Emissions testing 101: The basics all Atlanta drivers need to know

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Nothing says "happy birthday" like having to get an emissions inspection. If you have been an Atlanta...

Nothing says "happy birthday" like having to get an emissions inspection. If you have been an Atlanta resident for a while, then you are all too familiar with the annual ritual. If you are a newcomer, then well, it may be a new rite of passage. Of course, with the changes made in 2010, some Atlanta drivers get to put off the annual inspection for a few years depending on when the vehicle was purchased. So, what are the basics every Atlanta driver should know? First of all, get familiar with the Georgia Clean Air Force (GCAF).

What is the Georgia Clean Air Force?

The GCAF started its emissions testing program in 1996. This was done in an effort to prevent excessive pollution levels created from car emissions. Vehicles that fail testing protocols must be repaired before becoming legally operable. By doing this, GCAF is able to assist in keeping mass amounts of pollutants from invading the atmosphere and damage our health, the ozone and the surrounding environment.

Emissions testing guidelines

The following are some general guidelines:

  • Which vehicles must be tested? All cars and trucks that are 3 to 25 years old must be tested annually.
  • Which vehicles are exempt? Cars under 3 years and over 25 years old are exempt. Other exempt vehicles include motorbikes, motor homes and those that run on diesel or alternative fuel. In addition, seniors age 65 years and older may qualify for exemptions based on certain requirements.
  • What do you do if your car fails? A vehicle that does not meet state requirements must be repaired. Most emissions inspections stations provide referrals for GCAF qualified Atlanta-area repair technicians. Keep in mind that there is also a repair waiver for motorists. The waiver limits the out-of-pocket expense to a dollar amount that changes annually dependent on the consumer price index. For 2013, this amount is equal to $841.
  • Need a copy of your Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR)? Your VIR is available for free online with your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at the GCAF website at http://www.cleanairforce.com/.

Emission testing tips

Here are best emission testing practices to follow:

  • Routine maintenance: A lot of vehicle issues can be avoided with simple routine tune-ups and doing the manufacturer recommended maintenance. This includes oil changes, tire pressure maintenance, and checking fuel cap seals, belts and hoses for wear.
  • Early testing: Don't wait until the last minute to get your emission testing done. Do your inspection at least 30 days in advance. This way, if your car does fail, you have sufficient time to do the repairs and be within the 30-day free retest window.
  • In-and-out testing: Testing usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes, if you go at the right time. If you want avoid a long wait, take some precautions. Try to schedule an appointment ahead of time or call the inspection center and ask about down times. Be sure to avoid high traffic times of the day.

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