Smog & Emission Checks in Ohio
Ohio E-Check, the state emissions testing program, began in 1996 as a way to combat the growing problem of air pollution. Vehicles contribute greatly to smog levels and release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These pollutants are largely odorless and colorless, so even though it may seem like your vehicle's emission is clean, it may still be producing an unacceptable level of pollutants.
The thought behind E-Check was to identify those vehicles whose emissions were unacceptably high as a cost-efficient way of reducing unhealthy air, and thus help meet federal air quality standards.
Currently, E-Check only affects residents of seven of the state's 88 counties: Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, or Summit counties―and if you own a vehicle―you will need to have its emission system checked before you renew your registration.
Even if you do live in one of the seven counties, however, there are some exceptions that will permit you to skip the testing:
- Your vehicle is brand-new (new vehicles are exempt for the first four years from manufacture date).
- Your vehicle weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
Additionally, if you recently purchased a used car, you may bypass the test if the seller gave you a valid E-Check compliance certificate. The certificates are valid for one year from the date of issue.
Should you happen to come across a vehicle that is clearly in violation of the state's emission standards, unfortunately there's nothing you can do, other than rolling up your window and shaking your head in disgust. Ohio does not have a system in place to report gross polluters.
All qualifying vehicles in the seven counties must be tested every two years.
You will receive notification in the mail about 90 days before your registration renewal date reminding you to have the testing completed. Of course, you don't have to wait until then to do so. In fact, you can do it up to a year in advance of the renewal date (for those of you who are super-efficient).
The state has compiled a list of emission station locations by county. Most stations are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The stations are closed on Sundays and major holidays.
You don't need to make an appointment for testing. However, it's been noted that the least busy times are before 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. on weekdays, and before 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
Also, you may take your vehicle to any testing location, even if it's not located in your county. The testing does need to take place at an Ohio location, however; out-of-state smog tests don't count.
Unlike previous years, the testing is free. If you want to have your vehicle tested when it isn't required to, you'll need to obtain a prepaid voucher from E-Check; call (800) CAR-TEST for details.
If your vehicle passes the test, you will be given a certificate to take with you to the deputy registrar's branch at the time of your registration renewal.
If your vehicle fails the test, you'll receive a diagnostic form (for vehicles made in 1981 or later) detailing the problem areas. You can address these at the repair center of your choice.
However, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency does license certain repair shops that have certified emission diagnosis and repair facilities and technicians who have had proper training. If you fail the test, a list of these facilities will be given to you.
Your vehicle failed the emissions test, and you've made the recommended repairs. But it fails the test again. What should you do?
The state has arranged for a waiver program in some limited cases. The waiver allows the vehicle to "pass" the test if it shows at least 30% improvement after the required repairs, and if the repairs have totaled $300 or sometimes more. Some restrictions apply. Please call (800) CAR-TEST for complete information.
You can also apply for an extension for various reasons, including absence from the state, extensive repairs needed on the vehicle, or financial hardship. Call Mobile Sources Section at (614) 644-3059 to see if you qualify.
Make sure that your tires are properly inflated and aligned before testing, or it will be difficult to test your vehicle on the rollers.
Also make sure that your vehicle has been warmed up before bringing it in. (Cars that are not operating at normal temperatures tend to emit more pollutants, and may cause your vehicle to fail the test.)
For more ideas on how to best prepare your vehicle for its testing, check out Tips For Smooth Testing.
For more details on the program, visit Ohio E-Check, or call (800) CAR-TEST.Local Smog Check Stations
Choose a County
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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