Virginia Smog Check / Emissions Test
The State of Virginia requires all vehicles to pass a safety inspection, and for most gas and diesel vehicles registered in eligible counties to also pass an vehicle emissions test. Vehicles must pass a smog check when obtaining their original registration and then again every two years during registration renewal. New residents must adhere to the same requirements unless their vehicle has passed a safety and vehicle emissions test in a state with reciprocal testing standards with Virginia. All vehicles must pass a safety inspection in Virginia. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) runs Virginia’s vehicle inspection program.
Requirements to Pass the Virginia Smog Check
If a resident has a non-exempt vehicle registered in one of the following cities and/or counties, they must get their vehicle to pass a Virginia smog check:
Vehicles registered in one of the above Virginia counties or cities, and falling into one of the following categories must pass a smog check before obtaining a Virginia vehicle registration and a renewal every 2 years after that:
- Gasoline passenger and property-carrying vehicles made in a model year that is less than 25 years old as of January 1st of the present year, and weighing less than 10,000 lbs
- Diesel passenger and property-carrying vehicles made in the 1997 model year or newer and weighing less than 8500 lbs
All non-exempt vehicles must also complete a safety inspection every year.
Smog Check Exemptions for Virginia Drivers
If a vehicle falls under one of the following categories, it does not need to pass a smog check in order to obtain a Virginia vehicle registration:
- New vehicles with a manufacturer’s certificate of origin getting titled for the first time
- Gasoline vehicles older than 25 years regardless if they possess an antique registration
- Gasoline vehicles weighing more than 10,000 lbs
- Diesel vehicles made before the 1997 model year and weighing more than 8500 lbs
- Clean fuel vehicles (Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Electric, and Solar)
- Some hybrid vehicles (Gasoline Hybrids are not exempt)
Also, vehicles that fall under one of the following categories do not need to pass a Virginia vehicle safety inspection:
- Vehicles registered as Antique vehicles and made at least 25 years ago
- Trailers that do not have brakes and with a gross weight of less than 3000 lbs(Trailers with brakes must pass a safety inspection)
Smog Check Fees
The maximum amount a vehicle owner can pay in Virginia for a smog check fee is $28. The amount for safety inspection fees depends on the type of vehicle inspected:
- Motorcycles: $12
- Trucks weighing more than 26,000 lbs: $51
- Transportation vehicles with 15 – plus passenger occupancies: $51
- Semi-tractor trucks: $51
- Passenger vehicles and trucks (includes trailers and motorhomes): $16
Some vehicle owners of hybrid vehicles must pay a $3 emissions fee every year.
Performing Emissions Testing in Virginia
Residents have 90 days from the due date on their registration renewal notice sent to the vehicle owner to get a safety inspection and pass a vehicle emissions test (if required), and get the vehicle’s registration renewed. Emissions tests must be completed every two years while safety inspections must be completed every year. Safety inspections and vehicle emissions tests may not coincide.
To complete an inspection, owners must drive their vehicle to a Virginia DEQ-certified inspection station and pay a testing fee and provide proof of insurance. Once the vehicle owner completes the inspection process they will receive a decal for the vehicle’s windshield. They will also receive a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) which will state whether the vehicle passed or failed its inspection and detail the emissions-related repairs the vehicle owner must address before getting the vehicle retested. The results get transmitted to the Virginia DMV electronically and the owner can usually get their vehicle registered within a few hours after the test.
The State of Virginia requires a variety of emissions testing. The specific county the vehicle owner has their vehicle registered in determines the type of test it must pass. There are three different smog inspection methods:
- On Board Diagnostic Tests: Virginia test personnel administer an ODBII test on most gasoline motor vehicles made in the 1996, or newer model years or diesel vehicles made in the 1997 model year or newer registered in one of the eligible Virginia counties or cities. The OBDII system installed in U.S. manufactured vehicles made in the 1996 and newer model years is a mechanical issue early-warning system. The system records the vehicle’s performance by administering a specific kind of test referred to as a “Monitor”. Certain monitors test a vehicle’s primary emissions components and subsystems. While the key is in the ignition and the engine is off, a test technician will make sure the vehicle’s DLC (Data Link Connector) works properly. Then, the test technician hooks an emissions diagnostic tool up to your vehicle’s DLC using a cable to allow the technician’s diagnostic tool to communicate with the vehicle’s OBD II system. A Virginia test technician can check your vehicle’s engine and emissions systems, and see if any monitors state a “Not Ready” status. The test personnel can complete the test in around 2 minutes.
- Two speed idle: Virginia test personnel perform the two-speed idle test on most vehicles made before 1980. The two speed idle tailpipe test is pretty straight forward. First, test personnel place a probe into a vehicle’s tailpipe to measure the emissions coming from it. Afterwards, they attach a contact tachometer to the spark plugs of the vehicle, or place one on the vehicle’s hood if the test personnel are unable to get to the vehicle’s spark plugs. Tachometers typically measure the number of rotations of an engine’s crankshaft per minute or to put another way, the engine’s speed. Next, while the vehicle is in Park or Neutral, the test personnel will have the vehicle idle for 30 seconds. Then, the test personnel rev the vehicle’s engine to a higher RPM. Finally, they idle the vehicle for another 30 seconds.
- Acceleration simulation mode: (ASM 25/25 ). Virginia test personnel perform the ASM 25/25 test on vehicles made between 1981 to 1995 model year weighing up to 8,500 lbs. During this test, test personnel drive a vehicle on a set of rollers ,called a Dynamometer. They drive the vehicle at 25 miles per hour while placing the vehicle under a 25% weight load recommended for the vehicle’s make and model. Test personnel will also place a probe into the vehicle’s tailpipe to measure the emissions coming from the tailpipe.
Virginia On-Road Emissions Program: The State of Virginia operates remote-sensing pollutant measuring equipment in parts of Northern Virginia. The equipment uses infrared sensors to measure pollutants of vehicles driving on Virginia’s roadways. If the On-Road Emissions remote sensing equipment finds a vehicles emitting high levels of air pollutants, the equipment will take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate and the Virginia DMV will send a violation notice to the owner through the mail. Vehicle owners found to be violating Virginia’s air quality standards must get take their vehicle to a certified emissions testing location and get it tested. If the vehicle does not pass the test, the owner must get the vehicle repaired and rested. The initial test costs a maximum of $28.
Virginia Safety Inspections: All motor vehicles in the state of Virginia must get a safety inspection. Typically, vehicle owners can get a safety inspection at any new car dealership or repair shop. Most official inspection stations put up white signs with blue letters advertising their inspection services.
Failed Smog Inspections – Next Steps
Vehicles that do not pass their smog inspections must get their emissions – related repairs completed by a certified repair technician and be reinspected. Vehicle owners will also receive a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) which will state whether the vehicle passed or failed its inspection and detail the emissions-related repairs the vehicle owner must address before getting the vehicle retested. The State of Virginia grants vehicle owners one free retest if they get the vehicle repaired and retested within 14 days of the initial test.
Vehicle owners who get their vehicle repaired and fail a retest may be eligible for a waiver. Find out more about smog inspection failures and waivers at the Virginia DEQ’s Waiver Information page. Vehicles must retest until they either pass the emissions inspection or receive a waiver.
Moved to Virginia – Smog Check Requirements
New Virginia residents have 30 days to get their vehicle titled and registered after establishing residency. A Virginia safety inspection must be conducted as soon as possible after establishing residency. New residence can be sited regardless of how long they have been in the state. A Virginia smog check must be completed before obtaining a vehicle registration. If a new resident has a vehicle that received a smog check within the last 12 months from a state with a reciprocating vehicle testing program, the new resident does not need to get their vehicle to pass a smog check.
Transferring a Vehicle Title in Virginia – Smog Check Needed?
If a vehicle does not have a valid inspection sticker before taking a vehicle to get titled and registered into a new owners name, the new owner will have to get the vehicle to pass a safety inspection and a smog check (if registering the vehicle in a qualifying county or city).
Do Sellers Give Buyers a Valid Smog Certificate?
When purchasing a vehicle in the State of Virginia, buyer should make sure the vehicle has a valid vehicle inspection sticker before getting it titled and registered. Dealers typically must provide the buyer with a valid smog certificate. When selling a vehicle privately, the seller must provide a valid inspection sticker to the buyer.
Special Tips to Pass the Virginia Emissions Test
Virginia vehicle owners may want to get their vehicles tested as soon as they receive their first testing notice. Allow extra time to get any needed repairs done before the vehicle’s registration expires. Also, if a vehicle owner plans to be out of town during the date when their registration expires, planning early will give owners time to meet the deadline. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure passing a Virginia vehicle emissions test:
- Make sure the vehicle does not have its “Check Engine” light on; If it does, it will not pass the test. To fix, check to make sure the gas cap is on tight and is not broken. Keep the sealing surfaces in the cap clean so it can make a good seal. If it is not, tighten it and drive around to see if the light goes off.
- Follow the vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule. Many of the mechanical issues that cause vehicles to fail their tests can be addressed during a routine check-up
- If your vehicle is a make and model year when catalytic converters came standard on the vehicle, make sure your vehicle has one and is not malfunctioning; If it does not have one or it is not working, it will not pass the test
- Allow your vehicle to run for at least 10 minutes before it takes a test to insure an accurate reading
- Research your vehicle manufacturer’s recalls, Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs), and warranties before getting any repairs done. The cost of their repair maybe covered by the manufacturer.
- If your vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic (OBDII) system is showing trouble codes, make sure to get them fixed by a certified emissions mechanic. Do not just try to clear the codes.Test personnel will know and the vehicle will not pass inspection.
- If your vehicle is misfiring when it is idling, make sure to get this addressed before taking the test
- If a vehicle’s battery is brand new, drive the vehicle for a couple of days before taking it to get an On Board Diagnostics test so as to allow the OBD system to reset
- Make sure the vehicle’s oil is not dirty. Get the oil changed on a routine basis
- Maintain the recommended air pressure in your vehicle’s tires
- Inspect your vehicle’s hoses and belts for wear. Get them replaced if necessary
- Get any mechanical issues with your vehicle’s transmission address and fixed. Transmissions problems can affect your vehicle’s emissions and cause your vehicle to fail its test.
- If your motor vehicle’s emissions system has a mechanical issue, check your manufacturer’s warranty. Federal law states emissions systems on vehicles made in the 1995 and newer model years must have their emissions systems warrantied for two years or 24,000 miles.
- If the OBDII diagnostic system or catalytic converter on your vehicle made in the 1995 model year or newer has a mechanical issue, check your vehicle’s manufacturer’s warranty also. Federal regulation states these vehicles must have a warranty on their OBDII and catalytic converters for eight years or 80,000 miles.
Find Smog Check Stations Near Me
To stay in compliance of the State of Virginia’s smog check requirements, Virginia-registered drivers must get their vehicles to pass a vehicle emissions test if they live in certain regions of the state. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Virginia pages below to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Virginia Beach, Virginia
The City of Virginia Beach, an Independent city in the State of Virginia, has a population of 438,000. Virginia-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Virginia Beach must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Location in Virginia Beach, Virginia page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Norfolk, Virginia
The City of Norfolk, an independent city in the State of Virginia, has a population of 245,000. Virginia-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Norfolk must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Norfolk, Virginia page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.
Smog Check Stations in Chesapeake, Virginia
The City of Chesapeake, an independent city in the State of Virginia, has a population of 238,000. Virginia-registered drivers with vehicles that require testing and living in Chesapeake must get their vehicles to pass a smog check. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Chesapeake, Virginia page to find a DMV office or testing location in your area.