Preparing for an Emissions Check

Preparing for an Emissions Check

Most of the States in the U.S. require that the exhaust emissions of cars be checked during annual inspections. California is the toughest state. They have very strict standards but they check the “Smog Emissions” a car emits every two years. Regardless of whether it’s a California “Smog Check” or just an emissions check, if the car fails it won’t receive a new inspection sticker.

The problem is that lots of cars fail smog and emission tests even when they seem to be in good running shape. To increase the odds that your car will pass the test, there are a few tricks to know. There are also a bunch of myths out there that don’t help you much. To help you sort these out, we spoke with a certified automobile mechanic and got the low down. He suggests several things that may help you pass the emissions smog test and some that won’t do a thing.

Get a tune-up if your car is running poorly

This suggestion should be common sense. If your car is not running well, it will likely fail an emissions test. It’s worth the expense; getting a tune-up will make your car emit fewer emissions and you’ll get more miles per gallon.

Warm up your car before getting it checked

Warming up your car will get your motor running properly and it will emit the least emissions. In general, driving your car some 10 or so minutes will warm things up just fine.

By the way, there is a myth running around that says you should sit in your car for 5-10 minutes just before the test running the engine at 3000+ RPM to get things really cooking. According to our technician, at Rockland Chrysler of Nanuet, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer of Nanuet, NY, this is unnecessary. Your engine is warmed up just fine by driving it for 5-10 minutes.

Adding fuel cleaner help you pass

Another wives tail says that throwing a can of fuel cleaner in your tank just before your emissions test will help you pass. This isn’t really true but using a car of fuel cleaner once in a while may help burn off the deposits stuck to your engine’s valves and head. Another way of keeping things clean is to use premium gas once in a while. Premium gas has more detergent in it than regular gas.

Replace the “cat”

Some unscrupulous inspection stations suggest installing a brand new catalytic converter if you have trouble passing an emissions test.  According to our expert, if your catalytic converter is going bad then by all means replace it but don’t replace it because someone says “just because it might help.” Often this is just a way for a service station to sell more catalytic convertors.

Pull Out Your “Check Engine” Light

This is one of the silliest things to do. The check engine light is required to be working when the technician tests the vehicle. If the tech doesn’t see the light because someone tampered with it—your car will automatically fail the test. If the check engine light in your car comes on, then find out why and get it fixed.


In general, it doesn’t make sense to play any tricks to pass an emissions test. If anything isn’t working right, get it repaired. Don’t put in a new catalytic convertor (unless you have to) or pull out the check engine light. If your car doesn’t pass, there is likely something that is wrong and it should be repaired.


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