Smog & Emission Checks in North Carolina
Clean air makes North Carolina a more pleasant place to live. When our air is clean, we breathe better, feel better, and remain healthier. That's why North Carolina complies with the federal Clean Air Act by requiring emissions inspections in highly populated areas.
When you register your newer gasoline-powered vehicles in an emissions county, your vehicle will have to pass an On Board Diagnostics emissions test. This is in addition to the safety inspection that your vehicle must also pass.
If your vehicle is at least 35 years old, it doesn't have to undergo safety or emission inspections.
If your vehicle's model year is previous to 1996, your vehicle doesn't have to undergo emission inspections. However, unless your vehicle is also at least 35 years old, it will have to face the safety inspections.
Rather than offering one centralized system, certain NC gas stations and repair shops are licensed by the state to provide these inspections. To locate a provider, you can look in your local phone book, on the Web, or drive by repair shops to see if they display a sign stating that they are licensed to provide emissions inspections.
You can also search online for inspection stations by city or county on the DMV site.
Current year models are exempt from emissions inspections, as are registered motor homes.
Fees vary by county and by repair shop. Find a current schedule of fees on the DMV website.
If you live in an emissions county and you are out of state when your sticker expires, you have 10 days to have it inspected after you return to North Carolina.
Under certain circumstances, you may be eligible for a waiver of your emissions requirements. For example, if you need a certain part that is no longer available, and you can demonstrate to the Bureau of License and Theft that you have made a good-faith effort to get the part, the bureau might give you a waiver. However, if the DMV locates the part, you must comply with the requirements.
If your vehicle still fails the emissions inspection after you have made necessary repairs, you could be eligible for a waiver. But you must have spent a minimum amount of money for parts and labor in order to qualify.
You will have four months from the time your current inspection sticker expires to have your vehicle pass the emissions inspection. If it does not, you will not be able to renew your vehicle's registration.
Within those four months, keep an eye out for an official warning letter in the mail. Before the Penalty & Registration Block goes into effect, you should receive this letter by mail. Keep in mind that should you get pulled over, a law enforcement officer can still hand you a traffic citation for driving with an expired sticker. The penalty will run you $100 if your vehicle is a 1977, 1978, 1979, or 1980 model. For those driving a 1981 or newer vehicle, expect the penalty to jump to $250.
If your vehicle fails inspection, it's because it is not fuel-efficient. High levels of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon contribute to air pollution, and your vehicle must be repaired. Under certain circumstances, you can receive a waiver if there are no parts available to repair your car.
If you notice a vehicle spewing dark exhaust smoke for five or more consecutive seconds, note the license plate number. With it, you can report the vehicle as a gross polluter using the North Carolina Division of Air Quality's online Smoking Vehicle Complaint Form.
If your vehicle has after-factory window tinting, it must be checked during the routine safety inspection and there is an additional $10 fee. Windows cannot be any darker than 35% visible light transmission. The combination of factory and after-factory tinting cannot be less than 32% visible light transmission as measured by a photometer.Local Smog Check Stations
Choose a County
- New Hanover
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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