North Carolina Smog Check / Emissions Test
The State of North Carolina requires vehicle emissions tests for vehicles registered in 48 counties. North Carolina is in the process of revising its current emissions testing program to increase the number of counties exempt from testing. Most vehicles throughout the state must pass a safety inspection.
Requirements to Pass the North Carolina Smog Check
North Carolina requires smog checks in 48 of its 100 counties for gasoline vehicles manufactured in the 1996 model year or newer that weigh less than 8501 lbs must get a safety inspection and smog check if registered in one of the following counties:
Vehicle owners must get their vehicles to pass a vehicle emissions test within 90 days of their vehicle’s registration renewal deadline. If the vehicle owner living in one of the designated 48 counties does not get their vehicle to pass a safety and emissions inspection, the North Carolina DMV will block their vehicle registration until they do. Vehicles that are not registered in one of the above counties only need to pass a yearly safety and visual tampering inspection.
The State of North Carolina is currently in the process of revising its emissions testing requirements by exempting an additional 26 counties from emissions testing. The following counties are under consideration for future exemption from emissions testing: Brunswick, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Craven, Edgecombe, Granville, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Lenoir, Moore, Nash, Orange, Pitt, Robeson, Rutherford, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilkes and Wilson.
Smog Check Exemptions for North Carolina Drivers
If a North Carolina-registered vehicle falls under one of the following categories, the owner does not need to get the vehicle to pass a smog check:
- New vehicles made within the 3 most recent model years driven less than 70,000 miles
- Vehicles made in the 1995 model year or earlier
- Diesel vehicles
- Farm vehicles
- Alternative – fueled vehicles that do not use gasoline
- Vehicles weighing more than 8501 lbs
- Recreational vehicles (RVs)
- Motor homes
- Kit cars (contact a North Carolina DMV office for more information)
- * Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) if they meet all exemption criteria
However, if a vehicle falls into one of the above categories it will still have to pass a safety an tampering inspection.Vehicle owners can find out if their vehicle qualifies for the new vehicle exemptions by using the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Exemption Calculator.
Out-of-State Exemption: If a vehicle required to pass a safety and/or emissions test is not in the state during the 90-day time frame when they must get their vehicle to pass their inspections, they can go to an inspection station if there are any in their area and get one done there. Then, mail the results to the North Carolina DMV. If the vehicle owner is unable to do so, then they may be eligible for an exemption. Contact the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles for more information concerning out-of-state renewals at 1-877-421-0020.
Active Duty Exemption: Military personnel have 30 days after they return from active duty to get their vehicles to pass any required tests or inspections. The North Carolina DMV will waive any late fees or charges. Just contact a North Carolina DMV office for more information.
* Gasoline hybrid vehicles must also pass a vehicle emissions test every year if the vehicle owner has a residents in one of the current 48 counties that require vehicle inspection requirements.
Smog Check Fees
Onboard diagnostic and emissions inspections can cost no more than $30 in North Carolina. Safety inspections are $13.60.
Performing Emissions Testing in North Carolina
Vehicle safety and emissions inspections can be completed at any one of the 7500 inspection stations in the state. North Carolina requires vehicle inspections for all new vehicle registrations as well as annual registration renewals for residents. North Carolina vehicle must get their vehicles to pass a vehicle safety inspection and vehicle emissions test within 90 days of the vehicle’s registration renewed. Owners also have 10 days after receiving their vehicle’s license plates to get the vehicle’s emissions test completed if renewing a suspended registration, completing an original registration, or renewing a registration.
Since North Carolina DMV now stores all inspection records digitally, North Carolina-registered vehicles are no longer issued inspection stickers. Instead vehicle owners receive a receipt showing the date of the vehicle passed its inspection, the testing location where the vehicle completed its inspection, and the results of the inspection. North Carolina DMV also stores a copy of the receipt in its vehicle registration database.
On Board Diagnostic Tests: The North Carolina DMV administers an ODBII test on most gasoline motor vehicles made in the 1996 or newer model years registered in one of the 48 counties that require emissions tests. The OBDII system installed in U.S. manufactured vehicles made in the 1996 and newer model years is a mechanical issue early-warning system. The system records the vehicle’s performance by administering a specific kind of test referred to as a “Monitor”. Certain monitors test a vehicle’s primary emissions components and subsystems. While the key is in the ignition and the engine is off, a test technician will make sure the vehicle’s DLC (Data Link Connector) works properly. Then, the test technician hooks an emissions diagnostic tool up to your vehicle’s DLC using a cable to allow the technician’s diagnostic tool to communicate with the vehicle’s OBD II system. A North Carolina test technician can check your vehicle’s engine and emissions systems, and see if any monitors state a “Not Ready” status. The test personnel can complete the test in around 2 minutes.
Failed Smog Inspections – Next Steps
When a vehicle fails an inspection, the owner must repair their vehicle and have it reinspected.
However, if a vehicle passes a safety inspection but does not pass its emissions test, the vehicle owner may be eligible for a North Carolina Vehicle Repair Waiver.
Moved to North Carolina – Smog Check Requirements
Residents who are new to North Carolina do not need to get a vehicle emissions test the first time they obtain an initial North Carolina-vehicle registration. Once the new resident’s vehicle is up for a registration renewal however, they must pass a safety inspection and smog check.
Do Sellers Give Buyers a Valid Smog Certificate?
New owners of vehicles sold by a private seller must get the vehicle to pass a smog check if the seller did not have the vehicle tested within the past 12 months. The North Carolina DMV advises buyers to ask sellers for a vehicle inspection receipt. If a private seller has had an inspection done on a vehicle, then the new owner does not have to get the vehicle to pass a vehicle emissions test until the vehicle’s next registration renewal.
Buyers who do have to get their new vehicle checked, can obtain a 10-day temporary permit from a North Carolina DMV Office location while they get the vehicle the check completed.
Special Tips to Pass the North Carolina Emissions Test
North Carolina vehicle owners may want to get their vehicles tested as soon as they receive their first testing notice. Allow extra time to get any needed repairs done before the vehicle’s registration expires. Also, if a vehicle owner plans to be out of town during the date when their registration expires, planning early will give owners time to meet the deadline. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure passing a North Carolina vehicle emissions test:
- Make sure the vehicle does not have its “Check Engine” light on; If it does, it will not pass the test. To fix, check to make sure the gas cap is on tight and is not broken. Keep the sealing surfaces in the cap clean so it can make a good seal. If it is not, tighten it and drive around to see if the light goes off.
- Follow the vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule. Many of the mechanical issues that cause vehicles to fail their tests can be addressed during a routine check-up
- If your vehicle is a make and model year when catalytic converters came standard on the vehicle, make sure your vehicle has one and is not malfunctioning; If it does not have one or it is not working, it will not pass the test
- Allow your vehicle to run for at least 10 minutes before it takes a test to insure an accurate reading
- Research your vehicle manufacturer’s recalls, Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), and warranties before getting any repairs done. The cost of their repair maybe covered by the manufacturer.
- If your vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic (OBDII) system is showing trouble codes, make sure to get them fixed by a certified emissions mechanic. Do not just try to clear the codes.Test personnel will know and the vehicle will not pass inspection.
- If your vehicle is misfiring when it is idling, make sure to get this addressed before taking the test
- If a vehicle’s battery is brand new, drive the vehicle for a couple of days before taking it to get an On Board Diagnostics test so as to allow the OBD system to reset
- Make sure the vehicle’s oil is not dirty. Get the oil changed on a routine basis
- Maintain the recommended air pressure in your vehicle’s tires
- Inspect your vehicle’s hoses and belts for wear. Get them replaced if necessary
- Get any mechanical issues with your vehicle’s transmission address and fixed. Transmissions problems can affect your vehicle’s emissions and cause your vehicle to fail its test.
- If your motor vehicle’s emissions system has a mechanical issue, check your manufacturer’s warranty. Federal law states emissions systems on vehicles made in the 1995 and newer model years must have their emissions systems warrantied for two years or 24,000 miles.
- If the OBDII diagnostic system or catalytic converter on your vehicle made in the 1995 model year or newer has a mechanical issue, check your vehicle’s manufacturer’s warranty also. Federal regulation states these vehicles must have a warranty on their OBDII and catalytic converters for eight years or 80,000 miles.
Find Smog Check Stations Near Me
To stay in compliance of the State of North Carolina’s smog check requirements, North Carolina-registered drivers must get their vehicles to pass a vehicle emissions test. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in North Carolina pages below to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Charlotte, North Carolina
The City of Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, has a population of 842,000 and is North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Charlotte must get their vehicles to pass a smog check and safety inspection. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Charlotte, North Carolina page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Raleigh, North Carolina
The City of Raleigh, in Wake County, North Carolina, has a population of 459,000. North Carolina-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Raleigh must get their vehicles to pass a safety inspection and smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Location in Raleigh, North Carolina page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Greensboro, North Carolina
The City of Greensboro, in Guilford County, North Carolina, has a population of 287,000. North Carolina-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Greensboro must get their vehicles to pass a safety inspection and smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Greensboro, North Carolina page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.