Emissions Testing....Another Form of Taxation?


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Jeff White
December 30, 2003, 03:02 AM
Fortunately I live outside the area that this is required. I guess California members deal with worse then this. Someone needs to explain to me why the EPA is changing over to a test that's only 40% accurate and you can pay $450.00 for a waiver if your vehicle fails. Is the switch to computer testing another form of taxation? I don't understand the $450 waiver.

The computer emissions test is apparently going nationwide. Republicans, the party that is supposed to stand for less government intrusion are running the EPA. What's up with that?
Jeff

Computer testing of emissions could make drivers pay
By Shane Graber
Post-Dispatch
12/29/2003

Some Metro East-area drivers could start the new year by paying hundreds of dollars in unnecessary car repairs after a change in required emissions testing begins Friday, critics of the new requirement say.

The free mandatory procedure will test a vehicle's computer system rather than actual emissions coming out of the exhaust pipe.

"We're fearful, in fact we know, that there are situations where people are going to be paying significant amounts of money for basically nothing," said Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA. "It's going to fall most heavily on those least able to pay."

The new Illinois rules, which also apply to vehicles in the greater Chicago area, target areas where pollution levels are higher than what federal standards allow.

A system similar to Illinois' will take effect in St. Louis, as well as St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties, in 2005.

The Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out the exhaust tests nationwide because they're not as strict as the computer tests, said Kim Kuntzman, a spokeswoman for the Illinois EPA's Bureau of Air.

Before 2004, an Illinois vehicle owner who failed the computer test could request an exhaust test. That will no longer be an option beginning Friday.

The owner must either fix what the computer considers to be a problem, or spend at least $450 on emission-related repairs, which then makes the vehicle eligible for a waiver.

"The problem with this is going to be that people are going to be ping-ponged between the testing place and the repairer," Right said.

The new rules apply to 1996 and newer vehicles with onboard diagnostics systems, or OBDIIs, which monitor engine, transmission and emissions controls.

Tests for vehicles older than 1996 will stay the same. Models older than 1968 and newer than four years old are exempt.

A 2001 study sponsored by the EPA said that computer testing needs a closer look.

The report, published by the National Research Council of the National Academies, said that although computers can alert motorists to potential emission problems, "these systems do not actually measure emissions, instead relying on the computer to indicate whether any emissions-related malfunctions exist."

From October 2002 to March 2003 in Illinois, 422,948 vehicles underwent emissions testing, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. About 7.6 percent - or 32,144 vehicles - failed the computer tests. Of those vehicles, 30,787 took the option of taking the exhaust test, and 90 percent - or 27,735 - then passed.

Those who failed the computer test and didn't opt for the exhaust test paid an average of $238 in repairs. Those who failed the exhaust test paid an average of $403.

John Guzy is a master auto technician who is certified in Missouri to make emission repairs. He said the computer testing is about 40 percent reliable.

"On the tailpipe test, you're 100 percent because you know exactly what's coming out the back," he said.

Although the computerized tests have been known to fail vehicles that should have passed, the system has helped alert owners to small problems before they worsened, Kuntzman said.

"In many ways, it provides more in-depth information to motorists," she said. "If they're failing, it's certainly an indication that problems are developing with their emission control system. ... It can save the motorists a great deal of money in the long run."

There are several glitches in the computer systems, Right said. AAA's Web site lists vehicles that the U.S. EPA determined to have problems passing a computer test even though the vehicle had no emissions problems. All Volkswagens and Audis from 1997 to 2002, for instance, will likely fail a computer test if an after-market stereo was installed.

There are scores of other problems, Right said. A loose gas cap can cause the "check engine" light to go off. A blown fuse can lead to false trouble codes.

Even repairs can cause inaccurate readings. When a mechanic erases a computer's codes or disconnects a battery, the readiness codes are erased, too, and can only be reset by driving the vehicle. But the distance of driving required to reset the codes varies among vehicles. If those codes aren't reset before another emissions test, the vehicle will fail again.

"We've been dealing with that quite a bit," Kuntzman said of the computer errors. "We understand there are concerns with possible false failures, but generally speaking, they do accurately indicate when there is a problem."

If a vehicle's computer system is clearly giving false readings, the exhaust test will be made available, she said.

The Illinois EPA has been working to make sure the automotive industry is getting the training it needs so that misdiagnoses happen less often, Kuntzman said.

Once the new rules hit areas of Missouri, motorists will have to spend whatever is necessary so their vehicles pass the computer inspection. The $450 waiver in Illinois will not be available on the other side of the Mississippi River.


Reporter Shane Graber
E-mail: sgraber@post-dispatch.com
Phone: 314-340-8207

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sm
December 30, 2003, 03:22 AM
I'm not in an area that requires this either. Of course I drive a '93 model truck as well.

Sure sounds like taxation to me...control for sure!

Many years ago I recall here in AR we stopped the mandatory vehicle inspection. One had to have to renew license tags, and one had to display a window sticker showing one was current. Sure costs a lot of money to keep tabs on all this, including SP to check on inspection stations. Slip a $20 in tool drawer and one passed the "inspection". Never really cared for all the extra stuff as for as records in my name either. With computers whom know what is going on. People will get around it. Hey my catalytic converter fell of my '76 Olds...I was not required to replace it, copy of repairs for $16 for cutting off converter,and a pc of pipe and I was legal, really legal, when I went in for inspection nest go around.

Brock Yates made a comment about how when folks get regulated the only people that get hurt are the ones that are legit. Yates also said an little old lady in an inspected Rambler driving on unfamilar freeways too slow was more dangerous than a skilled driver going too fast with a maintained vehicle not inspected.

Taxation/Control

Wildalaska
December 30, 2003, 03:28 AM
The whole emissions thing is a farce.......

I used to own a 78 Toyota Land Cruiser. It had the orignal engine and the tailpipe numbers were based on its age. Originally it failed testing becasue of a missing part. I put the part back on, and it passed even though the numbers at the pipe were exactly the same! Then I wanted to drop a brand new 350 Chevy engine in it. A california engine!. But if I did so, It would not pass inspection becasue it wasnt "orignial", despite the fact that the numbers at the pipe would be lower with a new modern engine......

WildpoorgasmileageinCalicarstooAlaska

Jeff White
December 30, 2003, 03:42 AM
The article isn't clear, but it would appear that if your vehicle fails you can either get it fixed so it passes, at whatever cost it takes, or you can fork over $450 for a waiver. And the test fails most vehicles....hmmm sounds like a tidy little moneymaker for the state. I can bounce back and forth from the testing station to the repair shop and waste who knows how much time and money or I can pay $450 for a waiver and not mess with this for a year? Some decision. The waiver system doesn't even make a pretense of making the air cleaner...it amounts to an additional $450 a year tax on the owners of vehicles more then 4 years old in Illinois urban areas.

I think the only way to take control back is to starve to government of money....

Jeff

sm
December 30, 2003, 04:15 AM
I think the only way to take control back is to starve to government of money....
Yep, agreed Sir!

Good friend was told by the wife to go ahead and get a new truck. I mean this fella has never had a new vehicle and his had 210 k on it. After an almost cornary,pricing new ones... new small block engine, rebuilt transmission, and seat covers redone, he is set for another 210k miles he figures on this truck. Yes he get a bit sad at the gas pump, until a new SUV pulls in and he feels a lot better. He is not making payments, not paying higher insurance rates, and can afford to buy gas and use the truck. Oh we have property tax here...he ain't paying much more than squat for that older truck in taxes.

With the savings of not having a payment, well old boy he knew had guns and needed cash...what guns? :)

hammer4nc
December 30, 2003, 07:45 AM
They're hyping the new OBD emissions testing in Raleigh, too. With all the problems associated with it, it sure does sound like vindictive taxation...but hey, that's always been the wet dream of the most strident pseudo-environmentalists, hasn't it?:scrutiny:
The waiver system doesn't even make a pretense of making the air cleaner...it amounts to an additional $450 a year tax on the owners of vehicles more then 4 years old in Illinois urban areas.
Jeff, the new OBD testing only applies to vehicles '96 and newer. Vehicles mid '70's thru '96 still get the tailpipe test. That's no picnic, either. I drive a couple of '80's era work trucks...made the mistake of dumping $400 into carb repairs to try and pass a couple years ago, didn't help...now I just pay the guy $75 each year (instead of the nominal $38), and he "fudges" the test to pass.

In North Carolina, only selected counties are required to have smog tests at all. Many folks manage fake mailing addresses in non-smog counties, just to avoid the smog tests altogether.

Unintended consequences... I think my next car's going to be a restored '60s era muscle car to bypass smog testing altoether. Though I imagine they'll get around to closing this "loophole" before long.

Matt1911
December 30, 2003, 09:17 AM
Untill 3 years ago,i was a certified Indiana emmisions repair tech. Indiana was using the dyno system(actualy "drive" the car on a dyno and measure the exhaust),as i understand,now they will be checking the computer first,if there are any codes,no test,repair first.
There are so many faults with BOTH ways of testing,that HAVE been brought to the testers attention by us techs trying to fix these cars(that most are not broken!)in my mind it was fraud!
Many computers controlling these cars are faulty,giving false codes,or not coding when they needed to!Many cars tested bad on the dyno,but perfect in my shop.Most of the testers are kids that could not get a job at a fast food place!!I've had the testers tell people that their cat.converter is ok,but the car fail,when i inspected it,there was not even a cat. on the car!!!!Try selling that repair without the customer thinking your a thief!Oh yes,many shops are taking full advantage of the situation,and STEALING.It has gotten so bad,i quit turning wrenches,and went into construction.I sleep better these days...

HankB
December 30, 2003, 09:44 AM
Hmmm . . . they test cars via computer? Sounds like a "white space" opportunity for a hacker.

stevelyn
December 30, 2003, 10:46 AM
Republicans, the party that is supposed to stand for less govt. intrusion is running the EPA. What's up with that?

NEWSFLASH: The republican party is not a friend of liberty either. Both parties have been intruding into our lives. The republicans have just been thumping their deity handbooks and intruding in our bedrooms for so long they haven't quite become efficient at bureaucratic intrusion.:fire:

foghornl
December 30, 2003, 11:19 AM
SOME counties here in Ohio have the "E-Check", which is the exhaust pipe emissions test.

If I thought that the $20 per car every other year was actually doing something to improve the environment, I wouldn't mind quite as much.

One year, the car ahead of me was putting out a smoke screen that shamed the best of the Military, yet it passed. But my '94 Chevy pickup 5-liter V8 with all new sensors and other smog devices didn't. After a shouting match, complete with name-calling and ancestry tracing, a no-charge re-test was performed.

Hmmmm. Will wonders never cease? Passed test without a hitch. Perhaps it was the mention of US & Ohio Attorneys General, Fed EPA and all of the Cleveland Media "Investigative Reporters". A couple of the E-Check stations had just been busted for taking [ahem] "extra fees" to pass tests.

There is a clause that if your car fails, and you can prove via invoices that you have spent $400(?) in repairs, and still can't pass, you get an exemption for that time around.

WilderBill
December 30, 2003, 12:32 PM
Ya know for $450 you can buy a pre emmissions car that will always pass becouse the are no specs to check against.
My 69 just keeps on going.
Yes, I do have to re-ring every 100-200K. Still cheaper than replacing it.

obiwan1
December 30, 2003, 12:41 PM
We had it here in Florida for years. It proved to be totally bogus so it was scrapped.

Mike Irwin
December 30, 2003, 12:43 PM
BIGGER news flash.

Emissions testing is a LOT older than the current Bush administration.

Jeff White
December 30, 2003, 12:52 PM
Mike Irwin said;

Emissions testing is a LOT older than the current Bush administration.

I know that. But it's the Bush administration's EPA that is switching to this computer based test that is only 40% accurate. You can't hide behind, the other guy started it, if you are going to not only keep doing it, but make it worse.

Jeff

Partisan Ranger
December 30, 2003, 01:02 PM
One of the nice things about moving from Fairfax Co. VA to Frederick Co. VA is no longer having to do these stupid friggin' emmission tests. I drive in Fairfax all the time though, so my car is 'polluting' their precious air just the same. :D

Art Eatman
December 30, 2003, 01:04 PM
Seems to me there are more arguments going on here than for the actual topic. One is crookedness at the testing shops; another is the competence of the employees...

Is it reasonable or not to want cleanER air? Is it reasonable or not to want a car to actually meet emissions standards?

Seems to me that one key point in the thinking is: ""In many ways, it provides more in-depth information to motorists," she said. "If they're failing, it's certainly an indication that problems are developing with their emission control system. ... It can save the motorists a great deal of money in the long run.""

That is, while a tailpipe test might say the car is okay NOW, it's on its way toward not being okay in the near future.

Further, the $450 deal is that it is recognized that some cars will always have problems, and if the "true fix" will cost more than that, waiver the car. Even California has recognized the issue of financial hardship...

Sure, there are weirdnesses, as shown by "There are several glitches in the computer systems, Right said. AAA's Web site lists vehicles that the U.S. EPA determined to have problems passing a computer test even though the vehicle had no emissions problems. All Volkswagens and Audis from 1997 to 2002, for instance, will likely fail a computer test if an after-market stereo was installed." This sort of stuff is unavoidable, and at least it's recognized. The solution is that this information be available to the owners and those doing the testing.

Art

harpethriver
December 30, 2003, 01:42 PM
Jeff-here in Tennessee it's not a form of taxation( only $10) rather a "feel good" sort of environmental tokenism. I am in the car bidness, so I've had plenty of experiences with this form of testing, and I can at best it's a misguided form of governmental bureaucracy. In the old days they would actually test the physical emissions by inserting a probe in the exhaust pipe to get an emissions reading. Now they check the onboard diagnostics merely to see if the computer says the emissions eqpmt. is working. In reality the actual emissions are now NOT tested. Furthermore, if the vehicle has had a new battery or the battery has recently gone dead and needed charging the computer will not register enough "cycles" and the test will show the emissions eqpmt. as not working. This was programmed in because new vehicles are exempt from testing, so the computer will not show emissions as working until the vehicle has gone thru an adequate # of cycles. In addition the computer may show a "fault code" indicating that a piece of emissions eqpmt. MAY be due for replacing or inspection, and the vehicle will once again fail. Under no circumstances will the State actually physically test a vehicle. Frankly this is about as well received as the federal (unconstitutionally) mandated HOV lanes. Classic examples of wasted taxpayer$$$. Yeah Art-it's reasonable to want clean air-too bad the means to that end is so bogus.

Mike Irwin
December 30, 2003, 01:50 PM
Wait one second...

Is it my imagination, or is the "40% reliable" claim coming from one guy in one shop?

How did he derive that figure? Has he done extensive comparative testing between the two systems to validate that figure, or is he just guessing based on a couple of tests?

What do we know about this individual's abilities?

Is he a good mechanic?

Or is he a bananafingers whom the paper decided to interview because they needed a source?


I'm very, very sorry but I'm simply NOT willing to accept the 40% figure based on what looks distinctly like anecdotal "evidence" from a SINGLE source who may or may not be competent.

The fact that he's supposedly a "master automotive technician" certified to deal with emissions doesn't mean a hell of a lot.

An ASAE-certified, factory trained, and supposedly highly qualified mechanic DESTROYED the engine on a friend's car some years ago by "servicing" it in a manner specifically forbidden by the manufacturer.

The mechanic and dealership then tried to cover up his malpractice. In the end, it cost both a lot of money in court.


Sorry, but right now this seems like a knee-jerk reaction against the big, evil EPA which has come to suck your soul from your body and replace your brain with computer chips...

Bill Hook
December 30, 2003, 03:13 PM
Car & Driver gets on this subject a lot, but I seem to remember that something like 10% of cars, mostly the older pre-catalyst cars, on a sliding scale up to pre-OBD II, are responsible for 90% of the pollution, yet many of these get a "bye" on the testing or are tested less stringently (like Wildalaska's example). C&D has also noted that paying to get rid of these older cars (non-collectible) would be cheaper in the long-run, rather than impose testing on newer cars (driver's expense) and spend money on all the anti-pollution initiatives out there.

Obiwan
December 30, 2003, 05:05 PM
Yes emission testing is a farce

But it is mandated at the STATE level....

That is why everyone doesn't have to do it!

The EPA just helps set guidelines...based (IMHO) on junk science

jimpeel
December 30, 2003, 05:24 PM
It has nothing to do with the environment. It has everything to do with power. It has to do with empire building. It has to do with gleaning larger budgets.

I don't understand the $450 waiver.That is your fee to pollute. Those who pollute within the guidelines pay nothing. Those who venture outside the guidelines pay for the privilege.

Basically, they are saying "You are a polluter, and you are a bad person; but you can gain inestimable esteem in my eyes if you but grease my palm to the tune of $450."

rock jock
December 30, 2003, 05:27 PM
The lack of knowledge and ranting on this subject makes the antis looks like 2A scholars.

1. Testing is mandated at the state level by way of a State Implementation Plan that is mandated by the EPA to comply with the 1990 Celan Air Act
2. The science demonstrating adverse health effects of ground-level ozone and particulate material (PM) is pretty well established.
3. Vehicle emission testing is always the last reosrt for a state since it is a political hot potato. A state will always hammer industry first, and hammer them hard to reduce emissions. It is always easier to blame "big business" than to come down on the "little man." That is why in many industries emissions have been reduced by up 90% over the past 30 years despite an expanding economy.
4. States have reluctantly added vehicle emission testing when they realized that even with industry emission reductions, automobiles still accoutned for up to 50-60% of NOx/VOC emmissions in some areas and the state would NEVER meet federally mandated compliance schedules w/o addressing this source.
5. It is true that 10% of the cars on the road account for 90% of the pollution. That is why newer cars are not required to be tested as often.
6. Newer cars are typically tested by use of On Board Diagnotics (OBD) since the computer will tell if there is a problem with the emission control equipment; older cars ('95 and earlier models) are tested at the tailpipe by simulated driving conditions.

Mike Irwin
December 30, 2003, 05:34 PM
"older cars ('95 and earlier models) are tested at the tailpipe by simulated driving conditions."

My 1997 Subaru Outback was tested 2 weeks ago in Falls Church, Virginia.

It was tested using the tailpipe probe on the dynamometer (sp?) to simulate driving conditions.

Obiwan
December 30, 2003, 05:38 PM
I don't know if this is still done, but companies used to be able to purchase VOC allowances from other companies.....

Kind of like buying someone elses allotment that doesn't need it.

Samr thing with the cars...it is about money....not pollution.

"5. It is true that 10% of the cars on the road account for 90% of the pollution. That is why newer cars are not required to be tested as often."

And it makes perfect sense to exempt old vehicles thatwould never pass....

Because thay are in the 10%:rolleyes:

rock jock
December 30, 2003, 05:50 PM
Mike,

That decision is made at the state level. I was using Texas as an example. For a '97 model vehicle, they should be using OBD for testing, but that is entirely within their discretion to do otherwise.



Obiwan,

There is no politically viable solution to the dirty 10% of cars. If they were not on the road, or had the emission systems retrofited (at a great expense), we would have no need for emission testing. I think one purpose of the program is to discourage people from buying older cars. If anything, this is not taxation, but rather a form of welfare (i.e., low-income drivers get a free pass for something that is their fault in the first place).

Russ
December 30, 2003, 05:57 PM
I was born, raised and lived in the Los Angeles basin for most of my life. The emissions testing started in So Cal in the early 70's and has progressed to what it is now. Every 2 years one had to have the car tested and certified in order to register it. For a long time, if the repairs required to get the car to pass the smog test were over $250, one could get a waiver. Seems to me that has gone by the wayside in the PRK but that's probably where the $450 "waiver" referenced above comes from.

The testing requirement really made a difference for the better in air quality in So Cal. Now with the newer more efficient cars, I don't know if it's necessary any longer. However, businesses offering the test had to fork out some serious money for the testing equipment. Seems to me only a small portion of the total, maybe $6 per car went to the state. When you add it up, that comes out to real money after awhile.

Mike Irwin
December 30, 2003, 06:13 PM
Rock,

Yep, I know. Sorry, I was just trying to indicate what Virginia is still doing.

jimpeel
December 30, 2003, 06:59 PM
3. Vehicle emission testing is always the last reosrt for a state since it is a political hot potato. When the state wanted to institute vehicle testing for the Denver area only, the representative for Boulder County, Mary Blue, asked if she could have Boulder County included. That's how Boulder County ended up with emissions testing.

It was not the mandate of the state.

It was not because the state "reluctantly added vehicle emission testing".

It was not because Boulder County needed emissions testing.

It was not because there was a severe pollution problem in Boulder County.

It was because of one politically correct, enviro-wacko who was soundly defeated in the next election because of what she had done.

Unfortunately, the testing program is still in effect in Boulder County but Boulder County -- home of the City of Boulder, laughing stock of the nation -- is full of the same type of enviro-wackos that got the program started in the first place. So ending it is impossible; and the money flows ... and flows ... and flows.

biere
December 30, 2003, 07:18 PM
South western ohio has had some shenanigans going on with their testing.

The test stations were shut down for a while while things played around in court, I forget what got decided but the stations are back up and running.

One loop hole in ohio is to have a truck with a gross weight rating of 10,000 or over. If I still lived in the testing counties I would have sold my cars and just kept my truck.

I have taken many vehicles through and I have come to see it as a simple tax.

Of course if someone knows the rules they can make things easier in ohio, one thing is about not letting them pop the hood. All they can check is the exhaust with their mirrors. I also got to the point where I would not let them drive my vehicles on the rolling dyno.

If you have awd or a traction control system driving one set of wheels while the other sits still will mess things up. So for these vehicles all they do is a neutral test, they check emissions at idle and some rpm, maybe 2500 rpm.

I often get the manager of the facility, if it is a busy time he will agree with you since traffic is backing up.

Part of my reason for doing things the way I do is that I had cars fail and then pass. And all I did was wait a couple days. And yes I know all about having the thing warmed up and ready to go.

The local news guy who goes after hustlers did some reports on these testing stations and had some interesting things to say. Few were good.

I can comprehend why people feel someone should be forced to have their vehicle checked before they renew their registration.

But the old way of doing it and the new way described in the article in the first post makes me realize that the concept is not to simply get things cleaned up.

If they scan your computer and want to tell you something is about to break, I fully expect them to start going after the black boxes for airbags so they can tell you to slow down.

And wild alaska could have gotten that 350 chevy in his vehicle if he was prepared to jump through some seriously silly hoops and let a reffere aprove his vehicle. Overall the cost would have been insane to swap in a complete newer 350 and its complete emissions system.

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