Pennsylvania Smog Check / Emissions Test
The state of Pennsylvania requires vehicle emissions tests and safety inspections for non-exempt vehicles in getting their initial vehicle registration or to complete an annual registration renewal in eligible counties. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) sends out testing notices to owners indicating when the test must be completed by. Emissions tests can be completed up to 60 days before the testing deadline. Pennsylvania allows private business owners to run inspection locations. Therefore, there are inspection locations all over the state and these facilities set their own testing fees.
The PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Environmental Quality(DEQ) run Pennsylvania’s emissions testing program.
Requirements to Pass the Pennsylvania Smog Check
Most cars, vans, trucks, and any other light-duty vehicles weighing less than 9000 lbs made in the 1975 model year or newer must pass a smog check if the vehicle owner registers their vehicle in one of the following counties:
If a vehicle falls under one of the following categories, it must also pass a safety inspection:
- Cars and trucks that weigh less than 9000 lbs
- Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFV)
- Recreational, utility, and semi-trailers
- Trucks that weigh more than 9000 lbs
- Constructed and reconstructed vehicles
- Street rods
- Buses (School buses included)
All vehicles with sunscreen accessories must get them inspected as well.
Smog Check Exemptions for Pennsylvania Drivers
If a vehicle falls under one of the following categories, it does not need to pass a smog check:
- Vehicles driven less than 5000 miles and owned by the current owner for more than year
- New vehicles driven less than 5000 miles
- Vehicles with antique, collectible or classic vehicle registrations
- Vehicles registered as street rods
Smog Check Fees
Since vehicle testing facilities are privately owned,smog check fees vary depending on the station. So call ahead and shop around for the best price.
Performing Emissions Testing in Pennsylvania
Vehicle owners will receive a testing notice with “Emissions Inspection Required/Diesel Vehicles Exempt” printed on it in the mail if they must get a vehicle emissions test . The notice will provide the owner with their testing due date. Once received, vehicle owners can drive their vehicle to any PennDOT inspection station in the state. Generally, safety inspection dates coincide with emissions testing dates. In order to save time, vehicle owners may want to get both the safety inspection and emission testing completed on the same day.
Vehicle owners must get their non-exempt vehicle to pass a vehicle emissions test and receive an emissions test certificate before they get the vehicle registered. The certificate must be valid for at least the next 90 days in order for a vehicle owner to receive an inspection sticker. If the emissions certificate expires within 90 days before the vehicle owner gets a safety inspection completed for their vehicle, they must get the emissions certificate renewed first. Emissions test results stay valid for one year. And, after a vehicle passes both a safety inspection and emissions test, vehicle owners will receive a valid PA inspection sticker good for 1 year.
Vehicle owners out of state for over 30 days after their vehicle’s emission sticker expires, must get their vehicle tested within 10 days after returning to Pennsylvania. If this occurs, PennDOT suggests vehicle owners carry proof they were out-of-state when driving their vehicle after returning.
The State of Pennsylvania uses the following testing methods on vehicles registered in counties that require emissions testing:
OBDII (On Board Diagnostic) Test – The OBDII computer system installed in U.S. manufactured vehicles made in the 1996 and newer model years is a mechanical issue early-warning system. It constantly monitors a vehicle’s engine and emissions system, and lets test personnel know when a mechanical issue in the vehicle needs to be addressed. While the key is in the ignition and the engine is off, a Pennsylvania test technician will make sure the OBD connector is working properly. Then, the test technician hooks a diagnostic test computer up to your vehicle’s Diagnostic Link Connector (DLC) using a cable to allow the computer to communicate with the vehicle’s OBDII system. The test technician can check your vehicle’s engine and emissions systems and see if the OBD system shows any maintenance codes that require attention. The test personnel can complete the test in around 2 minutes.
Two – Speed Idle Test (TSI) – Test personnel measure the vehicle’s emissions at a low (curb idle) RPM and at a High (around 2500) RPM. A test technician will direct the vehicle owner to place the vehicle in “Park” or “Neutral” while they measure the vehicle’s emissions. The technician will use a tachometer device to measure the engine’s RPM and will advise the owner about running the engine at the low and high idle speeds. The technician will use the tachometer to guide the vehicle owner as to how fast to rev the engine.
Idle Test – Pennsylvania test personnel insert a test probe into a vehicle’s tailpipe while the vehicle idles. The test takes usually around a minute. No pressure shall be applied to the gas pedal by the vehicle owner when a technician administers the test.
Gas Cap Test – When administering the Gas Cap Test, test personnel check to see if fuel emissions leak out of a vehicle’s fuel system and into the environment. To perform the test, a test technician removes the gas cap and puts it into a testing device which exerts pressure on the cap to see if it can hold pressure. The test lasts 45 seconds. The results determine whether the cap is defective or not.
Visual Tampering Test – Test personnel will do a visual check to make sure a vehicle’s emissions-control components have not been tampered with, removed, and function normally. Test technicians inspect the following components:
- Catalytic converter
- Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve
- Positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve
- Fuel inlet restrictor
- Air pump
- Other Evaporative control system components
To find more about specific emissions testing procedures in your area, check out the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s I/M Testing program brochure.
Failed Smog Inspections – Next Steps
If a vehicle fails a smog inspection, the vehicle owner must repair the vehicle and get it to pass a reinspection. The reinspection is free if completed within 30 days of the original test.
Vehicle owners who spend * $150 on emissions-related repairs on a vehicle that failed a reinspection may be eligible for a 1-year waiver. These waivers can only be granted by an authorized Pennsylvania emissions inspection station.
*If a major repair costing more than $150 must be done to fix the emission-related issue, then a higher expense threshold may be required.
Moved to Pennsylvania – Smog Check Requirements
New residents moving to Pennsylvania must get their vehicle to pass a smog check and register their vehicles within 20 days after establishing residency. New residents must also get their vehicle’s VIN traced. This involves inspection personnel using tissue paper and creating a rubbing with a pencil lead. Vehicle owners must attach the VIN rubbing to their Pennsylvania title application.
After a new resident registers a vehicle, they have 10 days to get their vehicle to pass a safety inspection as well. If a new resident has moved to a Pennsylvania region requiring a smog check, they can get one completed at the same time as their safety inspection.
Transferring a Vehicle Title in Pennsylvania – Smog Check Needed?
When transferring a title, the new owner has 10 days to get the vehicle to pass a smog check if its inspection sticker has expired.
Do Sellers Give Buyers a Valid Smog Certificate?
New vehicles with less than 5000 miles on them are exempt from any vehicle emissions testing and therefore do not need a valid smog certificate to get a vehicle registration. If a used vehicle does not have a valid inspection sticker on it, the new owner must get the vehicle to pass a smog check within 10 days of purchasing of the vehicle.
Special Tips to Pass the Pennsylvania Emissions Test
Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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 it has one, and is not malfunctioning; If it does not have one or it is not working, the vehicle 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 the 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 getting an emissions 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 addressed and fixed. Transmission problems can affect your vehicle’s emissions and cause your vehicle to fail an emissions 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 the 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 Pennsylvania’s smog check requirements, Pennsylvania-registered drivers must get their vehicles to pass a vehicle emissions test if they live in certain counties of the state. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Pennsylvania pages below to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The City of Philadelphia, in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, has a population of 1.5 million. Pennsylvania-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Philadelphia must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The City of Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, has a population of 305,000. Pennsylvania-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Pittsburg must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Allentown, Pennsylvania
The City of Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, has a population of 118,000. Pennsylvania-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Allentown must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Allentown, Pennsylvania page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.