Emissions Inspections in Virginia

Virginia emissions testing is a biannual requirement of vehicles housed in certain counties and cities in Northern Virginia. The DMV enforces all vehicles to pass an emissions and smog check biannually, or every other year. The VA DMV provides two convenient options to meet this registration prerequisite. Without following the steps to get smog checks and emissions testing in Virginia, vehicle owners will not be permitted to renew vehicle registration or drive vehicles legally in the state. Cities and counties affected by VA smog testing and the methods for emissions exams are outlined in the sections below.

What is a Virginia smog check?

The Virginia smog test is a one way the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality combats the contamination of the air inhaled by emissions. The VA emissions inspection checks a vehicle’s excess emissions. If the test concludes that a vehicle is releasing poor-quality emissions into the air, it will fail the test. Owners of such vehicles must then follow through to repair vehicles before returning to test again.

The vehicle emissions test in Virginia checks various systems of your car. Not all cars have every system, but in general, the following control systems are generally what the emissions test inspects:

  • Air Injection System
  • Catalytic Converter
  • Exhaust Gas Recirculation System
  • Fuel Evaporative System
  • Positive Crankcase Ventilation System
  • Thermostatic Air Cleaner System

Who is required to get a vehicle emissions testing in Virginia?

The region of the state most affected by Virginia smog check laws is the northern portion of the state, where air quality control is the hardest to manage. Designated counties and cities that the state requires to pass biannual VA emissions inspection requirements include the following:

  • Alexandria
  • Fairfax
  • Falls Church
  • Manassas
  • Manassas Park

Additionally, the state requires vehicles in the cities listed below pass the VA vehicle inspection every two years:

  • Arlington
  • Fairfax
  • Loudoun
  • Prince William
  • Stafford

The Virginia DMV recommends completing emissions requirements at one of the many emissions testing locations before applying for registration. Learn more about emissions inspection facilities by downloading our free, informative guide.

What options are available for car inspection near me in Virginia?

The Northern Virginia Vehicle Inspection Program (NVVIP) offers drivers two very accessible options to meet biannual emissions requirements. The first option for a smog check is the state-of-the-art RAPIDPASS. This on-road testing site checks your vehicle’s emissions as you drive past. This test takes less than one second, and roadside test points check your car’s emissions as you pass. Alternatively, you can visit a state-certified VA emissions inspection station to process your vehicle test. Whether you use the first or second method, the results of your vehicle’s test are automatically sent to the DMV, which updates records within 24 hours.

A passing Virginia vehicle inspection outcome for any car housed in an above-mentioned city or county is a prerequisite for DMV car registration in Virginia. Drivers cannot register vehicles with the DMV that require emissions repair work until the owners see to the necessary repairs. Under some circumstances, a VA emissions test waiver is granted that eliminates emissions requirements on a vehicle, but this is a pricey alternative, and only applies to vehicles that meet the strict criteria for waivers.

What should I do if I fail the smog check in Virginia?

If your car fails the initial Virginia emissions check, you will have to get the appropriate repairs on the car, so that it can pass the test. The testing station allows one free retest at the same testing site within 14 days of a failing inspection. The testing site provides a report with reasoning behind the failed inspection for the technician or mechanic who repairs the vehicle. If your vehicle fails the VA smog test, and you employ a Certified Emissions Repair Technician at a Certified Emissions Repair Facility, any cost you pay on repairs can go toward the waiver fee, if your vehicle ends up being eligible for a waiver. However, anyone can perform the repairs necessary to pass emissions requirements. Whoever you choose to handle the repairs, whether a Certified Emissions Repair Technician or your local repair shop, the mechanic will read the report supplied by the emissions testing station and administer the repairs needed to ensure your vehicle passes the retest.

Additionally, the NVVIP initiative offers free Virginia smog check history reports. This service offers the VA emissions history on any vehicle in Virginia.

Can I get emissions testing near me in Virginia?

Thirty percent of Virginia vehicle inspections are eligible for the RAPIDPASS drive-by vehicle emissions testing option. To qualify, simply drive through one of the many designated RAPIDPASS emissions testing locations. If eligible, the system will notify you. The DMV recommends driving through more than once 120 days before your registration expires to get initiated into the system. You can later check your vehicle’s status using your license plate number and the last four digits of your vehicle identification number (VIN). If you qualify, the system will notify you within 120 days of your registration renewal date to drive through a RAPIDPASS station to check your emissions quality, which reports automatically to the DMV. You can then complete registration online. The convenience of this system supplements the numerous VA emissions testing location options found throughout the region of North Virginia subject to emissions laws. Without stopping, you can seamlessly complete smog check testing for your vehicle.

To complete vehicle emissions testing in Virginia the traditional way, visit one of the numerous certified testing stations for emissions endorsed by the NVVIP in your area. Download our complimentary guide to read more about Virginia emissions tests for vehicles.