What if my vehicle fails?

My vehicle failed. What do I do now?

Vehicles that fail an emissions test need to be repaired and retested.

We recommend that vehicles be repaired by a Recognized Repair Technician who is trained, experienced and equipped to repair emissions-related failures. The diagnosis and repair of emissions problems has emerged as a specialty in automotive repair and can involve the repair or replacement of multiple components. This can be very challenging -- even to veteran technicians. Statistics indicate most emissions failures cannot be solved by simple tune-ups.

When vehicles fail an emissions test, motorists are given several documents that will assist them in determining their next steps:

The Vehicle Inspection Report provides details about the specific tests performed and the test results, which helps a technician diagnose and repair the vehicle.

The Repair Data Form must be completed and provided to the test inspector before a retest will be performed. Vehicles returning for a retest without complete repair data are rejected. It is helpful, and sometimes necessary, that motorists bring itemized receipts for all work that was done.

The Repair Shop Report Card is intended to help motorists choose a repair shop to diagnose and repair the vehicle. It includes the Repair Effectiveness Index (REI) of shops that demonstrated success in performing emissions repairs.

Below are answers to commonly asked questions by owners whose vehicles have failed the test. If you have any questions not listed here, please contact the Illinois EPA at (800) 635-2380 or the customer service representative at any full service vehicle emissions testing station.

Why did my vehicle fail the emissions test?

In the case of an OBD test, there are three main reasons for failure:

  1. The OBD system reported an emissions-related malfunction, as indicated by stored diagnostic trouble codes and illumination of the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (“MIL”),(also referred to as the “check engine” light) on the dashboard;
  2. The OBD system is inoperative; or,
  3. The Diagnostic Link Connector (“DLC”) is damaged, inaccessible, or missing.

I maintain my vehicle and it is running fine, so why did I fail the test?

Generally, emission control devices have little impact on the drivability of a vehicle. Your vehicle may seem to be operating fine but still has an emissions-related problem. Even the best maintained vehicle might experience these types of failures.

Why can't the emissions station's staff tell me what's wrong with my vehicle?

Personnel at Full Service and OBD Only testing stations are qualified to test vehicles for emissions compliance. They are not qualified repair technicians, and they are not authorized to diagnose and repair emissions related problems.

Personnel at Appointment Only testing stations may (or may not) be qualified to diagnose and repair emissions test failures, but motorists are strongly encouraged to refer to and utilize the Repair Shop Report Card to help them select an appropriate repair shop that has demonstrated success in repairing vehicles with emissions problems.

Can I do my own repairs?

Yes, but today's modern fuel-injected and computer-controlled vehicles present unique challenges. Emissions failures generally require a high degree of expertise and training to diagnose and repair. The typical vehicle owner could experience considerable difficulty finding and repairing the problem(s) responsible for an emissions failure. It is also important to remember that repairs must be made by a recognized repair technician to qualify towards a waiver.

Who are Recognized Repair Technicians?

Illinois law defines a recognized repair technician as “a person professionally engaged in vehicle repair, employed by a going concern whose purpose is vehicle repair, or possessing nationally recognized certification for emission related diagnosis and repair” 625 ILCS 5/1-168.5.

Where do I take my vehicle to be repaired?

The Air Team produces a quarterly publication called the Repair Shop Report Card, which lists facilities that have demonstrated success in repairing vehicles with emissions test failures.

The Repair Shop Report Card (Report Card) is an indication of a shop’s ability to diagnose and repair vehicles that have not passed the emissions test. Each shop listed has a grade based on their ability to repair emissions systems. The grade is based on emissions repair data and is calculated by dividing the number of successful emissions-related repairs by the total number of emissions-related repairs done. Shops must have at least five emissions repairs during six months and achieve a success rate of 75% or greater to appear in the Report Card. They are assigned a letter grade (A=93-100%, B=84-92%, and C=75-83%). The report is updated quarterly. Shops are listed by grade, followed by number of repairs.

Why does my repair shop charge for diagnostic work?

The Vehicle Inspection Report gives your technician a list of the diagnostic trouble codes that were stored in your vehicles on-board computer at the time of the emissions test. The technician can use this information to help diagnose the problem that caused the vehicle to fail the test. The report does not identify what component(s) are malfunctioning.

While this information is helpful to your technician, it cannot pinpoint the actual repairs that must be made. The technician uses this information, combined with training and experience and possibly further diagnostic testing, to determine what repairs will be needed.

I had repairs made to my vehicle. What do I do?

Have the technician who performed the repairs complete the Repair Data Form. (This is not necessary if the repair shop reported the repair data electronically.)

If this is a second or third test, the vehicle can be taken to any station for a retest.

However, if this is a fourth or subsequent test, the vehicle must be taken to a full service testing station for a retest.

The test number can be found in the INSPECTION INFORMATION section of the most recent Vehicle Inspection Report.

Do I have to go into the station office before I have my vehicle retested?

Not for the first two retests. Further retests must be authorized by a Customer Service Representative at a Full Service testing station. This will require you to go to the test station office and present all receipts for emissions-related repairs to your vehicle.

What is a waiver, and how can I get one?

A waiver allows the owner of a failing vehicle to still be able to renew its registration. A vehicle may qualify for a waiver for the current test period if it has failed at least two tests, received a minimum of $450 of emissions-related repairs from a Recognized Repair Technician, and fulfills all other waiver requirements. (Click here for a complete list of waiver requirements.) Very few vehicles qualify for waivers.

Waiver applications and inspections are only performed at Full Service testing stations. Acceptable proof of repair is required.

What if I have a problem with my repair shop?

Illinois law requires repair shops to make specific disclosures to consumers and prohibits certain unlawful practices.

For additional information you may contact the Illinois Attorney General's office at (312) 814-3000 or (800) 386-5438 in Chicago, or (618) 529-6400 or (800) 243-0607 in the Metro-East St. Louis area.

If you have any other questions, please see the Customer Service Representative at any Full Service testing station, or call the Illinois EPA at (800) 635-2380, or check this website for updates.