Washington DC Smog Check / Emissions Test
In Washington DC, all vehicles must pass a vehicle emissions test before getting registered within the district. After passing the inspection, vehicle owners must display their emissions test sticker on the windshield on the front bottom passenger side of the vehicle. Owners who present a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin to the Washington DC DMV when they first buy a new personal, non-commercial or fee-for-hire, motor vehicle will receive a 4 year test exemption.
Requirements to Pass the Washington DC Smog Check
Most personal, non-commercial, non-fee-for-hire vehicles made in the 1968 model-year or newer must get a vehicle emissions test every two years. Most commercial and fee-for-hire vehicles must get a test every year.
Commercial vehicles (vehicles with a permanent company logo on them) and fee-for-hire vehicles have to pass an emissions test, and pass a safety inspection as well. These vehicles must pass an inspection every year.
Smog Check Exemptions for Washington DC Drivers
Vehicles exempt from smog checks in Washington DC must fall into one of these categories:
- New personal non-commercial vehicles made in the past 4 model years that have a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin
- Motorcycles, Mopeds, and motorized bicycles
- Zero-emissions vehicles (diesel and electric personal vehicles and trailers)
- Vehicles for personal use made in the 1968 model year or earlier
Smog Check Fees
The fee schedule for smog checks in Washington DC are as follows:
- Inspection stickers for new vehicles $10.00 (privately-owned not fee-for-hire) for 4-year period
- Privately – owned Vehicles(Not for commercial use/ not fee-for-hire) $35.00/biannually (2 reinspections allowed within a 20 day timeframe)
- Taxis $70.00/annually (2 reinspections allowed within a 20 day timeframe)
- Commercial Vehicles $35.00/annually(2 reinspections allowed within a 20 day timeframe)
- Late Fees for past due inspections $20.00 for every 30-day period or portion thereof ($480.00 cap)
- Reinspection Fee $35.00 (Applies after original 20-day reinspection period or if there are more than 2 reinspections required, a $20.00 late fee will also be charged for being late.)
- Replacement Inspection sticker $10.00
The DC DMV collects reinspection fees and late fees during the payment of an owner’s registration renewal not during the inspection.
Washington DC DMV Payment Options
The Washington DC DMV takes the following forms of payment: cash, check, money order, or credit card. The types of credit/debit cards DC Government accepts are: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.
The Washington DC Government requires all unpaid debts be paid before vehicle owners can finalize most DMV transactions. This requirement includes:
- Dishonored Checks
- Outstanding Tickets
- Child Support Payments
Performing Emissions Testing in Washington DC
Vehicle emissions tests take place at the DC DMV Inspection Station. Vehicle owners must drive their car there and wait in line to get their vehicle tested by test personnel. A DC DMV representative will collect inspection fees when an owner goes to get their vehicle registration. Vehicles are normally inspected in the order they arrive at the inspection station. However, the elderly and disabled get priority. Vehicle owners may also schedule an appointment so they do not have to wait in line and can proceed to the inspection lane at their scheduled test time.
The Washington DC Department of Motor Vehicles perform a range of tests on motor vehicles depending on their model year, weight, and fuel-type. DC DMV test personnel administer the following tests on vehicles:
Catalytic Converter Inspections – DC DMV test personnel do a visual inspection of all Gasoline vehicles made in the 1975 model year and newer model years weighing less than 8501 lbs of their catalyst converter.
Gas Cap Pressure Test – The DC DMV requires a Gas Cap Pressure Test for most vehicles during their inspection. The Gas Cap Pressure Test detects fuel leaks in a vehicle’s fuel system and checks to see if a vehicle’s fuel cap works properly or not. When testing for leaks in a vehicle’s fuel system, DC DMV test personnel clasp shut the hose leading from the fuel tank into the vehicle’s evaporative canister. Next, they apply internal pressure to the fuel tank to see if the vehicle’s fuel system leaks. Last, the technician checks the vehicle’s fuel cap to make sure it has a tight seal and is not malfunctioning.
On Board Diagnostic Tests – The On-Board Diagnostic (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”. 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. The DC DMV test technician can check your vehicle’s engine and emissions systems, and see if any monitors state a “Not Ready” status. If there are too many monitors stating a “Not Ready” status, then the vehicle will not pass the test. The test personnel can complete the test in around 2 minutes.
I/M 240 Test – this is an improved emissions test. The name of the test stands for Inspection/Maintenance 240 seconds. DC DMV test personnel place the vehicle onto a dynamometer. This device typically consists of several rollers in the floor the vehicle’s wheels drive on. This is to mimic the vehicle’s driving conditions while accelerating, decelerating, and cruising at different speeds. A test technician will typically place a tailpipe probe in the vehicle’s tailpipe to measure the pollutants the vehicle releases. A computer will analyze the levels of carbon dioxide (CO), Hydrocarbons (HC), and Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) coming out of the tailpipe. During an I/M 240 test a test technician will also check a vehicle’s evaporative emissions control system to make sure there are no fuel or vapors leaking from the fuel system. They will then do a flow test of the vehicle’s canister purge control valve (PCV). The entire test lasts a total of 240 seconds.
Two-Speed Idle (TSI) Test – DC DMV personnel perform the TSI Test on vehicles from the 1968 through 1983 model years. A test technician measures to see how much hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2) the vehicle emits from its tailpipe. Like the name implies, there are two speeds used in the TSI test. There’s a Low RPM test (revolutions per minute) that measures a vehicle’s emissions between 350-1200 RPMs and a high RPM test measuring the vehicle’s emissions between 2200-2500 RPM.
When test personnel finish administering an inspection the vehicle owner will receive a computer-generated Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) containing the results of the emissions and fuel system tests.
Failed Smog Inspections – Next Steps
Motor vehicles that fail an inspection, will have a “failed inspection” sticker placed on it by DC DMV inspection personnel. The sticker gives vehicle owners 20 calendar days to complete emissions-related repairs on their vehicle so it can be retested and pass its emissions inspection. DC DMV test personnel provide a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) listing the mechanical issues causing the vehicle to not pass its inspection. If vehicle owner’s have any problems or questions, they can ask a resolution coordinator at the DC Inspection Station.
Not Passing the Gas Cap Pressure Test in Washington DC
If a vehicle does not pass a Washington DC Gas Pressure Test it means the DMV technician found an issue with:
- The vehicle’s fuel tank
- Gas cap
- Evaporative canister
- The hose connecting the fuel tank and evaporative canister
A vehicle not passing the pressure test means test personnel likely found a fuel or vapor leak from some place in the vehicle’s fuel system. Vehicle owners may be able to complete some repairs found through a Gas Cap Pressure Test. For example, a malfunctioning fuel cap can simply be replaced by the owner. To be safe, consult with test personnel or your mechanic before making repairs yourself on a fuel system. Not repairing a fuel system correctly may cause a vehicle fire or explosion.
Not Passing the Catalytic Converter Test in Washington DC
Not passing the Catalytic Converter Test may mean the emissions inspector found your vehicle’s catalytic converter is malfunctioning, shows signs of someone tampering with the catalytic converter, or your vehicle does not have its catalytic converter. Be aware there are a series of guidelines and procedures put in place by the US EPA for replacing or installing a catalytic converter. The EPA requires these guidelines be followed by law.
Not Passing the On Board Diagnostic (ODBII) Test in Washington DC
Your vehicle may not have passed a Washington DC OBDII Test if:
- The “Check Engine” light (or MIL) is on or malfunctioning
- The OBD system displays a trouble code indicating the vehicle requires service
- The vehicle’s OBD connector is missing or malfunctioning
- The vehicle computer’s memory was reset during a repair or battery replacement
The VIR report given to the owner after failing the OBDII test will provide details (up to 5 trouble code definitions) to help a repair technician diagnose and repair your vehicle.
Not Passing a Tailpipe Exhaust (TSI) Test in Washington DC
There are two major reasons your vehicle may not have passed the Two-Speed Idle (TSI) Test or an I/M 240 Test in Washington DC. Either your vehicle has too high of Carbon Monoxide or too high of Hydrocarbon emissions coming out of the tailpipe. Vehicles emitting too much of either type of emissions usually have either some sort of internal engine malfunction, or a missing or malfunctioning catalytic converter. A vehicle emitting high Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be caused by:
- Malfunctioning catalytic converter
- Rich Idle air/fuel mixture (misfiring)
- Air filter needing to be replaced
- Malfunctioning heat riser
- The engine not idling at the correct speed
- Malfunctioning choke
- Malfunctioning or missing PCV valve
- Malfunctioning Oxygen Sensor
A vehicle emitting high Hydrocarbons (HC) can be caused by:
- Malfunctioning catalytic converter
- Engine ignition not timed correctly
- Malfunctioning PCV valve
- Lean Idle air/fuel mixture
- Malfunctioning spark plug wire(s)
- Malfunctioning air pump
- Possible vacuum leak
- Malfunctioning spark plug(s)
- Malfunctioning ignition EGR valve
The reasons listed above are just a partial list of the potential malfunctioning or damaged internal engine components that can cause a vehicle to not pass a tailpipe emissions test. The Washington DC’s inspection fee covers two free retests if a vehicle fails its first test. If after failing all three tests, and an owner spends $848 from a certified DC emissions repair mechanic then a vehicle may be eligible for a test waiver. In order to qualify for the waiver, a vehicle owner must provide all the receipts for emissions – related repairs done on the vehicle since its first failed test.
Washington DC will not permit a vehicle owner to renew their vehicle’s registration unless the vehicle passes its inspection requirements first. If your vehicle does not pass its test, and it is close to the due date for your registration renewal, check to see if your vehicle can get a temporary registration while getting your vehicle’s necessary repairs completed. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Locations in Washington DC pages below to inquire with your local DC DMV office about temporary registrations for your vehicle.
Washington DC Vehicle’s Determined Unable-To-Test
A vehicle may be determined to be ‘Unable-To-Test’ for the following reasons:
- The vehicle emits a lot of smoke (from the tailpipe, engine, or AC vents)
- The vehicle’s exhaust leaks and has visible damage
- Fluids leak from the vehicle onto the inspection lane at the vehicle testing location
- There are unsafe tires on the vehicle
- The vehicle has malfunctioning brakes, or parking brake on a front – wheel drive vehicle
- The vehicle’s “Check Engine” light is on
If a technician does determine your vehicle is ‘Unable-To-Test’ it is because the vehicle is unsafe to the driver and/or the general public.
Moved to Washington DC – Smog Check Requirements
If a vehicle owner is moving to Washington DC, they must get a smog check before they can complete their vehicle’s registration. If a person lives in Washington DC and operates a motor vehicle, they have 30 days to get their vehicle registered. Vehicle owners eligible to participate in Washington DC’s registration reciprocity program with outside municipalities do not require a smog check, this includes: full-time students, members of Congress, presidential appointees, members of the military, and certain part-time and temporary residents who qualify.
Transferring a Vehicle Title in Washington DC – Smog Check Needed?
When buying a vehicle in Washington DC between two DC residents, the DC DMV only requires a buyer to take the vehicle to the DC Inspection Facility if the vehicle’s inspection sticker has expired.
Do Washington, DC Vehicle Sellers Give Buyers a Valid Inspection Sticker?
DC DMV Inspection stickers obtained by DC residents with time left on them are still valid when someone purchases the vehicle from a seller.
Special Tips to Pass the Washington DC Emissions Test
Washington DC vehicle owners may want to get their vehicles to pass a vehicle emissions test as soon as they receive their first testing notice. Allow extra time to get any needed repairs done before the vehicle’s tabs expires. Also, if a vehicle owner plans to be out of town during the date when their tabs expires, planning early will give owners time to meet the deadline. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure passing a Washington DC 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.
How to Reduce Driving Emissions & Pollution in Washington, DC
Pollution kills upwards of 200,000 people every year. Vehicle Emissions Test programs help but are not always enough. Washington DC does provide the public with air pollution and ozone warnings. When the district alerts the public of these air quality incidents, there are several actions residents can take to protect themselves, their families, and environment:
- Stay indoors when possible
- Start a rideshare or carpool for work
- Work remotely or from home
- Adjust your thermostat up in the summer; down in the winter
- Use public transportation
- Ride a bike or walk more often
- Refuel your vehicle during cooler times of the day
- Don’t use lawn mowers and other gas-powered equipment
- Avoid the use of aerosol products, oil-based paints, and solvents.
- Do more with less trips; combine errands and schedule travel around multiple commitments
Smog Check Stations in Washington, DC
Washington DC is not part of any state. The district has a population of 693,000 residents but during the work week the population swells to over 1 million from the thousands of commuters who work in the district. The DC metropolitan area, which includes Washington DC and several adjacent municipalities is the 6th largest city in the US with 6 million residents.Washington DC has one central Inspection office to provide smog checks for vehicles registered to DC residents. Check out our DMV & Emissions Testing Location in Washington DC page to find a local DMV office or information on a Washington DC Inspection Station.