DEAR TOM AND RAY: We live in Buffalo, N.Y., and our son will be attending graduate school in Glendale, Ariz. We are having his 2000 Ford Contour transported out there. From what I have learned, his car will have to pass an emissions test once there. With the car being so old, we are concerned that it might not pass. Is there anything we can do before we go through the expense of transporting his car to Arizona to determine if it will meet Arizona’s emissions standards? – Richard
RAY: Does this involve taping a Benjamin Franklin to the underside of the registration?
TOM: No, this is legit. For cars that are model year 1996 and later, the emissions inspection is done by computer. You can have the same test done locally before you ship the car.
RAY: All 1996 and later cars have a system called OBD II. That stands for On Board Diagnostics … uh, Two! OBD is a system of monitors that continuously check things that relate to a car’s emissions – things like the catalytic converter, whether the engine is misfiring and whether the fuel-tank vapor-recovery system is keeping gas fumes from leaking out into the air.
TOM: If anything that affects the car’s emissions is not working correctly, that monitor will tell the computer, and the computer will command the Check Engine light to light up on your dashboard.
RAY: So if the Check Engine light is off and the car’s monitors all report that they are “ready,” then your car will pass that part of the emissions test.
TOM: You can have that stuff checked at any repair shop that has a scan tool, which almost every shop has these days. They simply plug their scan tool into your car’s OBD port, and it gives them a readout. If the readout says “monitors ready” and the Check Engine light is off, you’re good to go in New York or Arizona.
RAY: Actually, they allow you to pass even if you have one monitor that is not “ready.” The one monitor exception is designed to give you a pass on reasonable faults.
TOM: The second part of Arizona’s emissions test just checks your gas cap, to make sure it holds pressure. Your local garage can check that, too.
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