What to Know About the Emissions Test

Thirty states in the US require an emissions test, safety inspection, or both for privately owned vehicles. There are some important considerations when getting your car ready for inspection. Here’s some general information you need to know to continue to be an educated car owner.

State Requirements

Although things can vary around the country there are few helpful tips to keep in mind. Emissions tests are required periodically or in certain special situations, for example, when a vehicle is sold or brought in a different state. Due to the effects of air pollution, or smog, emissions testing is required more often in urban areas and in states with high populations densities and large cities. Some states require emissions tests only in urban areas, simply because metropolitan areas can be more susceptible to carbon emissions than rural ones. An example of this is in Illinois, where emissions tests are required biennially, every two years, in the Chicago area. Vehicle owners who live in rural areas are often exempt and some rural states do not require emissions tests at all.

Purpose of Emissions Tests

Simply put, an emissions test checks the cleanliness of your vehicle. The tests aim to ensure vehicles are in compliance with the requirements set by the federal Clean Air Act. It’s important that a given vehicle’s emissions controls are working. Components like the catalytic converter are tested under various modes of operation to make sure that they’re doing their job and keeping exhaust emissions to mandated levels.

Costs of Test and Cost of Failure

The cost of a test also varies from state to state. In some areas, there is no charge, while others may charge up to $60. The fee is often increased if the emissions test is combined with a required safety inspection.

If a car fails the test, the owner is sent to a shop to see if the issue at hand can be fixed before trying again. As in any situation where older vehicles are more at risk to fail, or if this happens more than once, it might be more cost effective to replace the old car with a newer one. Always consider how much the cost of repairs will cost versus the total value of the car.

In order to pass the emissions test, as well as other inspections throughout the year, it’s important to keep your car in tip-top shape with regular and routine maintenance.