If you can't find the answer to your emissions inspection question here, call the Air Check Virginia staff during normal business hours. For information about vehicle registration, please call the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles at 804-497-7100 or visit their website.
Does my vehicle need an emissions inspection?
Most vehicles that are registered or operated primarily in the program area are subject to the vehicle emissions inspection program. See Which Vehicles Require an Emissions Inspection. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles notifies vehicle owners whether or not an emissions inspection will be required in order to renew the vehicle’s registration. Check the middle or bottom left corner of the registration renewal card for the following statement: “Emissions Inspection Required.”
New residents to Northern Virginia are also required to have the emissions inspection performed for registration. New residents requesting vehicle license plates without a current passed or waived vehicle inspection report may only be eligible for a temporary vehicle license and registration. If you are moving to and registering your vehicle for the first time in Virginia, emissions inspections from another jurisdiction may be acceptable for a one year registration in Northern Virginia if the vehicle has passed an EPA-approved enhanced vehicle emissions inspection within the past 12 months.
New vehicles being titled for the first time, regardless of where purchased, do not need an emissions inspection for the first two years of registration. New vehicles that have been issued a title in another state but have not passed an enhanced emissions inspection as noted above, may be required to pass an emissions inspection or qualify for an emissions inspection waiver in order to be registered in Northern Virginia.
Note: Legislation was passed during the 2006 session of the General Assembly that will change future emissions testing requirements. When this provision takes effect, new motor vehicles being titled for the first time will not need an emissions inspection for the first four years of registration. Prior to these changes becoming effective, however, they must be approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as part of the air quality plan for the Northern Virginia area. It is not known at this time when this approval will be obtained.
If your vehicle is due for an emissions inspection, please do not wait until the last minute to have the inspection performed. The wait for an inspection is generally lowest during the middle two weeks of each month. Waiting until the last weekend or day before your registration expires can result in frustration due to long lines at the inspection station and the local DMV branch office.
For more information about vehicle registration, contact DMV at 804-497-7100. You may also be able to renew your registration over the phone at 1-888-337-4782, or at https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/dmvnet/registration/regist_entry.asp
Which vehicles require an emissions inspection?
Certain vehicles require a Virginia Emissions Inspection PASS or WAIVER before DMV can complete the registration process. The requirements are categorized by fuel type,
- Gasoline-powered passenger or property carrying vehicles with a model year that is less than 25 model years old before January 1 of the current calendar year and with a manufacturer's designated gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less
- Diesel-powered passenger or property carrying vehicles with a model year of 1997 or newer and with a manufacturer’s designated gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or less
and apply to vehicles that are registered in one of the following localities:
- Counties of: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford
- Cities of: Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park
All local, state, and federal government vehicles registered or operated primarily in the Northern Virginia program area are subject to the emissions inspection program. In addition, Section 118 of the federal Clean Air Act requires that any employee of the federal government commuting into the program area and operating their vehicle on a federal installation comply with the emissions inspection program. Federal employees should contact their individual agency about compliance with this federal requirement.
Does my hybrid vehicle need an emissions inspection?
Some hybrid vehicles are exempt from the biennial emissions inspection requirement. According to the Code of Virginia (§46.2-1178.B.1.), a “qualified hybrid motor vehicle” is exempted from the vehicle emissions inspection requirement if it obtains a rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of at least 50 miles per gallon during city fuel economy tests unless observations from the On-Road Emissions program indicates that the hybrid vehicle may not meet current emissions standards.
A “qualified hybrid motor vehicle” is a motor vehicle that meets applicable regulatory requirements, meets or exceeds federal motor vehicle standards for gasoline powered passenger cars, and can draw propulsion energy both from gasoline or diesel fuel and a rechargeable energy storage system.
You can view the city and highway fuel mileage ratings for most vehicles sold in the United States by visiting www.fueleconomy.gov , where you will find annual fuel mileage reports from the USEPA. You can also visit DMV's Emissions Inspection webpage for information regarding which specific hybrid vehicles are exempted from the emissions inspection requirement.
Note: All hybrid vehicles are subject to Air Check Virginia’s On-Road Emissions Program.
How far in advance can I have the emissions inspection done on my car?
You may have the emissions inspection done up to 90 days prior to your registration expiration date to apply for a two year vehicle registration. If the emissions inspection is done any earlier than 90 days prior to your registration expiration date, you may only be eligible for a one year vehicle registration.
What type of inspection is performed?
There are three types of tests: two-speed idle test, acceleration simulation mode test and an on-board diagnostic system test. 1980 and older model year vehicles, and all vehicles with a manufacturer's designated gross vehicle weight rating of 8,501 to 10,000 pounds, receive a two-speed idle test. This test measures hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide at 2,500 rpm and curb idle.
Most 1981 and newer vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating up to 8,500 pounds receive an acceleration simulation (ASM) mode test. The ASM test is performed on a dynamometer (also known as a treadmill) which allows the inspector to run the vehicle at only 15 mph and 25 mph. This type of test is performed to measure nitric oxide, as well as hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Some vehicles may not be able to receive the dynamometer test due to mechanical features such as all-wheel drive, full-time four-wheel drive, or traction control that cannot be turned off. These vehicles will be tested using the two-speed idle test. Newer vehicles may receive a test of the vehicle's on-board diagnostic computer system instead of or in addition to the regular tailpipe emissions test. Most vehicles receive an emissions control component inspection. The inspector will check for certain emissions control systems that were originally installed on the vehicle by the manufacturer. Most vehicles will also receive a gas cap pressure test, and a visible smoke inspection.
1997 and newer diesel vehicles with a manufacturer’s designated gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or less will receive the on-board diagnostic computer system test. Diesel vehicles will not receive the tailpipe test, fuel cap pressure test, visual component inspection, or the visible smoke inspection.
Note: There may be some confusion between the emissions inspection and the state safety inspection. The safety inspection is required once a year. The month and year on the windshield sticker indicate when the vehicle needs the safety inspection performed. For more information on the Virginia Safety Inspection, visit the Virginia State Police's web site.
Can my vehicle be tested safely?
Or ... I was given a "Rejection From Testing" Form. What does it mean?
To ensure the safety of your vehicle, the inspector, and other people around the inspection bay, the inspector is required by inspection regulations to perform a "Pre-Inspection Safety Check." Items that could result in a rejection from testing can include tires in an unsafe condition, fluid leaks, exhaust leaks, visible smoke, missing gas cap, or mechanical problems with the engine and/or drive train. A "Notice of Rejection From Vehicle Emissions Testing" form will be filled out by the inspector to identify the vehicle and the reason it is being rejected from testing. The items that are indicated on the form must be corrected/fixed before the emissions inspection can be safely performed.
Diesel powered vehicles will not be rejected from testing due to tire condition or a missing fuel cap. Diesel vehicles with a manufacturer’s designated gross vehicle weight rating of 8,501 pounds or more may receive a Rejection from Testing Form from the inspection station with instructions to contact the Department of Environmental Quality.
How much does the inspection cost?
The maximum inspection fee is $28. If the vehicle fails the inspection, the vehicle is eligible for ONE free retest at the original emissions inspection station within 14 calendar days of the Initial inspection.
Do I need to take anything to the inspection station?
Take the vehicle and the complete Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice to the emissions inspection station. The DMV registration renewal notice has a bar code on the form that can be scanned by the inspector. This is to decrease the inspection time and to increase data entry accuracy.
Important Note: The vehicle should be warmed up to operating temperature for the inspection.
Where can I get my vehicle inspected?
There are more than 400 permitted emissions inspection stations available to the public in the Northern Virginia area. The inspection is performed at various local facilities including service stations, repair shops, and motor vehicle dealerships. Every emissions inspection station has a poster with a white background and green lettering on the outside of the building indicating "Emissions Inspection Station." (Click here to view the poster.)
You can find Emissions Inspection Stations in your area by clicking one of the following links:
Inspection stations are required to be open for inspections for an eight hour period Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Many stations also have weekend and evening hours. It is recommended that you call the stations in advance to verify their hours of operation before visiting that station.
My vehicle has passed the emissions inspection, now what?
Once the vehicle has received a pass or waiver result, the registration for that vehicle may be renewed for up to two years. When the inspection is completed, the emissions analyzer automatically contacts the Vehicle Inspection Database to download the results of the inspection; the results are then transmitted to DMV, usually within 24 hours.
Occasionally, communications may be interrupted for a short period of time. In this event, you may need to present the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Report to DMV to complete the registration process, or use the "Transaction Identification Number" printed on your report if renewing by phone or on-line. This is a rare situation, and the data transfer system is continually monitored to reduce this type of problem.
You can renew by mail, in person at a local branch office, or over the phone by dialing 1-888-337-4782. DMV also has online registration renewal on their website at www.dmvnow.com. For specific questions regarding vehicle registration, branch locations, hours, or other information, call DMV at 804-497-7100 or visit their web site.
What should I do if my vehicle fails the inspection?
Vehicles that fail the initial inspection are eligible for one free retest at the original station within 14 calendar days of the initial inspection.
Follow this link to learn more about emissions inspection failures, the repair process, and emissions inspection waiver information.
I don't have enough time before my license plates expire to have the vehicle fixed. What can I do?
Under certain circumstances, the Department of Motor Vehicles may offer a one-time extension for vehicles in the Northern Virginia program area for a nominal fee. Contact DMV at 804-497-7100 or visit a branch office for more information.