce and nothing but a money-grab -
Safety shecks for vehicle transfer and annually for commercial vehicles is both a consumer protection AND safety issue - and worth continuing. (along with "selective enforcement" on the roads - see a "questionable" vehicle - pull it over and inspect it for basic safety standards, and possible send for "secondary inspecion" by a registered safety inspection station. Bring it up to standard or take it off the road.
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On 9/19/2015 12:46 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

If only there were any documentation to support that claim.
Annual safety checks in Ontario only affect commercial

My comment referred only to individual owned passenger cars.

It still is.
so that what left the

And those that in any manner overrode emission controls were an insignificant percentage of the motoring public.

Again, my comment referred only to individual owned passenger cars.
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Well, as a mechanic back then, I can assure you I failed a LOT of dangerous cars, repaired many of them, and scrapped almost as many.

Which here in Ontario only require safety checks for transfer, or if older than a certain age, depending on the insurance company, to get or maintain insurance coverage.

Tell me how the average hack can adjust the timing on his 2002 Ford Taurus 3.0 32 valve V6??? Or even adjust the mixture?

You would be surprised how many Olds 350 rockets back in the mid seventies had the timing significantly altered to eliminate overheating when pulling a trailer, or how many "super six" mopars had the carburetion and timing adjusted off-spec to get rid of "driveability problems" - and how many "lean burn" mopars were "converted" to non-lean-burn without changing the camshaft (which was required if you were going to be anywhere CLOSE to passing emissions) and how many AIR systems were removed from GM engines - and how many EGR systems were disconnected ---- just for starters. (under the mistaken idea that they could get better mileage by simply removing them)
The numbers WERE significant.

And "selective enforcement" can be, and is, applied to private passenger vehicles as well - at least here in Ontario.
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca posted for all of us...

+1 My experience exactly.
PA had twice yearly inspections but now has yearly . I remember all the uproar over what the garages had to buy, the 3 gas analyzers, dynamometers, leased or privately owned... It was a circus. I think it was a politicians dream. (It was in NJ).
I remember customers that had notorious vehicles with bad emissions; blowing blue smoke, heavy fuel smell, missing engines. A lot of "beaters".
Then the lead issue. I don't know if lead in gas was harmful or not but that train has left the station. My observation is the air is "better" but is that because of cars or the fact PA is ground zero of the "rust belt" and manufacturing has left?
My gripe is that counties around major city's have testing while the rest of the state doesn't. What, the wind doesn't blow through the whole state?
There are also exemptions if the cost of repairs exceed a threshold.
Claire would remember PCV valves and tune ups...
--
Tekkie

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On 9/19/2015 4:15 PM, Tekkie® wrote:

The original twice yearly was a safety inspection. That was a joke. You could get inspected so easily or you could get scammed by shops selling un-needed repairs.
The shop I went to was owned by an old guy that could not lift a wheel if he had to. checking the brakes was pushing on the pedal while scraping off the old sticker.
Before that, I took three cars to a shop in one day and every one needed headlight adjustment for $2. Never mind that the ball joints they never checked were loose. Quick easy money.

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Ed Pawlowski posted for all of us...

True, but then again we had a reputable shop.
--
Tekkie

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On 9/19/2015 3:15 PM, Tekkie® wrote:

Wow, you are remarkably uninformed, if not downright stupid.
Educate yourself, if possible, by reading about Clair Patterson, a scientist who was attempting to establish the true age of the Earth and serendipitously, by the failure of his early attempts to create a clean room, discovered the grave neurotoxin danger poisoning us all.
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There are few things more terrifying than slow lead poisoning. The improvement in the amount of lead in people's bodies has been amazing since lead was taken out of gas.
That's not to say MBTE isn't pretty bad... it is. But lead is about the scariest thing you can imagine.
When I was fresh out of college with an EE degree, I interviewed at a battery plant in Alabama.... and as soon as you walked into the town you could see the people in town being stupid. Everybody, everybody in town had clear signs of lead exposure. I got out of there as quickly as I could and I did not look back.
You can say some bad things about the EPA and some of them are true, but the reduction in lead exposure has been one of the biggest benefits to health in this country. It probably hasn't resulted in the air smelling or looking any better (and feedback control of fuel mixture has) but it's been a big deal.

Depends on the state. LA is an interesting example... LA sort of has its own weather system in the basin and smog in the basin doesn't blow away, it just sits there and people stew in it. New York isn't like that... smog in New York turns into smog in New Jersey. --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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On 19 Sep 2015 21:08:24 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote:

Ontario - - - -
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On Sat, 19 Sep 2015 19:58:26 -0700 (PDT), Uncle Monster

I almost ended up posted there in the early seventies - lead and zinc mining has decimated the population.
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On Sat, 19 Sep 2015 20:58:28 -0700 (PDT), Uncle Monster

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can you elaborate on this?
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On scary battery plants or MBTE exposure, or long-term lead exposure rates? --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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