Why Does Emissions Testing Matter?

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All vehicles produce harmful pollutants that get into our air. Car manufacturers have worked hard to make sure that as little of these harmful pollutants actually get into the air as possible. Vehicles have built in exhaust systems which help to combat the pollution, making it less harmful to the environment.

As the harmful gases and fumes are produced in the catalytic converter, chemicals change the gases into less harmful ones. These less harmful gases are then released through your vehicle’s tailpipe(s).

In 2016, there were approximately 263.6 million registered passenger vehicles across the country. This is not including semi-trucks, and other vehicles for commercial use. If all the registered vehicles are being used, are all of those “less harmful gases” really less harmful? Therefore, emissions testing matters.

What is an emission?

An emission is anything that is produced and then expelled, like gas, radiation, and other pollutants. These emissions, in large quantities, can have a really bad effect on the quality of air that we breathe every second of our lives.

What Types of Emissions Tests Are There?

  1. On-board diagnostics tests
  2. Gas cap pressure checks
  3. Inspection and maintenance tests

The most popular of the three tests is the diagnostic test. This test uses a machine to gather the digital information from your vehicle’s computers to check for emission’s issues and malfunctions. The emissions tester can print out a form right then and there and tell you what needs to be addressed in your vehicle.

Will I be Notified When My Vehicle is Due for an Emissions Test?

Most states send out notices to each applicable vehicle owner when his/her vehicle is due for an emissions test. It will generally be sent out 45-90 days prior to the date the test needs to be completed. This notice will be sent to the address on the current registration card. If you have moved, you will need to notify your state’s motor vehicle department of the changes.

What Vehicles Need Emissions Testing?

Emissions testing by vehicle is different in each state.

For example:

  • Illinois requires testing every 3 years, on vehicles 4 model years and older
  • Colorado requires testing every 2 years, on vehicles more than 7 model years old
  • Indiana requires testing every 2 years, on vehicles made after 1976
  • Georgia requires testing every year, on vehicles manufactured between 1994-2015

Some vehicles are exempt from emissions testing altogether. Most new vehicles are exempt from emissions tests, particularly those made within the last 2 to 3 years of the current registration year.

What Happens if I Avoid Emissions Testing?

The longer you avoid emissions testing, your vehicle may cease to run smoothly and properly. The longer you wait to get your vehicle tested, you’re also putting yourself at risk of getting tickets, if your vehicle’s registration has not been renewed. Once the tickets start piling up, you will have three things to worry about: the fines, passing the emissions test, and getting the necessary repairs made.

What if I Fail an Emissions Test?

If you fail your emissions test, the testing technician will typically give you a list of codes. You can take the list to a licensed mechanic, or repair technician and have them read the codes and fix the issues. Generally, once you already pay the emissions test fee, if there is one associated with your state, you will not have to pay it again to retake the test.

Your vehicle will need to pass its emissions test in order renew its registration. The motor vehicle departments of most states do also offer extensions on emissions tests to give you time to get your vehicle up to code. However, if your vehicle cannot pass the emissions test, it cannot be on the road. Some states will give you a waiver, if you spend a certain amount of money on vehicle repairs, and still cannot pass the emissions test.

The Takeaway

Personal and passenger, vehicles are the cause of 1/5 of all the emissions in the United States. Emissions testing is important for the health of the environment, the health of your vehicle, and the safety of yourself and other drivers around you. It is also important to know the emissions laws in your state, and city, so that you follow the laws. This way you will avoid any associated fines, for not having the test done.