About Emissions & Smog Inspections

emissions testing
Source: uleiber/Shutterstock

To register or renew a vehicle registration in most states requires annual emissions testing and or smog inspection.

The purpose of the inspection and testing was instituted to improve the air quality and reduce vehicle emissions that would cause pollution to the environment and erode the health of citizens.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) sets the standards and the State sets state-wide protocols. The local DMV’s set the guidelines for registrations, emissions testing and issuing credentials reporting on a local level. To pass a DMV smog check there are several specifications factored in. The make, year and model of the vehicle being tested will factor into the results. In other words, if your automobile was made in a year when conditions were not set for emissions, your car may be exempt or may need retrofitting. It all depends on the circumstances. Follow along to the next sections:

Checks are generally set

  • Emissions Inspections and Smog Testing Requirements
  • Emissions Testing Exemptions
  • How to complete an emissions testing

Emissions Inspections and Smog Testing Requirements

Various specifications of each vehicle, when and how it was made determine how much scrutiny your car or truck will receive. Each state has its own requirements whether to test, how often to test, and how detailed each emissions test will be by make and model. If your vehicle was made in a year where it was not outfitted with a specific filter to be tested, your car would most likely be exempt for that test. In some states like California, that is not the case. Retrofitting may be necessary to have the car pass the needed smog test to receive the certificate needed for registration of the vehicle. There are exemptions for models created years previous to 1997 and some vehicles over 14,000 lbs. Check with your state to find out how the rules affect your car.  

Various Exemptions for Emissions Testing

On the other spectrum, newer cars as old as 5 years can be exempt from the auto emissions testing because they were constructed to the current codes for smog and emissions. Any vehicle that has been reconstructed or custom built will be expected to have testing done.

Other exemptions would be for deployed out of state or overseas military personnel not able to make a timely check. However, California has the strictest smog check certification laws that even members of the U.S. Armed Forces are not procedure exempt.

Completing an Emissions Smog Test

Smog and emissions testing locations are localized for citizens to conveniently comply. State DMV websites usually list all testing sites for easy reference. Once you have an appointment or if you are just stopping by to wait in line, here is what you need to bring with you:

  • Any applicable fees for testing
  • If you have a locking gas cap, bring the key
  • Your vehicle registration, title certificate or bill of sale

Your DMV website will give you a fee schedule to prepare you for payment.