Wisconsin Smog Check / Emissions Test
The State of Wisconsin requires most gas and diesel vehicles registered in eligible counties to pass a vehicle emissions test in order to obtain an original registration, and then again every two years during registration renewal. New residents do not have the exact same requirements. Vehicles that do not pass their vehicle emissions test, must get repaired and retested.
The Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program (WVIP), and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) runs the state’s inspection program. Currently, WisDOT contracts with Opus Inspection to administer vehicle testing.
Requirements to Pass the Wisconsin Smog Check
If a vehicle owner registers a non-exempt vehicle in one of the following 7 counties, the vehicle owner must get the vehicle to pass a smog check:
If a vehicle registered in one of the above counties falls under one of the following categories, the vehicles is not exempt from passing a smog check:
- Vehicles made between the 1996 to 2006 model years, and weighing less than 8,500 lbs (This requirement does not apply to diesel vehicles)
- Vehicles made in the 2007 model year and newer model years weighing less than 14,000 lbs (This requirement does apply to diesel vehicles)
Also, checkout Wisconsin’s vehicle insurance requirements. Vehicle owners in the State of Wisconsin must keep their vehicle insured in order to drive it.
Smog Check Exemptions for Wisconsin Drivers
New, non-exempt, Wisconsin-registered vehicles in qualifying Wisconsin counties do not have to pass a smog check to obtain a vehicle registration until after their third model year. The following vehicles are also exempt from Wisconsin emissions testing:
- Diesel vehicles manufactured before the 2006 model year
- All gasoline vehicles manufactured before the 1996 model year
- All vehicles manufactured after 96 and that are not OBDII compliant
- Motorcycles and mopeds
- Vehicles weighing more than 14,000 lbs
- Trucks with farm registration
- Electric vehicles
- Non-motorized vehicles
- Service vehicles (such as school buses) with a 16 person seating capacity or more
- Vehicles with specially designed or Medal of Honor registrations, or apportioned plates
Wisconsin Temporary Exemptions
Wisconsin vehicle owners may have the option to apply for a temporary extension when their vehicle cannot be operated or the vehicle is outside of a testing area during the time period of its registration renewal. To apply for a temporary exemption in Wisconsin, vehicle owners must fill out and mail the following to the address on the Exemption Application:
After WisDOT gets and approves the above items, they will mail back to the vehicle owner:
- A new Certificate of Registration
- A valid registration renewal sticker
- A letter of Temporary Exemption Approval (The letter gives detail about testing requirement instructions. Vehicle owners should bring the letter when they do get their vehicle tested.)
Smog Check Fees
All smog checks in the state of wisconsin are free.
Performing Emissions Testing in Wisconsin
Residents have 180 days from the due date on their registration renewal notice sent to the vehicle owner to get their vehicle to pass a vehicle emissions test (if required), and get the vehicle’s registration renewed. Tests must be completed every two years for Wisconsin-registered vehicles.
To complete an inspection, owners must drive their vehicle to a WisDOT-authorized inspection station, pay a testing fee, and present one of the following items at the time of the test:
- A renewal notice
- WisDOT emissions testing notice (required for a title transfer or obtaining an original registration for new residents)
- A vehicle’s last Vehicle Inspection Report (specifically required for vehicles that did not pass or receive a “rejected” status during its previous test)
Once the vehicle owner completes the inspection process they will receive a valid inspection decal for the vehicle’s windshield. They will also receive a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) which will state whether the vehicle passed or failed its inspection, and detail any emissions-related repairs the vehicle owner must address before getting the vehicle retested. First time residents transferring their out-of-state title, or residents transferring a vehicle title must present the vehicle’s VIR when applying for a title transfer.
Wisconsin test personnel use a vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic (OBDII) system to insure it meets Wisconsin’s vehicle air-quality standards and also perform a VIN inspection.
OBDII Tests: Wisconsin test personnel administer an ODBII test on most gasoline, light-duty motor vehicles made in the 1996, or newer model years, and diesel vehicles made in the 1997 model year or newer model years registered in one of the 7 eligible Wisconsin counties. 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 Wisconsin 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.
Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Inspection: Wisconsin testing personnel will confirm a vehicle’s VIN matches the VIN in the paperwork provided by the vehicle owner. After confirming the the vehicle’s VIN number, test personnel will enter the vehicle’s information into the Wisconsin Diagnostic Analyzer System (WDAS) to record the vehicle’s weight, model year, and mileage.
If a vehicle pass its vehicle emissions test and VIN inspection, the vehicle owner can renew the vehicle’s registration at the testing facility. Or, if the owner chooses, they can also renew online or visit a WisDOT service center to obtain a registration renewal. If an owner does choose to renew later, Wisconsin test personnel will present a valid smog check certificate to the owner proving the vehicle has passed the check and stating the test results.
Failed Smog Inspections – Next Steps
Vehicles that do not pass their smog inspections must get their emissions – related repairs completed by a certified repair technician and be reinspected. Vehicle owners will also receive a VIR stating the vehicle did not pass its inspection and detail the emissions-related repairs the vehicle owner must address before getting the vehicle retested.
Vehicle owners may be eligible for a waiver if they meet all of the criteria:
- All emissions control equipment in the vehicle works properly, there are no signs of equipment tampering, or of equipment getting uninstalled
- The vehicle has not passed a retest after completing emissions-related repairs
- The vehicle owner spending more than $879 in emissions-related repair expenses
Find out more about smog inspection failures and waivers at the Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program page. Vehicles must retest until they either pass the emissions inspection or receive a waiver.
Vehicle owners can apply for a 30-day temporary registration if they need more time to repair and retest their vehicle before getting their regular registration renewed. Temporary registrations are $3 and owners can apply for up to 3 consecutive temporary registrations.
Moved to Wisconsin – Smog Check Requirements
New Wisconsin residents who have recently moved to a qualifying Wisconsin county, must get any non-exempt vehicle older than 5 years to pass a vehicle emissions test within 45 days of registering the vehicle for the first time in Wisconsin. Not doing so, will lead to the new resident’s vehicle registration getting suspended.
Transferring a Vehicle Title in Wisconsin – Smog Check Needed?
Wisconsin residents getting a vehicle title transferred into their name must get the vehicle to pass a smog check within 45 days of the vehicle getting registration. This requirement only pertains to vehicles that have not already passed a smog check within 180 days before the title transfer.
Do Sellers Give Buyers a Valid Smog Certificate?
If a seller does not provide a valid smog certificate for a vehicle that passed a smog check within 180 days of the sale of the vehicle, the new owner must get the vehicle to pass a smog check within 45 days of getting the vehicle registered. If the new vehicle owner does not get the vehicle tested within the 45-day timeframe after buying the vehicle and getting it titled, WinDOT will suspend their registration.
Special Tips to Pass the Wisconsin Emissions Test
Wisconsin 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 tabs expires. Also, if a vehicle owner plans to be out of town during the date when their tabs expires, planning early will give owners time to meet the deadline. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure passing a Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin’s smog check requirements, Wisconsin-registered drivers must get their vehicles to pass a smog check if they live in certain regions of the state. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Wisconsin pages below to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The City of Milwaukee, in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, has a population of 595,000. Wisconsin-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Milwaukee must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Location in Milwaukee, Wisconsin page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Kenosha, Wisconsin
The City of Kenosha, in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, has a population of 100,000. Wisconsin-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Kenosha must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Kenosha, Wisconsin page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Racine, Wisconsin
The City of Racine, in Racine County, Wisconsin, has a population of 78,000. Wisconsin-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in 78,000 must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Racine, Wisconsin page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.