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  • Car Inspection in Wisconsin

    SUMMARY: Wisconsin Vehicle Emissions Testing

    Certain Wisconsin counties require eligible vehicles to undergo emissions inspections prior to registration and every 2 years thereafter. Failed vehicles must be repaired and retested, though sometimes emissions test waivers are available. New residents have slightly different requirements.

    The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) works to maintain the Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program for motorists in the southeastern part of the state. Keep reading for information on whether your vehicle requires an emissions inspection, how to complete one, and what to do when your vehicle passes or fails.

    New Wisconsin Residents

    If you've recently moved to Wisconsin, you must bring your vehicle for an emissions test within 45 days of your initial registration if it's older than 5 model years old and meets all other emissions test requirements; failure to do so results in registration suspension.

    Inspection Requirements & Exemptions

    WI Inspection Requirements

    Eligible vehicles registered in qualifying Wisconsin counties must undergo emissions testing beginning at 3 model years old prior to registration renewal (for example, a 2010 vehicle must undergo emissions testing in 2013) and every 2 years thereafter.

    The qualifying 7 counties are:

    • Racine.
    • Washington.
    • Kenosha.
    • Sheboygan.
    • Milwaukee.
    • Waukesha.
    • Ozaukee.

    Eligible vehicles include:

    • Model years 1996 to 2006 weighing up to 8,500 lbs.
      • DOES NOT include diesel vehicles.
    • Model year 2007 and newer weighing up to 14,000 lbs.
      • INCLUDES diesel vehicles.
    • Transfer-of-ownership vehicles over 5 model years old.
      • These vehicles must be inspected within 45 days of registration UNLESS they passed an inspection within 180 days of ownership transfer.

    This sample registration renewal notice shows you how WisDOT notifies you when it's time for an emissions test.

    Inspection Exemptions in WI

    Emissions testing begins once your vehicle is 3 model years old.

    Additionally, your vehicle is exempt from emissions testing if it:

    • Was manufactured before 1996.
    • Was manufactured after 1996 BUT is NOT OBD II compliant.
      • This must be verified at a test station.
    • Is a diesel-powered vehicle model year 2006 or older.
    • Weighs more than 14,000 lbs.
    • Runs solely on electricity*.
    • Is a:
      • Motorcycle or moped.
      • Non-motorized vehicle.
      • Truck with a farm registration.
      • Bus or other service vehicle that seats 16 people or more.
    • Has a special registration such as Medal of Honor, is a special design vehicle, or has apportioned plates.

    * NOTE: Hybrid vehicles are NOT exempt, as they can run from both electricity and gasoline or diesel.

    Temporary Exemptions

    You may be eligible for a temporary exemption if your vehicle is inoperable or located outside of a testing area at the time of registration renewal.

    Gather the following:

    Mail everything to the address listed on the form.

    Once WisDOT receives and reviews your application, you'll receive:

    • Your new Certificate of Registration.
    • A registration renewal sticker.
    • The letter of Temporary Exemption Approval.
      • This letter explains testing requirement instructions.
      • Bring this letter when you have your vehicle tested.

    Completing a WI Vehicle Inspection

    When you're ready for your emissions check, visit an authorized emissions inspection facility with your vehicle and bring ONE of the following:

    • Your registration/license plate renewal notice.
    • Your WisDOT notice for emissions testing (for ownership transfer or first-time registration for new residents).
    • Your previous Vehicle Inspection Report (if your vehicle previously failed or was rejected from the last test).

    Once your vehicle passes, you'll receive a Vehicle Inspection Report to use during registration renewal or present if it it's your first time registering as a new resident or for ownership transfer.

    Failed WI Vehicle Inspections

    If your vehicle does not pass its Wisconsin emissions check, you must have it repaired and retested. Your inspection technician will provide you with repair-related information, as well as a list of nearby inspection facilities; these facilities are suggestions only.

    Visit the state's page on failed emissions tests for more information.

    Applying for Waivers

    Under certain circumstances, some failed vehicles may be eligible for emissions testing waivers.

    Such circumstances include, but aren't limited to:

    • Failing the test after repairs have been made.
    • Meeting emissions testing equipment inspections.
    • Repair cost requirements have been met.

    Learn more at the waiver information section of the state's page on failed emissions tests.

    About WI Vehicle Emissions Testing

    Wisconsin uses second-generation On-Board Diagnostic (OBD II) testing during emissions inspections.

    The inspection technician attaches emissions testing equipment to your vehicle's computer system to make sure all emissions-related components are properly functioning. The equipment downloads information about your vehicle's components, and you and your technician receive a document stating the results.

    For more information, visit the state's page on OBD II testing procedures.

    Wisconsin Incentives for Eco-Friendly Driving

    As mentioned above, certain vehicles are exempt from smog and emissions testing, and some of those vehicles are considered "green," eco-friendly vehicles such as:

    • Diesel-powered vehicles model year 2006 and older.
    • Motorcycles and mopeds.
    • Electric-powered vehicles.
    • Non-motorized vehicles.

    NOTE: Because hybrid vehicles can operate on electricity and gasoline, hybrids are not exempt from emissions tests.

    For more information on how you can save some green by going green, visit our section on green driving incentives.

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