What You Need To Know About Your Virginia Vehicle Emissions Inspection

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Sterling, Virginia – In an effort to curb air pollution, the state of Virginia requires that motorists submit their vehicles for routine emissions inspections. Also known as “smog checks,” these tests measure the emissions coming from your vehicle and compare them to the Environmental Protection Agency requirements for air pollutants released into the atmosphere. The program known as Air Check Virginia mandates that vehicles garaged in ten highly-populated areas pass an emissions inspection every two years prior to applying for Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) registration.

So, what areas of the state are affected by the regulation? How do you know if your vehicle needs an inspection? And where do you get one? Answers to these and other questions can be found below.

Do I need to get my car inspected in Virginia?

According to the DMV, vehicles garaged in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties – and in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park – are to undergo emissions inspections every two years before registration is renewed.

What is the difference between a safety inspection and an emission inspection?

While the state of Virginia requires certain vehicles to undergo emissions inspections every two years, it also requires that all vehicles get a safety inspection every year. A safety inspection involves examination of the lights and signals, windows and wipers, tires, steering and suspension, brakes, fuel and exhaust systems, seatbelts, mirrors, and more. An emission inspection only covers what is emitted from the tailpipe.

What vehicles require an emission inspection?

Gasoline-powered vehicles less than twenty-five years old and weighing less than 10,000 pounds (GVWR) and diesel-powered vehicles 1997 and newer and less than 8,500 pounds are subject to the inspection requirement.

Certain “qualified hybrid motor vehicles” may be exempt if they obtain a city fuel economy rating of at least fifty miles per gallon from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Do new cars need inspection?

If your car is new, it is exempt from the law for its first four years. The DMV reserves the right to  require an emissions inspection for newer vehicles that were originally titled in another state. So no, you do not likely need to have your new car inspected

How old does a car need to be before an inspection is no longer required?

Once your car, truck, or SUV turns twenty-five it is no longer subject to emissions inspections in Virginia, although it is still subject to safety inspections.

How can I find out if I need an inspection to renew my license plate tags?

The DMV will notify you if your vehicle needs an emissions inspection in order for you to renew your registration. Check the lower left corner (or center) of your registration renewal card for the notice. You can also initiate the registration renewal process online at the DMV website. By entering your title number and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) you can find out if your vehicle needs an inspection.

When can I get my car inspected?

You can get an emissions inspection up to 90 days prior to the expiration of your current registration and until your renewal date. It is recommended that you do not wait until the last minute as failure to pass an inspection will prevent you from renewing your registration.

What do I need to bring to get my car inspected?

The only things you need to bring to the inspection are your renewal notice and payment for the inspection fee (not to exceed $28).

What is involved in an emission inspection?

An emission inspection must be conducted at a certified repair shop registered with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Three types of tests can be performed to accommodate any vehicle that requires inspection: the Acceleration Simulation Mode Test (performed on a dynamometer and with a probe in the exhaust pipe); the Two-Speed Idle Test (also with a tailpipe probe); and the On-Board Diagnostic System Test (performed on newer vehicles by plugging a diagnostic computer into the vehicle’s data link to access emission-related data in the vehicle’s computer).

Prior to the emission inspection, the inspector will conduct a pre-inspection safety check. This is essentially an assessment of any safety hazards – fluid leaks, missing fuel cap, smoke, mechanical or electrical problems, or other defects that might cause safety concerns. If the preliminary inspection is not satisfactory, the vehicle will not be a candidate for emission testing until repairs are made.

Vehicles can also be inspected by driving through one of several RAPIDPASS testing sites featured at points across the northern part of the state. These drive-through zones do not require anything more than a slow drive past emission sensors. A camera photographs the vehicle license plate. Results are sent to the DMV and drivers can access results online. Those who opt for the RAPIDPASS system pay a flat fee for the service.

What if my vehicle fails the inspection?

If your vehicle does not pass the emissions inspection, it will need to be repaired to bring it up to specifications. The inspector will issue a report that includes a list of required repairs that need to be completed by a certified repair shop. Often, the cause of a failed inspection is a simple problem such as a rich idle mixture (too high a fuel to air ratio), worn spark plugs, defective emission control components (including the EVAP sensor or O2 sensors), or even a loose or defective gas cap. Once repairs are complete, you can get a free retest at the same location as the original (failed) inspection within fourteen days.

If, after repairs, your vehicle fails the second inspection and repair costs exceed a designated threshold, you can apply for an inspection waiver. Any costs incurred toward repairing the problems that led to the failed emission tests can be applied toward the waiver – provided the work was performed by a Certified Emissions Repair Technician employed at a Certified Emissions Repair Facility. Repairs completed by anyone else will not count toward a waiver.

Once your vehicle passes inspection – or a waiver is issued – the results are passed on to the DMV within 24 hours and you can apply for registration. The inspection will be good for two years, which means that the following year you will not need to get another inspection (provided you obtained one within the ninety-day window).

Where can I get my vehicle inspected?

You will find that there are more than 400 registered emissions inspection stations across Northern Virginia. Hogan & Sons Tire and Auto is proud to offer and serve you when it is time for your emissions inspection.

Hogan & Sons Tire and Auto | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright November 2018

This article is intended only as a general guidance document and relying on its material is at your sole risk. By using this general guidance document, you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Hogan & Sons Tire and Auto and its affiliates from and against any and all claims, damages, costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, arising from or related to your use of this guidance document. To the extent fully permissible under applicable law, Hogan & Sons Tire and Auto makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the information, content, or materials included in this document. This reservation of rights is intended to be only as broad and inclusive as is permitted by the laws of your State of residence.

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