Vehicle Emissions Testing: Understanding the New Changes

What to do if your vehicle doesnt pass the new emissions testing.

So, you got your notice from the state saying your vehicle is due for emissions testing.

As always, you drive over to the test station, but what is this? The station is closed! Worse yet, it is has chains across the entrance and there is a for sale sign in the grass. Now what?

Take a better look at your registration notice and you see in small print that the testing locations have changed. Now there are 200 locations in a seven county area instead of only seven.

How do you find them? Odds are there is probably one within several miles of your home. The easiest way to find the new locations is to go online at www.wivip.com and enter your city name or zip code, and a list of the closest test centers will be generated. Not computer savvy? You can call 1-866-OBD-TEST and they will direct you to the nearest center.

Now here is the important part

If you pass no problem, renew your registration and you are set.

If you fail, then you need to look at your options closely. You can choose to repair your car or have anyone you want do it for you. If your car is in rough shape and needs a lot of repair, you are required to spend at least $819 to try and correct your emissions problem. If you’ve reached that amount and you still can’t get it to pass, you can apply for a waiver.

Here is where it gets tricky. To receive a waiver the work on your car has to be done by a recognized repair facility. What is a recognized repair facility? It is a shop that has taken the required emissions training and certification showing they are qualified to do emission repair. At www.wivip.com and 1-866-OBD-TEST they have a list of recognized shops.

If your car is in rough shape and needs a lot of repair, you are required to spend at least $819 to try and correct your emissions problem.

If you choose to do the work yourself, that is fine, but it will not count towards a waiver. This means you have to spend whatever it takes to pass emissions before getting your registration.

Our shop is a technical assistance center for the Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program (one of five scattered around southeast Wisconsin). We are the only locations that can issue a waiver. We have been seeing a lot of people coming looking for waivers on work they did or work that was done by a non recognized shop. Needless to say, they are a little upset when they find out they don’t qualify.

Another thing to remember is, in order for work to count for a waiver, it must be addressing the issues that are causing the failure. For example, if you have a bad catalytic converter which could cost in excess of $1,500 to repair (on certain vehicles) and you do a tune up and replace an oxygen sensor to get to the $819 required for a waiver, it wouldn’t count because it doesn’t address the weak catalytic converter.

In a case like that, you may have to bite the bullet and replace the converter.

So proceed with caution if repairs are getting expensive. If you are thinking you may qualify for a waiver, make sure the facility doing the repair is recognized. Check the WIVIP website and make sure the shop is listed. Doing your homework up front will save you time, money, and frustration.

Now in closing, don’t shoot the messenger. I didn’t mandate this program. I, like you, have to follow it and help my customers do the same. It does have its benefits.

I wonder how much extra that driver is paying in fuel costs because of their poor running vehicle.

Last week my wife and I were on vacation up in northern Wisconsin. Three times while driving down the road I had to pull over or pass the vehicle in front of me because I couldn’t stand the exhaust smell coming from their tailpipe. I always look when I pass one of these vehicles and the check engine light is always on. Needless to say those vehicles aren’t required to be inspected for emissions compliance.

I wonder how much extra that driver is paying in fuel costs because of their poor running vehicle. Regular maintenance is still the best way to budget and save money on auto repairs. Repairs left undone have a habit of building up and turning into much higher costs to the vehicle owner and are a health and safety hazard to all of us.

Hopefully this helps explain the emissions program a little better to help avoid  problems and keep you running smooth.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Craig August 17, 2012 at 04:54 PM
BUT- It did just pass emissions!
Steve ® August 17, 2012 at 05:49 PM
John - Yep, and that is why I said someday soon, meaning we finally (and hopefully) have the correct kind of leadership in office. Maybe one day the reality of Gary Indiana will sink into the liberal enviro nuts.
Steve ® August 17, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Maybe back in the day when you had to run them up on a roller and put this sensor there. Now you just plug them into a computer. Done. Anyone can do it.
Steve ® August 17, 2012 at 05:58 PM
That article was ripped apart as blatantly bias a few weeks ago. Notice how they don't mention what mechanic tried to rip granny off? Wouldn't finding that mechanic and asking questions make for a better story? And how the mention of Walker is made by a person that signed the recall petition. ►Governor Walker shouldn't have done what he did. I didn't have a problem going to those emission test places. Now I have to go to these garages and deal with these crooks.◄ Who is the crook? It's framed, with no details or real reporting.
Steve ® August 17, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Wouldn't the increase in demand from shops doing the testing increase the need for new employment to handle that demand?
Resident of O.C. Paul August 17, 2012 at 06:14 PM
OK...so then where do the CO, CO2 readings come from as they no longer put the collector wand up the tail pipe? Some sensors have to be sensing carbon, oxygen and other exhaust components and relaying that to the ECU so that it can be picked up on what ever piece of equipment they are using to conduct the emission test. Or is the mechanic that good at sensing those with his nose? if so, then I wonder how the ECU controls the engine, or if all the sensors (Mass flow, Oxygen, etc...) on the engine are really necessary...maybe a tiny mechanic is under the hood of my vehicle running around adjusting everything to keep my vehicle running correctly? Guess I really don't know how a vehicle runs. Does it run on gas? I understand a battery is under the hood...maybe it runs on electricity? it takes a spark plug to ignite the fuel air mixture in the combustion chamber and it takes electricity to create a spark...but then again you can create a spark if you strike magnesium with a piece of steel...???
Resident of O.C. Paul August 17, 2012 at 06:36 PM
in 25 years of owning vehicles I've never had a vehicle fail an emission test. Then I've seen cars out on the road that should be in a junk yard, you know the ones, you get behind them and almost pass out due to the exhaust cloud coming from them...yet they're out on the roads, and I wonder how they passed an emission test. So I agree that the program should have been gotten rid of all together. Waste of money and time with little coming back for the investment...no bang for the buck.
Resident of O.C. Paul August 17, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I guess I now know a mechanic I will never want to have touch my vehicle. He doesn't know much about what the sensors do, or how they interact with the ECU/PCM...something I couldn't possibly wrap my mind around.
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) August 17, 2012 at 08:34 PM
As opposed to the high school dropouts Envirotest employed? FAIL for you, sir.
Nuitari (Grand Master Editor) August 17, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Those would be the ravishing chariots of the hood rats.
Bren August 17, 2012 at 08:44 PM
A friend owns a 1997 vehicle with "check engine" light problem. Takes the car to 4 different mechanics and spends $2,000+ trying to fix the problem. Each mechanic swears its one problem or another. The codes are cleared out and a host of new codes pop up, the engine light remains on. The car otherwise runs well. Emission testing time and the car fails. Friend is given a book of "preferred" service agencies and 2 of them can't find the problem. Finally "preferred" mechanic and friend of DMV tech services person recommend just replacing a perfectly good timing belt for $800 and getting the waiver. There has to be a smart way to deal with emission controls.
Avenging Angel August 17, 2012 at 09:32 PM
This whole program is backwards. It requires new cars to be inspected, but once it is 10 (?) years old, it is exempt and the cars that are really bad (>$819 in repairs) can get a waiver. Moronic.
Sunrocket August 17, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I've never gotten that either. My check engine light is continuously on and it is always because of the gas cap. I have spent more money on diagnostics and gas caps and it continually keeps happening.
John Haunfelder August 17, 2012 at 10:58 PM
The emissions program tests all vehicles 96 and newer. Cars older than that would require the old IM 240 test on the Dynometer (very expensive to do). New cars are not tested for the first three years. And starting this year light duty diesel trucks 07 and newer up to 14,000 GVW will also be tested. You all realize that for every one person complaining about this program there are probably ten who thinks it works well. I call it my 10% rule no matter what you do 10% are going to complain. That outta to start a firestorm
Bren August 17, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I don't think anyone appreciates having to take time out of the day for emission testing. My mechanic/dealership is now a test center and they have a car service in case there's a problem. That's more convenient for me but I'm very sorry that jobs were lost from the changeover from the previous emission testing contractor. A high cost for my convenience, too high.
Avenging Angel August 17, 2012 at 11:15 PM
Anyone know the % of cars that fail? I can't help but wonder if we are addressing a problem that doesn't exist.
Bob McBride August 17, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Nah, no firestorm. There are plenty of mechanics in the area.
Chuck moeller August 18, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Guess what. You are all correct! Well, most of you anyway. First yes the testing process is very simple. We have trained and certified everyone from auto technicians to service advisors to lot attendants to even salespeople to perform the test. John is also correct, there can definitely at times be more to it were a higher level of automotive technical background comes in handy. The vast array of makes and models do not always locate the OBDII connector in an easily found location. Once located and properly connected the test is straight forward and guided by the test equipment software with minor user input. All while immediately transmitting findings directly to the DMV. The test simply checks to confirm that the readiness monitors have run or recorded failure. The failure rate is extremely low thus far at a rate of less than 2%. Does this mean failed vehicles are belching excess emissions? Usually not, merely means that in some cases the emissions related components are not giving optimum information through monitoring. However any one that feels that today's vehicles have little or no emissions, feel free to close your garage door,start your car and call me in the morning. (not really please don't- just food for thought). As for unscrupulous repair facilities or technicians (grease monkeys), John's 10% rule applies here as well. I might add that that rule applies in all professions. Doctors,lawyers,journalists,resteraunts,grocery stores,etc...
Steve ® August 18, 2012 at 05:46 AM
It is an enviro nutjob scam. If they are worried about the emissions that float up from Gary Indiana they should spend some time in India or China.
Joe Todor August 18, 2012 at 06:32 AM
> required to spend at least $819 Should that read :"required to spend at the most, $ 819" ?
Tom Kamenick August 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM
They're probably older than 96, and therefore don't have to be tested. Wonky law, huh? The really old cars that are more likely to have bad emissions don't need to be tested, but a car a couple years old has to be.
Tom Kamenick August 18, 2012 at 11:36 AM
There is - allow people to test, you know, the actual emissions instead of the computer codes so that a crossed wire doesn't keep you from driving your car.
Gregory Kluck August 19, 2012 at 10:11 PM
A tip. Before you take your car in for testing, make sure (besides the Check light being off) it's at operating temperature. Cold engines normally produce a bit more in emissions than warmed up cars. When we had testing stations to go to, that wasn't much of a problem. But now, with service centers and dealerships, your car may sit in the lot for a while cooling off. i am sure the mechanic/technician doesn't drive it around for a bit.
$$andSense August 21, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Correct me if I am wrong John but the testing only applies to vehicles manufactured in the last 20 years. Older vehicles are exempted as well as mopeds, motorcycles, etc. Most new vehicles won't run well if their emissions are malfunctioning. This is akin to treating the young for heart disease and ignoring the older at risk types. I realize you didn't write the law but isn't this one more case of gov't stupidity to maintain fed funding? And yes, I have stopped several car lengths away at stop lights from Harleys that smell worse than an ash tray spewing their characteristic exhaust stink without consequence.
Emissions-guy August 29, 2012 at 04:11 AM
@ R of O.C. Paul... I could barely read your posts without laughing my head off. You really think your car has a carbon emissions sensor? GO TRY TO BUY ONE! Stop talking about things you clearly know nothing about. Ben Hogan is 110% correct and you are clearly talking out of your a$$.
Rachel Chiariello December 06, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I've been trying to get my car to pass emissions since October. 2 extensions later and my check engine light is still on. I might as well become a mechanic, because the ones around here sure can't fix the problem. Apparently code p0446 can mean any number of things are wrong. Mechanics expect you to have the money to try them all.
CowDung December 06, 2012 at 04:28 PM
No, Joe. If they spend less than $819, then they are not eligible to apply for a waiver. They must spend at least $819 to be eligible to apply for the waiver. The idea is that there's a limit to what one has to spend trying to fix the problem. if they don't have to spend that much, their problem was fixed and a waiver isn't needed. If they do spend that much (or more), the problem might not be fixable and they need the waiver.
John Haunfelder December 06, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Rachel give me a caqll you have options. Here is my work # 262-542-2600
Nikki Hundt Prohaska February 05, 2013 at 11:06 PM
P0446 Evaporative Emmission Control System Vent Control Circuit OBD-II Trouble Code Technical DescriptionEvaporative Emission Control System Vent Control Circuit Malfunction What does that mean?Evap vent valve has only one purpose. It closes in order to seal the vent so the EVAP system can pressurize and ensure there are no leaks. Evap vent valve is usually supplied Batt. voltage with key on. The ECM's driver controls the ground, and when grounded, activates the valve (closing it). If the ECM detects a short to ground, and open,or a short to battery voltage on the control circuit, P0446 will set. Code also may refer to ECM detecting that EVAP system is unable to achieve or maintain vacuum during test. SymptomsThere will be no obvious symptoms to driver, other than MIL illumination. (MIL= Check Engine Light) on. CausesA code P0446 could mean one or more of the following has happened: Faulty vent valve Open, short or excessive resistance on Vent valve control circuit Blockage of vent valve Bad PCM Possible SolutionsWith a P0446 OBD-II trouble code, here are some things to try: Replace Vent valve Repair open, short, or resistance problem in control circuit Repair open, or short, or resistance problem in power circuit Replace PCM Other EVAP DTCs: P0440 - P0441 - P0442 - P0443 - P0446 - P0453 - P0455 - P0456
Jack April 21, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Does nobody realize that OBD2 is Second Generation as stated earlier? Um what about OBD0 and OBD1 testing. LMAO definitely more to testing than plug and play. Second generation OBD only makes the testing much quicker if functioning properly because testers read data instead of doing the work to produce it, such as you have to do on an OBD0 car. Any idiot who has taken a car to be emissions tested would understand, or anyone with 5 seconds of research. Amazing how people on the Internet are so stupid, and love to say they know everything about everything. However those people prove they know nothing about anything.


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