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Should I Take the Emissions Test with My Check Engine Light On?

My car is due to take the emissions test, and my check engine light is on. Should I get the light fixed first?

Take the emissions test first.

Yes, you will fail the test if the check engine light on. Think of it this way: You’re going to have to fix the light either way. If you have the check engine light repaired after you fail the test, then those repairs will go toward the $150 waiver required to get back through the emissions test.

For example, let’s say you got the light fixed before you took the test and had to spend $200 to fix a problem with an oxygen sensor. You go to take the test two weeks later, and….Whaatt?? The check engine light comes back on right before you go to take the test. You fail the test, and find out that your car now has a problem with the catalytic converter that is causing the light to come back on. You won’t be able to apply the $200 you spent before taking the test toward the $150 waiver, so you’ll now have to spend at least another $150 toward fixing the catalytic converter.

Now, flip that around. You see that you check engine light is on. You take the emissions test and fail. You bring it into the shop and we see that there are two problems: one with the oxygen sensor, and another with the catalytic converter. We replace the oxygen sensor for $200 (which is over the minimum $150 required) and you’re well on your way to getting your emissions done. You ultimately still have an issue with the catalytic converter that will need to be addressed, but now you can save your money and replace it when it is convenient for you to do so.

In the first scenario, you end up having to spend more money to get through emissions and get your tabs. In the second scenario, you have more control over how much money you spend and when you spend it.

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Dan Amundsen is a Master ASE Certified Technician, with over 40 years of automotive repair experience. He has been the owner of Juanita Firs 76 since 1978. He runs a true family business with his two children, three nieces, and many just-like-family employees that have been with the company for over 15 years.