State Emissions Control: A program designed to periodically check vehicle emissions to ensure they are within limits. Often referred to as an I/M (Inspection/Maintenance) program, they are used in numerous states and areas as required by the Environmental Protection Agency to improve air quality in those areas. Although the requirement comes from the federal government, states and their associated agencies have some flexibility in the type of test used, vehicle populations to be tested and other program-specific details. Some states run centralized programs that have state-contracted test stations exclusively dedicated to testing. Other states run decentralized programs, where emissions can be tested at local repair facilities. In a few cases, states may run "hybrid" programs using both centralized and decentralized test stations. The latest trend is to incorporate the use of second-generation onboard diagnostics (OBDII) into these programs, in many cases altogether eliminating the need for tailpipe emissions tests.
Purpose: I/M programs evaluate the emissions from vehicles and single out those that are polluting beyond the limits established for certain model years of vehicles. Aside from identifying vehicles with high emissions, such programs advocate proper maintenance to prevent high emissions due to maintenance neglect.
Maintenance Tips/Suggestions: The best way to keep your vehicle environmentally friendly is by performing regularly scheduled maintenance, rather than waiting to correct a problem after your car fails an emissions test. If the SERVICE ENGINE SOON or CHECK ENGINE light appears, have it checked out immediately by a professional technician. Neglecting these warning signs can cause lead to more extensive and expensive repairs.
If your vehicle is garaged in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Stafford, or the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park, your vehicle must meet the emissions inspection requirements. Inspections are valid for two years and may be obtained by having your vehicle inspected by a certified emissions inspection station.
No vehicle subject to an emissions inspection will be registered or reregistered by DMV until it has passed an emissions inspection or has been issued an emissions inspection waiver directly from DEQ for special circumstances.
When you have your vehicle inspected, the emissions station will update your vehicle record at DMV immediately. For emission inspection program fees and information or to find the location of the inspection station nearest to you, please visit the Department of Environmental Quality at (703) 583-3900 or toll free in Virginia at 1-800-275-3844.
Emissions Inspections and Vehicle Registrations
To avoid delays in obtaining your vehicle registration from DMV, have your emissions inspection completed before you apply to DMV for registration. DMV is limited to issuing a one-time only 30-day temporary registration if the vehicle owner is unable to produce proof of successfully passing an emission inspection. The customer will be charged a prorated registration fee for the one-month registration. There is no grace period allowed to obtain the safety inspection when Virginia tags are displayed.
Don't forget, you can renew your vehicle registration via the Internet, touchtone, by mail, or at any customer service center.