TECH
07/10/2015 16:05 BST | Updated 08/10/2015 09:59 BST

Volkswagen Emissions Scandal: Find Out If Your Car Is Affected

The Volkswagen emissions scandal has now moved from the stage where fingers are being pointed to the company now rolling out its plan to fix what is surely the worst scandal to hit the motoring history since its inception.

vw

The company's new chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch has promised that VW will start recalling all those vehicles affected in January with a further promise that every single car will be fixed by the end of 2016.

This is a huge undertaking, affecting not only cars from VW but also vehicles belonging to its sister companies Audi, Skoda and Seat. VW also confirms it is investigating its supercar brand Bugatti as well.

Volkswagen has said it will start contacting owners before the end of the year but if you're keen to find out if you're affected here's how you can find out:

1. Find out your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) Details: These can be found either in the front of your car's service manual or can be located on the bottom left-hand side of the car's windscreen looking in from the outside.

2. It should look something like this: WVWZZZ1JZXW000010

3. Head to this link and enter the number to find out if you've been affected.

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So what has Volkswagen done?

The US Environmental Protection Agency claims that Volkswagen installed an illegal piece of software in its diesel cars that would allow the vehicles to appear far more environmentally friendly during testing than they would in the real world.

Called a 'defeat device' this piece of software changes the way the engine behaves, massively reducing the amount of harmful emissions being produced by the car.

How does a 'defeat device' work?

Modern diesel cars use a fluid called urea that's then pumped into the exhaust system which in turn reduces the amount of nitrogen oxide that's released into the atmosphere.

A 'defeat device' is a piece of software that can detect when the car is undergoing emissions testing at which point it will start pumping more urea into the system.

car exhaust

A sensor is placed inside the exhaust which then measures the car as it 'drives'.

The problem is that it's not sustainable. Under normal driving conditions the fluid would run out extremely quickly.

For short periods of time though such as say, in a laboratory, the system can make the car appear to be far more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

That sounds highly illegal?

You would be right, it absolutely is.

The accusation is that a car company has been mis-selling vehicles that are far more harmful to the environment and to people than they claim to be.

The Guardian reports that a legal firm in the US has already started a class action law suit in behalf of US car owners and it's strongly expected that Volkswagen's managers could face criminal charges.

How many cars are affected?

It's initially believed that around 11 million diesel cars made by Volkswagen are affected worldwide. There are however increasing concerns that the scandal won't just be limited to Volkswagen with many countries now re-examining their emissions testing procedures.