Smog & Emission Checks in New Jersey
Ground-level ozone (or smog) is formed by chemical reactions from various pollutants when there is bright sunshine combined with high temperatures. In New Jersey, the highest ozone concentrations usually occur 2 p.m.-8 p.m., May-September.
Smog can lower your resistance to diseases such as colds and pneumonia. It also damages lung tissue, intensifies heart and lung diseases, and causes coughing and throat irritation. Even healthy adults doing heavy exercise or manual labor outdoors may experience these symptoms. When the ozone reaches unhealthy levels, children and senior citizens are most at risk.
To help reduce the amount of ozone created, you can take these steps throughout the summer ozone season:
- Properly maintain your vehicle to comply with the air-pollution standards, including regular inspections (see below).
- Make sure the gas cap fits properly; this prevents fumes from escaping.
- Refuel cars after dusk (cooler outside temperatures prevent vapors from forming and escaping the fuel hose).
- Avoid unnecessary trips, or consolidate trips.
- Limit idling your car and steer clear of congested streets where you'll have to sit in traffic.
- Carpool or use public transportation.
In addition to the above pollution-reducing steps, motorists in New Jersey are required by the Motor Vehicle Commission to take their vehicles for an emissions inspection every two years (new cars can wait until they're four years old for their first inspection). Your car's safety features will also be tested at this time (turn signals, headlights, taillights, horn, windshield wipers, and tires), along with the suspension, steering, alignment, and brakes.
Upon passing the inspection, you will be issued a two-year windshield sticker. A few types of vehicles are exempt from inspections.
You have a choice whether to have your vehicle inspected at a State Inspection Facility or at a private facility. Private facilities charge a fee for the service, but if you take your car to a state facility, the inspection is free.
If your car is registered in New Jersey, you must perform the emissions test in New Jersey.
The On-Board Diagnostic Test
The On-board Diagnostic (ODB) test reads a computer system in your vehicle to identify engine-related problems that may result in increased emissions of harmful pollutants. If you maintain your vehicle when you are alerted by your OBD system, you can help improve the state's air quality. (For models earlier than 1996, New Jersey will continue to use the earlier tailpipe-emissions tests during inspection.)
The OBD system monitors your vehicle at all times, even when it is not being tested. If it detects something that might cause your vehicle to emit excessive harmful pollutants, the "Check Engine" light will illuminate on your dashboard. This could indicate a simple problem, such as a faulty spark plug that should be replaced before it creates a more serious problem, such as a damaged catalytic converter.
What Can Cause a Test Failure
Here are a few problems that could cause your vehicle to fail the emissions inspection test:
- Your "Check Engine" light comes on and stays on while you drive.
- Your "Check Engine" light does not come on briefly when you first start up your engine.
- Your gas cap is loose, causing your "Check Engine" light to come on.
If you experience either of the first two problems, bring your vehicle to a certified Emissions Repair Facility to have it brought up to standard before it is inspected. Taking this precaution could save you the trouble of having your vehicle fail the OBD test and going through reinspection. You can also direct questions to the Motor Vehicle Commission's Inspection Hotline at (888) NJ-MOTOR.
If your car fails its emissions test, your state inspector will give you an Emissions Repair Form for your certified Emissions Repair Facility to fill out and a Vehicle Inspection Report to help your technician determine what caused the test failure. You should note that many private inspection facilities are also certified Emissions Repair Facilities and might be able to perform both your repair and your reinspection.
In addition, remember to check to see whether the repairs are still covered by the manufacturer's warranty. Warranty repairs must be completed by an Emissions Repair Facility, which will have a certified technician on staff.
You may also perform the repairs yourself, but you must save (for your reinspection) the documentation for all equipment you replace and all parts you purchase.
Limitations on Required Repairs
If your vehicle fails the reinspection and you can provide receipts proving that you have spent at least $450 to reduce the vehicle's emissions, and that it passed an idle test, you could qualify for a waiver. To do this, you must take your vehicle to a State Inspection Station, bringing your initial Vehicle Inspection Report and the new Vehicle Inspection Report given to you at the reinspection. You will also need to take your emissions-related repair receipts.
The waiver threshold includes the costs (parts and labor) to have the emissions-related problem repaired by a certified Emissions Repair Facility. Since certain air pollution equipment on your vehicle is required by federal law, repairing or replacing emissions system components that have been tampered with or are missing is not covered by the waiver.
Once repairs are completed, you must have your vehicle reinspected by a licensed inspector at a private or state inspection facility. Remember to bring all emissions-related receipts, your Emissions Repair Form, and the Vehicle Inspection Report with you.
Unfortunately, New Jersey does not offer extensions for reinspection.
Call the Motor Vehicle Commission at (888) 486-3339 to report a gross polluter.
For more information about New Jersey's vehicle emissions program, visit the Motor Vehicle Commission's inspection FAQs page.
Local Smog Check Stations
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
Your Opinion Matters To Us!Send Feedback
We put a lot of effort into making our content helpful & accurate. Please let us know if you see something that isn't clear or correct; we are here to ease any frustrations you may have while navigating DMV topics. We are not a government agency, please reach out to your local DMV, insurance agent, or respective professional for further assistance on specific situations.