So Your Car Failed an Emissions Test. Now What?

If you’re a driver in many states throughout the U.S., you have probably waited in line to have your emissions tested. It’s a ritual you go through every couple of years without putting much thought into the requirement, until the day your vehicle doesn’t pass.

Exhaust emissions due to a range of malfunctions in vehicles are a major source of pollution. A check engine alert is just one sign you may have an emissions problem. Whether to update your plates or obtain a certification of a passing inspection before selling a vehicle, there are other reasons that a test might be required. And ignoring the results, while it can be tempting, may only result in further damage and leave you vulnerable to penalties and expensive repairs.

What Is an Emissions Test – and Who Needs to Do One?

Car emissions contain gasses that pose a danger when released into the atmosphere at unhealthy levels, and this can be a particular problem in large cities. A range of issues, from a faulty fuel injection system to vacuum leaks to poor air flow sensors can be the cause of a failed emissions test.

Also known as a smog check, an emissions test is an assessment of the exhaust system of vehicles. More than 2.1 million vehicles are tested each year in the Chicago and St. Louis areas alone. Motor vehicles that must do an emissions test include:

  • Cars and passenger vehicles
  • Trucks and buses
  • Those that run on gasoline

However, states such as Kansas don’t mandate emissions testing, so check your state or county for local requirements. In states that do mandate it, certain vehicles may be exempt from smog standards:

  • Hybrid or electric vehicles (EVs)
  • Motorcycles
  • Car models from certain years
  • Diesel-powered vehicles
  • Certain older, custom automobiles

Auto Repairs May Be Necessary to Renew Plates – Depending on Your Location

In some states a passing emissions test is tied to renewing the tags on your license plate. Generally, the test corresponds with when your license plate expires. While driving a vehicle that has failed the test is generally allowed by law, driving with expired plates is a separate problem, one that can lead to traffic tickets and fines.

But even in states like Kansas where it’s not a requirement, emissions issues should be dealt with as promptly as possible. Unhealthy emissions don’t just impact the environment; they can also leak into the interior of your vehicle as you drive. Speak to a professional mechanic to get to the root of the problem and find out what steps are needed to make the necessary repairs. 

Diagnose Emissions Problems & Perform Necessary Repairs Using a Certified Mechanic

The most common sign your vehicle might fail a smog test is a check engine light warning. In areas that require the test, you’ll want to find a mechanic or repair technician who is certified to repair problems related to emissions so that the vehicle will pass when it is retested. The facility should provide a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) and will usually charge a diagnostic fee that will go towards the cost of any necessary repairs. In places like Illinois, the technician must submit a form to the inspection facility before a retest can be conducted.

Drivers should avoid the temptation to put off emissions tests. Making the repairs can take several days, and you don’t want to be stuck without a vehicle or up-to-date plates. Keep in mind that your car may need to be driven a certain number of miles following the repairs in order for the internal system to reset itself and no longer indicate a problem.

Resolve Engine Failure with LS Engine Swap Designed in Wichita, Kansas

Sometimes there is no resolution for a failed engine. If you love your vehicle and want to keep it, swapping out an outdated or malfunctioning engine can be a fairly simple solution that lets you get back out on the road – with even more power and better performance than before. Based in Wichita, Kansas, ICT Billet performs top-rated LS engine swaps for driving enthusiasts around the country. We also provide hundreds of parts and accessories for drivers of LS and LT cars and trucks who need them. 

Reach out to ICT Billet online or give us a call about conducting an engine swap. We can help you avoid potential delays, as well as can answer any questions you may have about engine swaps. We look forward to helping out!

Thanks for reading! Want to catch all the updates coming on our latest projects?




Share this blog on