As efforts to improve air quality continue around the Commonwealth, the focus in Northern Virginia is to reduce emissions from motor vehicles. Vehicles are the single greatest source of pollutants in this region of the state. Vehicle emissions inspections are required for certain vehicles registered or operated in Northern Virginia.
This inspection program, called Air Check Virginia, is operating in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park. In addition, Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality has further enhanced Air Check Virginia by implementation of "On-Board Diagnostics" testing, and operating an "On-Road Emissions" program.

Vehicle emissions (as well as other natural and artificial sources) contain pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone, the main component of smog that builds up at ground level in hot, sunny weather. Vehicle emissions also contain pollutants that may affect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Vehicles are the single greatest source of pollutants in Northern Virginia.

Most of the nearly 1.7 million vehicles in Northern Virginia have emissions control equipment. Newer vehicles typically run much more cleanly than the vehicles they replace. But the total amount of vehicle emissions continues to increase with the number of vehicle miles traveled. To ensure that vehicles operate as cleanly as possible, an emissions inspection program has been an important part of Northern Virginia's air quality plan since 1982.

Although air quality has improved significantly since 1970, the Clean Air Act Amendments passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 required Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality to enhance the vehicle emissions inspection program -- to keep improving air quality and to reduce emissions further. In compliance with this federal mandate, DEQ has designed the program for maximum convenience, efficiency and reliability.
Basic Program Information

Vehicle owners in the Northern Virginia counties, as well as regular commuters into the area and vehicles operating on federal installations, are subject to the emissions inspection program. A vehicle's inspection date is based on the registration deadline, and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will notify owners six to eight weeks before an inspection is due. DMV can complete vehicle registration only after the inspection has been passed or a waiver has been issued.

An inspection must be performed every two years at a permitted emissions inspection station. Most inspections should take about 20 minutes or less, and the inspector issues a vehicle inspection report after the appropriate tests are performed.

If the vehicle does not pass the inspection, necessary repairs must be made. This often may be done at the same facility that performed the inspection. The vehicle then must be re-inspected, which is free if performed within 14 days at the facility that performed the initial inspection. A vehicle that does not pass the re-inspection may be eligible for a waiver only if appropriate repairs were done at a Virginia certified emissions repair facility.
Vehicle and Test Information

The program includes gasoline powered vehicles with a model year of less than 25 years prior to January 1 of the current calendar year, with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less. The gross vehicle weight rating, which is determined by the manufacturer, is the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum weight the vehicle is designed to carry. In many cases, emissions are tested while the vehicle is driven on a dynamometer at only 15 mph and 25 mph. Most 1996 and newer vehicles will receive a test of the vehicle's on-board diagnostic computer system  instead of the regular tailpipe emissions test. For all gasoline powered vehicles, a visual smoke inspection, and an inspection of certain emissions control equipment that was originally installed by the manufacturer will be conducted.

Also, 1997 model year and newer diesel powered vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating up to and including 8,500 pounds will be prompted for an emissions inspection.
Heavily polluting vehicles can now be identified during highway driving and may be required to report to an inspection station for a confirmation test. A vehicle emissions inspection waiver requires that repairs be performed at a Virginia Certified Emissions Repair Facility; and either performed, or supervised and approved, by a Virginia certified emissions repair technician. Emissions test result

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