My Vehicle Failed....Now What?

If your 1996 or newer vehicle was rejected or failed the emissions inspection the following steps can assist you in the process of getting your vehicle into compliance.

Step 1:   Review your Vehicle Inspection Report to determine if your test result was a Reject or Fail.
Step 2: Review your vehicle’s warranty to find out what repairs may be covered. Federal law requires that the emission control systems on 1995 and newer model year vehicles be warranted for a minimum of two years or 24,000 miles.  Coverage for the on-board computer and catalytic converter is extended to eight years or 80,000 miles.
Step 3: Correct the problem.  A list of state recognized repair facilities is available to help you make decisions about where to have your vehicle repaired.
Step 4: Return to an Emission Inspection Facility for a re-test.  If any repairs were made on your vehicle, the person who made the repairs must complete and sign the back of your Vehicle Inspection Report before you return for a retest.  Failure to have this form properly completed and signed could result in your vehicle being refused for a retest.  If your vehicle passes, you can renew your vehicle registration. If you vehicle fails or is rejected, it is HIGHLY recommended that you speak with a Station Manager prior to seeking additional repairs.

If your vehicle failed an OBD test

Listed below are common reason a vehicle might fail an OBD test:
  • The vehicle's OBD system connector has been removed, not accessible or is otherwise not working properly.  The OBD check cannot be completed if the connector is missing or is not working properly.
  • The Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) is not working.  The MIL functions to let the vehicle operator know when there is a problem with the vehicle.
  • The MIL is illuminated. You may see a 'Service Engine Soon' or 'Check Engine' light lit up. This indicates that there is a problem with your vehicle.  The specific Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) will be listed on the Vehicle Inspection Report.  These DTC's will help your technician diagnose and repair your vehicle.  A qualified, trained automotive service technician equipped with the appropriate diagnostic repair tools can repair your vehicle.

Depending on your vehicle's age and mileage, repairs may be covered under the vehicle manufacturer's warranty.

If your vehicle was rejected for an OBD test

Unset Readiness Monitors:  The vehicle's OBD system is not ready.  Each OBD system is comprised of several monitors that evaluate specific aspects of the emission control system. If the monitors have not completed their internal tests, the OBD system is not ready to report its status. Problems may be present, but not yet identified.  A recently disconnected or discharged (run down) battery, or recent servicing or clearing codes with a scan tool are the most likely reasons for a vehicle's OBD system being not ready.

For 1996-2000 model year vehicles, we are not able to retest the vehicle if more than two readiness monitors are not set.  For 2001 and newer model year vehicles, if more than one readiness monitor is not set we are unable to retest the vehicle. Check your Vehicle Inspection Report for the specific monitors that were not ready.

In order for the OBD systems to become ready, the vehicle should be driven under a variety of normal operating conditions including a mix of highway driving, stop and go driving and at least one overnight off period.

The vehicle's owner's manual may provide more specific information on getting your vehicle's OBD system ready. Of course, you may also consult a dealership or repair facility in the event that your vehicle's OBD system is not ready. Motorists are also given information at the time the vehicle is rejected for unset monitors. Readiness Monitor Information

Non-Communications: A vehicle would be rejected from testing due to non-communication if the vehicle's onboard computer did not send a signal to the emission testing equipment.  This condition needs to be corrected before the vehicle can be tested.  Non-Communication Information

Need more time?

It is not legal to operate a vehicle with expired license plates.  However, you may legally drive a vehicle from a place it is kept to an emission testing station and back, for the purpose of having an emission inspection.

A vehicle that does not pass the emission inspection, which has expired registration within a couple of days, may still be operated for a period of 30 days with the purchase of a temporary license plate.  The vehicle cannot be operated until the temporary plate is placed on the vehicle.  The fee for a temporary plate is $8.00 if purchased at an emission testing station or at a Motor Vehicle office offering registration services.  Only cash or checks are accepted.  Or an application for a temporary plate can be mailed along with $3.00 to the motor vehicle office in Madison. If your plates have expired or will expire before you are able to have your vehicle repaired and you may be eligible to purchase a temporary 30-day plate from any emission testing station, DMV Customer Service Center or through the mail.  If this is a recently purchased vehicle, and you had received a notice to have the testing completed within 45 days, please call 866-OBD-TEST  for a one-time 30 day extension.

Temporary license plates are not available for vehicles with suspended registrations.

The temporary plate application is not available from our website.  It is only available at the offices where the plate can be obtained.

Waiver Information

Vehicle owners can also apply for a waiver for vehicles that continue to fail the emissions test.  You are eligible to apply for a waiver when the following conditions are met:

  • The vehicle has failed an emissions test and following repair and retest, it still does not meet test requirements. Repairs made over 180 days prior to the expiration of the license plate cannot be applied to the waiver repair cost limit.
  • The vehicle has passed a waiver emission equipment inspection to determine if emission control equipment is missing, modified or disconnected.  The equipment inspection includes the Check Engine Light operating properly during a Key On, Engine Off inspection.
  • The Vehicle Inspection Reports (VIR) have been presented to the Waiver Investigator at the time a waiver is requested.  The REPAIR DATA section of these reports has been completed in accordance with instructions provided on the report form.  Motorists must bring their vehicle and itemized receipts for parts and labor to verify the emission related repairs.
  • The owner must have emission related repairs performed on the vehicle at a recognized repair facility to qualify for waiver consideration.
  • The actual costs of emission related repairs and adjustments exceeded the repair cost limit.  Only repairs that are related to the vehicle's cause of failure can be used to apply for a cost waiver.  Costs covered by any warranty or costs to repair/replace emission control equipment that has been removed, modified or disconnected are excluded.  TRANS 131.02(39) includes franchised NEW car dealerships as recognized repair facilities. Your search may not show all franchised NEW car dealerships, however, their invoices are acceptable for waiver consideration.
  • The repair cost limit for all model year vehicles subject to testing is $872.  Effective July 1, 2017 the rate will be $879.  This figure is adjusted annually by the DNR per NR 485.045.