Smog Check in PennsylvaniaPage Overview
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection work together to maintain the state’s safety and emissions testing programs. Keep reading for detailed information.
VIN Tracing & Verification
When moving to PA, you will need to register your vehicle within 20 days of establishing residency. To register, you’ll need to submit a vehicle identification number (VIN) tracing.
This is accomplished by placing tracing paper over your VIN plate and rubbing a pencil lead over the numbers to produce an image of your VIN. You’ll need to attach this to your title application (Form MV-1).
If you can’t find your plate, or can’t get a readable tracing, you can take your car to an inspection mechanic or dealership notary public who can provide a verification of your VIN.
Within 10 days of registration, your vehicle must undergo a safety inspection. Visit our section below on completing a vehicle inspection for details.
If your vehicle is located in an emissions inspection county, you’ll need to have it tested for emissions along with your safety inspection. These tests can typically be done at the same time.
Pennsylvania Safety Inspections
NOTE: If your vehicle is required to undergo emissions inspection (see below), you must have an emissions test certificate that is/will be valid for at least the next 90 days before you can receive your safety inspection sticker. If your emissions certificate will expire within 90 days, you must have it renewed before renewing your safety inspection.
The following vehicles must undergo safety inspections:
- Passenger cars and light-duty trucks.
- Medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
- Buses, including school buses.
- Recreational, utility, and semi-trailers.
- Street rods.
- Specially constructed and reconstructed vehicles.
- Vehicles with alternative fuel systems and controls.
Additionally, vehicles with sun-screening devices must have those devices inspected.
Generally, safety inspection dates coincide with emissions testing dates (see “Pennsylvania Emissions Inspections” below).
Once your vehicle passes the safety inspection, you’ll receive a PA inspection sticker valid for 1 year.*
* NOTE: Certain vehicles undergo semi-annual inspections; you can find a full list within PennDOT’s Inspection Regulations manual.
The following vehicles are exempt from safety inspections:
- Motorized pedalcycles.
- Antique vehicles.
- Special mobile equipment.
- Husbandry implements.
- Motor vehicles being towed.
- Motor vehicles or trailers being driven or towed by owners or employees of official PA vehicle inspection stations for the purpose of getting an inspection.
- Trailers weighing 3,000 lbs. or fewer.
- Vehicles being repossessed.
- Newly manufactured vehicles during testing (but not transit).
- Military vehicles:
- Must be used by private, non-profit, tax-exempt military educational institutions.
- Must not operate more than 1 mile on public roads and when the property on both sides of the public road is owned by the military institution.
Pennsylvania Emissions Inspections
Your vehicle must undergo an emissions inspection annually. Your registration renewal card will remind you when it’s time to have an emissions test.
Only vehicles registered in certain counties must take part in Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Emissions Inspection & Maintenance (I/M) Program. Consult the Drive Clean Pennsylvania Region Maps for a list of required counties.
Within those counties, all gasoline-powered cars, vans, light duty trucks require testing if they:
- Are model year 1975 and newer.
- Weigh up to 9,000 lbs.
Inspection Exclusions & Exemptions
The following vehicles are excluded from emissions testing:
- Vehicles registered as:
- Street rod.
- Specially constructed.
Excluded vehicles do NOT have to visit an inspection station for any sort of exclusion/exemption sticker.
Your vehicle is exempted from the emissions program if:
- You’ve owned your vehicle for 1 year AND it was driven for fewer than 5,000 miles.
- You’ll need to have your mileage verified and apply for an exemption sticker at an emissions inspection facility.
- Exemption sticker fees vary by station.
- Your vehicle is brand new (i.e. without previous title and registration) AND has been driven fewer than 5,000 miles prior to registration.
- You should be given an exemption sticker from your dealer that is good for 1 year.
Again, as stated above, you DO need to obtain an exemption sticker for your exempted vehicle, either from your dealership or from your local inspection station.
As stated above, in required counties you must have an emissions inspection sticker valid for at least the next 90 days in order to have your safety inspection completed.
To complete your vehicle safety inspection, visit any of the official PA vehicle inspection stations; usually, these are repair stations or garages with repair stations. See About the PA Inspection Programs below for details on what will be checked on your vehicle.
Fees vary by location and are posted at the station. Call ahead for any paperwork or documents you must bring.
Once your car passes its PA safety inspection, you’ll receive a Certificate of Inspection to use for your registration renewal.
Drive Clean Pennsylvania provides emissions location information for each region; bring your vehicle to the most convenient testing location for you. Reference About the PA Inspection Programs below for details about the kinds of tests your vehicle will need to pass.
Like safety inspection fees, the cost for PA car emissions testing varies by station; call ahead for exact fees, as well as any documents or other paperwork to bring.
Once your vehicle passes inspection, you’ll receive a renewed emissions inspection certificate in addition to a sticker that will be affixed to your windshield.
If your vehicle fails its Pennsylvania safety OR emissions inspection, you must have it repaired and retested; because many inspection stations are also repair stations, often you can have your vehicle repaired there.
You will be allowed 1 retest for free.
You must have your vehicle repaired and retested BEFORE you current safety inspection certificate expires.
Some safety inspection requirements vary by vehicle, but all generally include inspection of the vehicle’s:
- Tires and wheels.
- Fuel systems.
- Horns and other warning devices.
- Body and chassis.
For information more specific to your vehicle, check the state’s sections on inspection criteria.
Similar to safety inspections, emissions inspections vary by both vehicle and location.
Depending on your vehicle and where it’s registered, it may undergo:
- A gas cap inspection to make sure the gas cap is preventing fuel emissions from escaping.
- A visual anti-tampering check to make sure no emissions components have been altered.
- An On-board Diagnostic (OBD) test to check that all emissions components are working properly.
- A dynamometer test that simulates driving conditions and checks for emissions output.
- An idle inspection to check emissions pollutants while the vehicle is idling.
To see what emissions test your vehicle may require, use the state’s Emission Test Calculator.
PA Incentives for Eco-Friendly Driving
As mentioned above, PennDOT exempts some eco-friendly vehicles, such as those that only drive a certain number of miles per year, from emissions testing.
To learn more about the perks of environmentally friendly driving and how it affects your smog and emissions requirements, as well as how you can save money on potential tax breaks and auto insurance discounts, visit our section on green driver incentives.Local Smog Check Stations
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