Colorado started the AIR (Automobile Inspection and Readjustment) Care Colorado vehicle emissions test program to improve the air quality in and around the Denver, Boulder, and the North Front Range communities. The state recognizes that car emissions are a major contributor to air pollution in the state and that it must make efforts to curb vehicle emissions o protect Colorado’s natural beauty.
Requirements to Pass the Colorado Smog Check
If the state of Colorado requires your vehicle to get a check, the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles will send a notice in the mail to the address the owner registered the vehicle to as a reminder. The notice will also state whether or not the vehicle meets the requirements to get a RapidScreen Roadside test. If an owner registers a vehicle to a mailing address located in one of Colorado’s AIR Care Program Area counties:
- Boulder county
- Broomfield county
- Denver county
- Douglas county
- Jefferson county
and, certain parts of:
- Adams county
- Arapahoe county
- Larimer county
- Weld county
The vehicle may be required to have an emissions test every two years unless it passed a test the year before. This includes the following gasoline vehicles that are more than seven model years old:
- Light duty, gasoline vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or less
- Heavy-duty, vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds
- Vehicles registered to mailing addresses in the AIR Program areas
- Vehicles driven at least 90 days a year into the AIR program area for employment or school and registered to mailing addresses outside the AIR program area
The state of Colorado only requires emissions checks of the following gasoline vehicles at different time interviews than the typical bi – annual time frame.
- vehicles made in the model years from 1976 – 1985 that have collectors plates to get an emissions test every 5 years
- Vehicles made in the model years from 1976 – 1981 that do not have collectors plates must get emissions tests every year
- Vehicles 1976 and older without collectors plates must get emissions tests every year
Diesel Vehicle Emissions Testing in Colorado
The Colorado Air Care program does not inspect diesel vehicles. However, that does not give diesel vehicle owners a free pass though. The state of Colorado has two programs for providing inspections and maintenance to diesel vehicles and to make sure those vehicles meet the Colorado’s vehicle emissions testing requirements.
Diesel Vehicle Fleets of more than 9 vehicles:
- Owners and/or operators of large fleets (9 or more diesel vehicles) must participate in Colorado’s Diesel Fleet Self-Certification Program. The state requires a yearly self-inspection and certification of each vehicle to comply with Colorado’s diesel exhaust opacity standards
- Colorado requires only large fleet owners/operators residing within the Automobile Inspection and Readjustment Program with diesel vehicles with an empty weight of more than 14,000 pounds to participate
- Heavy-duty diesel vehicles made in the previous 4 model years are exempt from requiring a test
Individual and Owners of Eight or Less Diesel Vehicles:
- An individual diesel vehicle or small fleet diesel owner, must participate in the Diesel Opacity Inspection Program as well. This for any owners of light-duty diesel vehicles and heavy-duty diesel vehicles do not meet the testing requirements of Colorado’s large-fleet diesel vehicle testing program
- New diesel vehicles made in the previous 4 model years are exempt from requiring a vehicle emissions test
- The program requires participating individual and small fleet owners with vehicles made in the past 10 model years to get their vehicles inspected every two years
- The program requires annual inspections for diesel vehicles older than 11 model years
Colorado requires only diesel vehicles located in the Automobile Inspection and Readjustment Program area in the Diesel Opacity Inspection Program. Vehicles taking part in the program must pass a loaded-mode dynamometer-based test. Private, state-licensed diesel inspection stations administer the testing procedures.
Smog Check Exemptions for Colorado Drivers
If a vehicle is one of these types, it is exempt from a vehicle emissions inspections in Colorado:
- Vehicles eight model years old or less
- All-electric vehicles
- Hybrid-electric vehicles less than 7 years old
- Vehicles with collectors plates made before 1975
- 1976 model year or newer gas vehicles with a “collector’s item” registration before September 1, 2009 without ever lapsing or expiring
- Horseless carriages, street rods, farm vehicles, kit cars, and motorcycles
Smog Check Fees
The cost for a smog check in Colorado depends on the test and the model year of the vehicle.
- Inspections required every two years for vehicles starting with a model year older than eight years to 1982 – $25
- Inspections done through the RapidScreen roadside emissions tests – $25
- Inspections required every year for vehicles made in 1981 and older – $15
- Vehicles requiring a verification of their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – $20
Colorado offers several forms of payment to make paying for your check easy and convenient.
Accepted Methods of Payment:
- Checks (make checks to Air Care Colorado)
- Credit and Debit Cards (Visa, MasterCard, and Discover)
Performing Emissions Testing in Colorado
There are several different tests the State of Colorado uses administer vehicle emissions testing. The type of test used by Colorado testing personnel depends on the model year, fuel type, and weight of the vehicle. For starters, gasoline vehicles 1 – 7 years old are exempt from emissions tests in the state of Colorado.
OBD (On board Diagnostic) Tests in Colorado
All vehicles built 8 to 11 years ago must pass a OBD Test. This includes hybrid vehicles as well. Every vehicle manufactured in the U.S. since 1996 has OBD test equipment built into it. This allows a technician to analyze a vehicle’s engine performance and emissions data, and review any maintenance codes the vehicle may be showing. Colorado requires Air Care Colorado personnel to test these features in the OBD system of your vehicle:
- The vehicle’s Check Engine Light: test personnel check to make sure the bulb and circuit for the light are working correctly. This little light is important because it’s the main way the OBD system let’s an owner know something is not functioning properly in their car.
- The vehicle’s OBD system Command Status: Colorado test personnel inspect the OBD system to make sure the system isn’t detecting any emissions-related mechanical issues and that the OBD system isn’t trying to turn the Check Engine light on
- The vehicle’s OBD trouble codes: Test personnel will look to make sure your vehicle is not throwing any trouble codes that need to be addressed
I/M 240 Dynamometer Tests in Colorado
All gasoline vehicles 12 years old and back to the 1982 model year must pass a I/M 240 Dynamometer test. Colorado emissions test personnel perform the I/M 240 test in the following manner:
- Test personnel place the vehicle on large rollers and for four minutes drive the vehicle in place on the rollers to simulate the vehicle’s road driving performance
- Test personnel will also perform an OBD plug-in test if the vehicle has functioning OBD equipment installed in it. The OBD test is not required though. Any issues coming to the attention of test personnel through the OBD system will only be recorded. The vehicle will not fail its emissions test based on any issues arising from the OBD test itself.
Test personnel will advise vehicle owners if they pass the I/M 240 test but fail the OBD test to get a mechanic to take a further look at any issues with the vehicle and repair them.
Two Speed Idle Tailpipe Test in Colorado
Colorado requires emissions test personnel to perform the two speed idle tailpipe test on the following vehicles:
- Gasoline cars made in the 1981 model year or earlier
- Gasoline light-duty trucks made in the 1981 model year or earlier (Trucks weighing less than 8500 lbs)
- Gasoline Heavy – duty trucks made after 1992 model year or later (Trucks weighing more than 8500 lbs)
The two speed idle tailpipe test is pretty straight forward. First, test personnel place a probe into a vehicle’s tailpipe to measure the emissions coming from it. Afterwards, they attach a contact tachometer to the spark plugs of the vehicle, or place one on the vehicle’s hood if the test personnel are unable to get to the vehicle’s spark plugs. Tachometers typically measure the number of rotations of an engine’s crankshaft per minute or to put another way, the engine’s speed. Next, while the vehicle is in Park or Neutral, the test personnel will have the vehicle idle for 30 seconds. Then, the test personnel revs the vehicle’s engine to 2500 RPM. Finally, they idle the vehicle for another 30 seconds.
Parts Per Million (ppm) and Percent (%) are the units of measurement used to determine the test results. There are a small group of vehicles manufactured in the 1981 model year and earlier that are exempt from the two speed idle tailpipe test. Also, certain kit cars and vehicles manufactured outside of the U.S. may also be exempt. Contact a local Colorado DMV for further details.
Alternative Tests in Colorado
If Colorado test personnel are unable to perform a OBD or I/M 240 test on a vehicle in order for it to pass Colorado’s test requirements, an alternative test may be performed. The reasons Colorado test personnel give alternative tests to vehicles may include:
- Randomly selecting a vehicle for quality assurance testing of Colorado’s testing procedures
- A vehicle’s engine or system configuration
- A vehicle deemed unready for testing
- Issues with the vehicle’s OBD computer relaying information to emissions testing equipment
Gas Cap Test in Colorado
A vehicle in the State of Colorado missing or having a malfunctioning gas cap will disqualify the emissions testing results and the vehicle will fail its emissions test. A missing or malfunctioning gas tank will affect the level of emissions coming from a vehicle’s tailpipe. Owners must get a new gas cap for the vehicle and the vehicle must be retested and pass its emissions test.
RapidScreen Roadside Testing in Colorado
The Air Care Colorado Program also administers roadside emissions testing through their RapidScreen Roadside Testing vans. The RapidScreen Roadside testing vehicles are a convenient alternative to taking a vehicle to an Air Care Colorado testing location.The test takes less than a second to do and can be administered at on ramps and inclines on Colorado’s road system. These locations are where vehicles accelerate and emit more exhaust. RapidScreen test personnel screen vehicle’s as they drive through a designated RapidScreen Roadside testing area.
These are the different steps to how Air Care Colorado test personnel give a Rapid Screen Roadside Test:
- There are 3 speed and acceleration detectors that a vehicle drives through
- At the same time, a camera takes 5 pictures of the vehicle’s license plate for identification purposes
- The driver drives the vehicle through two infrared and ultraviolet light beams to analysis the vehicle’s emissions
- These beams bounce off a mirror on the other side of the road hitting a light beam detector
- When the vehicle’s gases from its exhaust breaks the light beams, the light beam detector analyzes the vehicle’s exhaust emissions and creates a detailed report for the vehicle paired to the vehicle’s license plate
The RapidScreen RoadSide Testing Program vans do not conduct testing during inclimate weather such as: snow, sleet, rain, or high winds. To pass a Rapid Screen Roadside Test, vehicle’s must pass stricter test requirements than a norma emissions test in order to maintain accurate testing standards for Colorado drivers.
Failed Smog Inspections – Next Steps
There can be several reasons that a vehicle does not pass a Colorado Air Care Program Test. These include:
- The vehicle’s Check Engine light is on
- The vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic (OBD) computer is showing a maintenance code
- The vehicle’s emissions surpasses Colorado’s vehicle emissions limits
- The vehicle does not pass a visual exhaust test
- The vehicle does not have the required emissions control equipment to meet Colorado’s vehicle emissions test standards such as, a catalytic converter, oxygen sensor, or a gas cap
If your vehicle did not pass its test, these are the next steps to take:
- Check the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) provided by the vehicle testing personnel. The mechanical issues causing the vehicle to not pass their test will be clearly outlined in the VIR
- Look over the Emissions Repair Guide provided at the testing location. The guide lists participating service stations owners can choose to take their vehicles to and get certified vehicle emissions repairs
- Take the VIR to the vehicle repair service of your choice and give the VIR to the repair technician to help them diagnose and repair the vehicle’s issue
- After the mechanic repairs the issue with your vehicle, make sure they fill out the backside of the VIR before returning the vehicle to a Colorado Emissions Testing location and to be retested
- Remember, if the vehicle owner returns the vehicle to a testing location and has the vehicle retested within 10 calendar days (do not mistake this with business days), then the first vehicle emissions retest is free. If the 10th testing day falls on a Sunday or a holiday then the retest deadline extends to the 11th calendar day
Make sure to complete repairs before getting the vehicle retested and to insure the Check Engine light is not on or the vehicle displays a OBD system trouble code. Keep in mind vehicle owners must provide proof of passing a Colorado emissions test before getting vehicle registration renewed. Also, vehicle owners are not required to take their vehicles to one of these repair services. Even though the cost of taking a vehicle to a non-certified repair facility can not count toward a Colorado Emissions Test waiver if the vehicle fails an emissions test a again the cost of vehicle parts can still count toward vehicle repair costs if an owner applies for a waiver anyway.
Colorado Warranty Repairs
If owners have questions about repairs still under warranty, they can contact their dealership. For further questions about dealership responsibilities for vehicle emissions repairs under warranty, check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Colorado to find a Colorado DMV location to contact and ask.
Low Income? Try Colorado’s Economic Hardship Waiver
The State of Colorado offers a one time Economic Hardship Waiver to Colorado residents for the life of a vehicle regardless of who owns it. In order to qualify:
- A vehicle must fail at least one emissions inspection
- Vehicle owners have no minimum dollar amount required to be spent on repairs
- Vehicle owners must show proof of receiving need-based public assistance an approved program
- Vehicle owners have no more than two vehicles registered in your name
Moved to Colorado – Smog Check Requirements
If a vehicle owner has just moved to the Colorado emissions program area (Denver-Boulder or North Front Range) from out of state or from another part of Colorado, then the Colorado DMV requires them to pass a vehicle emissions test and get a new Colorado registration within 90 days.
The only exception for this requirement is if a vehicle owner gets a gasoline vehicle registered in the Colorado emissions program area and the vehicle is not more than 7-years old as dated from the vehicle’s Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin. If this is the case, then the vehicle is not required to get a test until it’s 8 years old.
Transferring a Vehicle Title in Colorado – Smog Check Needed?
When transferring ownership of a vehicle in the State of Colorado, there are 4 situations that require a new emissions test regardless of whether or not there is time still left over on the previous emissions certification. They are:
- Transferring a car title to a family member
- Gifting or donating a vehicle
- Inheriting a vehicle
- Buying or selling a vehicle
In the Denver metro area, new vehicle owners have 60 days to either register a new vehicle or turn an application of title with the vehicle’s title into a local Denver DMV office. Vehicle owners must provide proof their transferred vehicle passed a new check before receiving their new vehicle registration. If the owner of a new vehicle lives outside of the Denver metro area, check our DMV and Emissions Testing Locations in Colorado page to find a local Colorado DMV office to find out what the title transfer requirements are in your county.
Do Sellers Give Buyers a Valid Smog Certificate?
If someone is selling a used vehicle they must get a test for that vehicle even if the vehicle still has time left from passing its last test. The only noted exception to this requirement is if a new vehicle that is less than 7-years old has more than 1 year (or 365 days) until its 7-year exemption is up. In this case,Colorado does not require emissions testing for the vehicle when transferring ownership of it. Be aware that it is the seller’s responsibility to provide a new Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) to the buyer at the time of sale. Dealerships may provide a test voucher to a buyer to get the vehicle tested for free. The buyer is under no obligation to accept the voucher from the dealer.
Special Tips to Pass the Colorado Emissions Test
There are several tips to keep in mind when getting ready to get vehicle tested in Colorado. Before taking a vehicle to get tested:
- Make sure the vehicle runs for at least 10 minutes in order to get an accurate reading
- If the vehicle is misfiring while idling, get that looked at before taking the vehicle to get tested
- If the vehicle’s Check Engine light is on, have the vehicle looked at by a mechanic before getting it tested. A vehicle will automatically fail a Colorado emissions test if the Check Engine light is on
- Make sure to get the vehicle’s OBD system codes read by a certified mechanic before getting tested. Do not just get the codes cleared. Testing personnel will know if deem the vehicle ‘not ready’ to be tested
Find Smog Check Stations Near Me
The State of Colorado has a population of 5,500,000 and being the 8th most expansive state by land mass and a reputation for its mountains, great plains, and its namesake, the Colorado River. Colorado works to protect its natural wonders by managing the effects air pollution has on its environment. Checkout our DMV and Emissions Testing Locations in Colorado page to find a local smog check station. Get your check today.
Smog Check Stations in Denver, Colorado
Denver is Colorado’s capital with a population of more 660,000 residents and is part of the Denver – Aurora – Boulder metropolitan area. The metro area has a population of over 3 million residents and is where 60% of the state’s residents live and makes up a good portion of Colorado’s vehicle emissions program area – a nine county area where Colorado has implemented special emissions testing requirements. There are 11 Colorado emissions testing locations in the Denver. Checkout our DMV and Emissions Testing Locations in Denver County, Colorado to get a check today.
Smog Check Stations in Aurora, Colorado
The city of Aurora is the third largest city in Colorado with a population of 350,000 and second largest city in the state’s emissions testing program area. The city stretches through Arapahoe and Adams Counties and into Douglas County into the South. Checkout our DMV and Emissions Testing Locations in Denver County, Colorado to find a smog check location in your county.
Smog Check Stations in Fort Collins, Colorado
Part of the North Front Range, Fort Collins is the fourth largest city in Colorado with a population of 161, 000 and is the third largest city in Colorado’s emissions testing program area. The city is located in Larimer County. Checkout our DMV and Emissions Testing Locations in Larimer County, Colorado to get a check today.