Emissions Testing in Arizona FAQ

Emission testing helps in determining the level of air pollutants a motor vehicle has emitted. Normally, there are specific standards that a vehicle has to pass to be cleared from the emissions test. There are a lot of things which you might need to know about this test, and that is why this FAQ is prepared for you so that it can answer some of your questions. These answers are specific to Arizona.

Will maintaining my vehicle help me pass an emissions test?

Yes, you can do this by ensuring that your vehicle is functioning, driving and running properly. If you notice any problem with your vehicle, the first thing you should do is to seek repair assistance as soon as possible. With proper maintenance, your vehicle will automatically pass the test because it is certain that you will ensure that everything is okay with your vehicle before the test.

Can you pass an emissions test with a check engine light on?

No, for you to pass this test, you must ensure that the check engine light is off. This will make help your vehicle to automatically pass the test. There are many techniques that can be used to turn it off, while some of these techniques turn it off for a short period, it is, therefore, advisable that you go for the test as soon as it is turned off.

Can you pass an emissions test with a bad catalytic converter?

No, Damaged catalytic converters cannot be in a position to convert toxic gases into gases that are not harmful to the health of human beings as well as the environment. This, therefore, can be a reason for your vehicle failing the test.

What can cause a car to fail an emission test?

There are many reasons, some of the common reasons are; a bad catalytic converter, defective light, problems with the evaporative emission control, dirty air filter, rich air-fuel mixture, worn out sparks, and more.

What happens if you fail the emissions test?

Your vehicle can not be registered or renewed. This means that you will not be given a license to drive your vehicle legally. Therefore, the next step should be to initiate the repairing of your vehicle so that it can pass the test and get your license. The reporter will be able to provide you with a full report explaining the repairs that are supposed to be made for your vehicle to be compliant. After finishing the repair, you should take your vehicle back for the test, and the chances are that you may pass.

Will my car pass the emission test in Arizona if the check engine light is on?

In Arizona, it will not. This is due to the fact that checking the OBD Check Engine Light is something they don’t do at the emissions testing facility. Because the Check Engine Light can be caused by a number of factors, it may not be something that affects your vehicle emissions, but they don’t have a way to check.

Flatly, 1996 and newer cars cannot pass emissions testing with the “Check Engine” light on.

Does my vehicle need an emissions test in Arizona?

Yes, as a resident of Arizona, your vehicle needs to pass the test for you to drive it legally. However, vehicles newer than six years old are normally exempted from this test

What are some ways to improve my car engine performance?

Reduce weight, forced induction system, install a performance chipset, use cold air intake to increase torque and horsepower.

Emissions Test Arizona

Got my Honda’s emissions tested this weekend in Scottsdale.

I left the house just after 11 am on Saturday and headed over to the emissions testing location in Scottsdale (on Evans). I originally wondered if I’d encounter a long line, but then I remembered that Saturday afternoons, in the middle of the month, are the least busy.

This was the 13th, on a Saturday. I show up, and there’s about 3 cars ahead of me, so I waited patently for about 10 minutes before it was my turn.

Then it was my turn. I pulled into the drive-through garage, and turned off my engine, as instructed.

Next, I popped out of my car and they told me I could sit in the passenger seat, or sit in a little blue boxed-in waiting area (next to my car). I chose to wait in the blue box.

The entire emissions test only took about 10 minutes, and cost me $20 (I paid with VISA, but they also accept Master Card, American Express, Discover, and cash).

I will attempt to get some photos at some point of the process!

In case you are interested, here is what they give you as your receipt, and as verification that you have passed. I’ve blurred the parts that are relevant to me.


ADOT Emission Testing

Well, it’s that time again… two years have passed, and now I need to get my Honda tested for emissions testing. This time around, I’m planning to write a blog post about the experience, and share any information I learn about passing the emissions test in Arizona.

Here’s the scrubbed email I just received from ADOT:


The vehicle registration for your 2005 HOND 4DSD, Plate XXXXXX, will expire September 15, 2014. Please pay on or before this date to avoid penalty fees.

For more information or exceptions click here.
You may renew online at WWW.SERVICEARIZONA.COM after complying with emissions requirements.

Fees for a 1 year renewal are:

Veh License Tax




Air Quality




Fees for a 2 year renewal are:

Veh License Tax




Air Quality




Record Number: ########
VIN: ################


You may also renew by Phone at: (888) 713-3031 or print this e-mail and mail with payment to: Motor Vehicle Division, 4005 N. 51st Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85031-2688.

If you have any questions, please call one of these numbers:

Phoenix: 602-255-0072

TDD Hearing/Speech Impaired:

Tucson: 520-629-9808

Phoenix: 602-712-3222

Elsewhere: 800-251-5866

Elsewhere: 800-324-5425


Motor Vehicle Division

You know you can renew your registration on, but there are more than 20 other services that, just like registration renewal, are fast, secure and convenient. Many are free, and all of them are available when you are.

This is an automated message: Do not reply to this e-mail.
If you received this e-mail in error, click here to unsubscribe.

Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Notice: This email transmission and any attachments are intended for use by the person(s)/entity(ies) named above and may contain confidential/privileged information. Any unauthorized use, disclosure or distribution is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by email, and delete or destroy all copies plus attachments.


How to pass emissions test for car

If you’re about ready to get your car inspected for vehicle emissions, here are some helpful tips that will help your car pass the inspection.

Tips for passing emissions test:

  • Fast idle your engine for about 30 seconds immediately before you drive into the inspection facility.
  • Ensure your seatbelt is buckled (including all passengers).
  • Drive your car around for 10-15 minutes prior to entering emissions testing so it is at peak efficiency.
  • Turn off your air conditioning, heater, radio, or other accessories before the inspection starts.
  • Check your turn signals, lights, horn, and wipers before inspection and repair if they aren’t working.
  • If you have a engine maintenance light on, go and get that checked out by your mechanic before having the emissions tested.
  • Ask the DMV inspector for assistance or tips if you fail the inspection.

Chandler Emissions Test Locations

Where can you go in Chandler to have your car emissions tested? Right now, there are two locations to choose from:

20 N. Beck Ave.
Chandler, AZ 85226

2360 S. Airport Blvd.
Chandler, AZ 85286

There is also a location in Mesa, just in case that happens to be closer for you.

Hours: Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm and Saturday 8 am – 5 pm.

How Frequently Do I Need an Emissions Test?

The answer is that you will be required to have each of your vehicles inspected once every two years.

When you receive your DMV renewal from the state they will indicate whether you are required to have your car tested for emissions. If so, you normally have a month or two to get it done.

Renewal of DMV fees can be done in person or at the DMV.

For a list of DMV locations in Arizona, click here.

Which vehicles are exempt from the testing requirements?

  • Most model year 2007 or newer, except reconstructed, vehicles
  • Most model year 2009 or newer original equipment alternative fuel vehicles
  • Model year 1966 and older vehicles
  • Vehicles designated as “collectible” (requires collectible vehicle insurance, reported to Arizona Motor Vehicle Division by insurer)
  • Electric powered, golf carts or vehicles with engine displacement of less than 90cc
  • Motorcycles registered in the Tucson metropolitan area
  • Apportioned vehicles (licensed in more than one state)
  • Vehicles leased to a person residing outside the emission control areas
  • Vehicles transferred between dealers (wholesale)

Emissions Test Waiver Locations in Arizona

If you have had your emissions test fail at least two times, you may qualify for a waiver.

You’ll need to demonstrate that sufficient effort and costs were incurred in an effort to repair your vehicle. See the price table here. There is a $15 fee for the waiver. Save all of your repair receipts. Once a waiver has been granted that vehicle may never receive another. Therefore, you’ll probably need to eventually get it repaired.

Waiver facilities are open 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except for all major state holidays. There are two locations in Arizona, and they are:

600 North 40th Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85008

4040 East 29th Street
Tucson, Arizona 85711

Good luck on your vehicle inspection!

What should I do if my car fails the emissions test

If your vehicle has failed an emissions test at an Arizona facility, they’ll usually give you some indication about why it has failed. You can take that information and provide it to any mechanic and with any luck they will be able to make some repairs to your vehicle. You can take a free-retest after you complete your repairs.

Why do I need emissions test in Arizona? The reason is because Arizona is one of the fastest growing states in the country and because of the mountains surrounding our cities (especially Phoenix) air pollution tends to settle in the valleys. This creates a smog build up that is visible in the air. What happened was that the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) partnered with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to administer a program they dubbed Car Care. The program is designed to control emissions and reduce pollution in the air. Arizona risks losing millions of dollars in federal highway funds if they don’t participate in the Clean Air Act, a federal program.

There are 31 states that require vehicle-emissions testing. Of those, 9 operate like Arizona with locations centralized. Other states allow independent auto-repair shops to check emissions. One reason Arizona doesn’t allow independent auto-shops to test is because we have more stringent standards. Arizona tests older vehicles (1967 to 1995 models) on the dynamometer rolling system. This system is too expensive for most auto shops to install.

Data from 2011 shows that only 6.3% of 2006 model vehicles failed the initial emissions test. Older cars made between 1967 and 1977 had higher failure rates usually between 32-43% (that’s high!). Here’s a great article from The Arizona Republic about the emissions testing program.

More than 90% of newer vehicles pass the test on the first run (about 1.3 million Arizonans a year).

First, the good news! You’re car re-inspection is free (as long as you return within 60 days) and you complete the repair information notes (reverse side of the original vehicle inspection report).

If your vehicle fails the emissions test two or more times and you have made reasonable attempts to repair it, then you may qualify for a waiver.

Some common reasons for a smog check failure include:

HC – Hydrocarbon faults:

  • Incorrect ignition timing
  • Faulty spark plugs and/or wires
  • Lean fuel mixtures
  • Vacuum leaks
  • Low cylinder compression

CO – Carbon Monoxide faults:

  • Faulty oxygen sensor(s)
  • Defective MAP sensor
  • Defective TPS sensor
  • Defective ECT sensor
  • Faulty fuel injection/carburetor

NOx – Nitrous Oxide faults:

  • Defective EGR system
  • Lean fuel mixtures
  • Overheating engine
  • High cylinder compression
  • Defective catalytic converter

Note: The possibilities listed above vary based on your vehicles make and model. Some times a vehicle can fail based on something entirely different. Always do a hands on diagnosis and speak with a qualified mechanic.

If the check-engine light is on, you’ll most likely want to check that out with your mechanic prior to getting your emissions test done. The folks at ADEQ actually recommend getting a check-engine light looked at prior to testing since it is likely to fail.

Here is a wonderful article that provides an overview of what you can do to pass an emissions test if your car had previously failed.

Do I need to have my car emissions tested in Arizona?

You’ll want to check with the state, but you typically do not need to have your emissions tested if you:

  • Arizona does exempt most vehicles of the newest five model years
  • Vehicle is registered outside of the test area – typically outside of Phoenix or Tucson – in this case, use the ADEQ address locator.
  • Have a vehicle that is located outside of the State of Arizona.
  • If you are active duty military and stationed outside of Arizona and nobody else is using your vehicle you may apply for an exemption.
  • Vehicles out of state at test time (sometimes you need to get it tested in another state, or they will give you a 1-year exemption).
  • Information from the state about exemptions.

Vehicle inspection for cars in Arizona

Unlike other states actual physical inspection of your vehicle is not required by the state of Arizona as long as the owner can provide proof of ownership in the form of a title and/or registration.

Emissions testing may still be required.

The make of the vehicle, and vehicle identification number (VIN), body style, and some other general vehicle information will need to be provided to the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD).

It should be noted that if there are obvious mechanical or safety problems the registration may be denied until those items are fixed.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) provides a section on their web site about vehicle inspections.

Emissions Testing Locations in Phoenix – Frequently asked questions

So, you’re looking for the best place to get your vehicle inspected for emissions? This little FAQ has been produced by a Phoenix resident who has done it before.

Q: What happens if my car fails?
A: You simply need to take your car to a mechanic, or fix it yourself, and then return for a complimentary test. In most cases, you can ask the attendant to explain why your car failed and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. If you have to take a third test, you will be required to pay again.

Q: How long does it take?
A: Getting your car emissions tested usually takes less than 10 minutes, not including wait times. You can check webcams of locations online to get a sense for how many cars are ahead of you.

Q: How can I get the best result?
A: While waiting in line, if you leave your vehicle running it can heat up and cause a failure. Less from the heat, and more from the emissions build up due to lack of motion. We recommend revving the engine To avoid over-heating while waiting. Keep the engine running and, while in neutral or park, rev the engine for 15 seconds at a time. Turn off your air conditioner. This is the recommended practice.

Q: Cold engine or hot engine?
A: I have personally experienced taking a car that I just started over to the emissions testing facility… and failed. So, take my advice and drive around for 15 minutes to warm up your vehicle. It will run better and be more likely to pass.

Q: Can I bring a trailer?
A: No, leave your trailer at home.

Q: Can I bring a passenger?
A: They say no, but you can… you are even able to bring your child. The driver will be required to step out of the vehicle for a few minutes, however.

Q: My check engine light is on, will my car still pass?
A: ADEQ recommends that you have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic to determine the reason. They state that “1996 and newer vehicles with on-board diagnostic (OBD) equipment will not pass emissions testing if the check engine light is on.”

Do you have a question? If so, get in touch!

AZ Emissions Testing Cost

Metro Phoenix:

  • 1981 and newer cars and most light trucks (under 8501 lbs.): $27.75
  • Most other vehicles (except heavy duty diesels): $19.00
  • Heavy-duty diesel vehicles (greater than 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight): $28.00

Metro Tucson:

  • All vehicles: $12.25

Payment Method:

  • Credit/Debit cards (Visa or MasterCard only) may now be used for vehicle emission inspection.
  • Cash and personal checks are accepted at inspection stations.

Checks must be:

  • Drawn on an Arizona bank or branch
  • Imprinted with customer’s name and physical Arizona address (no P.O. Boxes)
  • Payable to Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • No third party checks
  • Provide valid driver’s license, bank guarantee card or other photo ID when paying with check
  • No refunds

You should always ensure you actually need to get your vehicle tested before actually going. If your registration renewal notice included the words “Emissions Test Required”, then you are required to get your emissions tested.

AZ emissions testing locations and hours

We are updating our map system to bring you the very best map we can.

You should know that all AZ emission testing locations have the same hours, and are open all week excluding Sunday.

All inspection stations are open:
Mon – Fri 8am – 5pm / Sat 8am – 5pm

Tip: Testing is faster mid-week,
mid-month, weekdays from 5-7pm
and on Saturday afternoons.

Closed: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4,
Labor Day, Thanksgiving,
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

You can see a webcam of the location you are considering to help you determine if there is a long wait.