emissions test oil change

What to Do When Your Car Fails its Emissions Test

The majority of states in the U.S. require some sort of emissions testing (also called a ‘smog check’ or ‘smog test’), though how often varies considerably. Even though emissions tests are common – most states require them every two years – most people have no clue what to do if they fail.

Since you need to pass your emissions test to get new tags, you’ll want to know what to do if you end up failing your test. Below is more information on this issue and the steps to take. 

Determine the Reason

There’s a reason why your car failed the test, so now it’s time to find out why. By addressing the issue, you can pass your test next time. Some of the most common reasons why cars fail their smog tests are: 

  • Overdue oil change. Dirty oil releases pollutants that can interfere with your emissions test. Fresh, new oil releases fewer pollutants and ensures a cleaner engine.
  • Car exhaust issues. Extreme weather and general wear and tear can cause problems with your car exhaust. Once you fix this issue, you’ll pass the emissions test and enjoy a smoother ride! 
  • Check engine light is on. When your ‘check engine’ light is on, it’s telling you that something is wrong. Take your car into a repair shop for diagnostic testing. While it could be anything, faulty oxygen sensors are common. 

Get an Oil Change, Go for Diagnostic Testing 

If you haven’t had an oil change in some time, you can start there. Your car is going to need fresh oil anyway. If the check engine light is still on, this means that something else is going on. 

Request diagnostic testing at your local auto shop. A mechanic should be able to identify the problem and a course of action. It’s possible that you have a compromised catalytic converter or faulty gas cap, two things that affect smog testing. 

Once you know what’s going on, you can take the necessary steps to fix the problem and pass the emissions test. If you choose not to, you can be fined, and you may not be able to register your vehicle.

While most dealerships are not allowed to sell a car that wouldn’t pass testing, an as-is sale is different. If you purchased a used car from a private seller, schedule a full inspection to make sure your new car will pass testing.