2019 Leg Session, Gold Dome, Politics, Uncategorized

Check engine light alone won’t flunk emissions test if legislation passes

A vehicle emissions bill with bi-partisan support easing difficulties and reducing consumer costs during vehicle emissions inspections passed out of the state Senate Thursday.

SB19-092, sponsored by Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, and Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, amends a provision in Colorado’s vehicle emission inspection program requiring “diagnostic or malfunction indicator systems” be working before an emissions certificate can be issued.

Sen. Rachel Zenzinger

The bill says that this would not apply “solely because a check engine light is illuminated on a vehicle’s dashboard.”

An immediate rejection of an emissions inspection just because the light is on, as is currently the case, causes problems for vehicle owners because the “check engine” light can come on for conditions having nothing to do with vehicle emissions. This means that owners may have to pay for expensive repairs they don’t need in order to pass the inspection.

The light is a warning, but the actual malfunction is diagnosed through the on-board diagnostics (OBD) system that provides a code that describes the fault. The OBD system can store multiple faults. Devices to read and interpret these fault codes are commonly available and can even be borrowed from some auto parts stores.

All emissions testing stations have much more sophisticated computers that connect to the OBD system during testing that can distinguish between a fault affecting emissions and something like a burned-out headlight or low transmission fluid.

Sen. John Cooke

One of the arguments for the check engine light failure provision when the emissions inspection bill first passed in 1994 was that legislators felt owners should keep their cars in repair and that the warning indicator would remind them to go to a repair shop where emissions problems that were also detected and recorded would be brought to the owner’s attention and could be addressed.

The bill now goes to the House for Energy & Environment committee for consideration.


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