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Getting car "ready" for emissions testing

(1999 Mazda Protege)
in Vancouver, WA on December 31, 2010
My car has been diagnosed as being "not ready" to do emissions testing. I understand that if a car FAILS emissions testing, there is a limit to how much you need to spend to get the car to pass the test. However, I have to take the car into a Mazda dealership in order to determine WHY my car is not ready. I already had my local service guy do an extensive check, at no charge, to try to figure out why it's not ready. I have apparently met all the driving requirements (and then some!) for the computer to be ready. But the bottom line is that the manufacturer is the only one who can help me determine what the problem is and how to get the car ready. For that, I've made an appointment at a local dealership, and just to figure out what the problem is will cost me $99. If any repairs are required (just to get the car READY), they will be an additional cost.

So my questions is: Just like there is a limit to how much you have to spend in order to PASS the emissions test, is there a limit to how much you have to spend to get the car READY to take the test in the first place?

And can any money I spend on getting the car READY be applied to my case if the car then FAILS?

What would be the best way to deal with the dealership on this?

I live in Washington state, Clark County.
Displaying 7 answers & 19 comments
Popular Answer
on January 01, 2011
To All... I do have the "check engine" light on, and it has been on since about February or March. That was the last time it was reset and when it came on again, the mechanic told me that the problem was not something that needed to be fixed right away, that he would drive his own car in that condition across the country and back. So I didn't do anything about it then, and I haven't done anything since. No further "resetting" or examining or fixing of any kind. I have driven this car on several long trips since then, in all kinds of conditions. Fast, slow, hot, cold, highway, dirt roads, everything in between.

Nobody is really answering my question. IS THERE A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH I HAVE TO SPEND IN ORDER TO GET THE CAR "READY" TO TEST in the state of Washington? I understand there is a limit to how much you have to spend if you FAIL. But what if you can't even take the test? Do you have to spend whatever it takes to get it ready? Or do you just spend the limit and the mechanic who fixes it has to make it ready no matter what?

I've already talked over all these issues with the mechanic I've already used. I don't know if he is certified, but I will find out. He did some extensive testing as it is, and he called the guy from WA state who monitors service stations for emissions testing to find out if he could recommend any other action. Both of them told me to go to the manufacturer. My mechanic says that this state guy oversees everything he does, so I don't know if that means he's certified or not. But he didn't offer to fix the problem. He said that only the manufacturer (dealership) has the equipment to determine WHY my car is not ready and can therefore fix it. My mechanic could only confirm the codes that the testing station found.

I don't want to pay another mechanic $90 only to find out that HE would also recommend that I go to the dealership. My guy charged me nothing to check this all out and spent quite a bit of time with me, brainstorming. But there was nothing more he could do.

So can anyone tell me which service facilities in Vancouver, WA would be able to fix this problem for me, if it's not the dealership? AND IS THERE A STATE LIMIT TO HOW MUCH I HAVE TO SPEND TO GET THE CAR READY?

Thank you and Happy New Year!
on January 01, 2011
sorry. i am from pa. our limit for spending before a waiver is issued is 150 parts and labor, no diagnostic fees in the 150.
i will have to defer to someone closer to you to get your answer.

on January 01, 2011
Thanks, I appreciate your response, Roy. The key here is the "diagnostic fees." That's what I'm looking at spending first.... before even finding out if I PASS or FAIL. So you're saying that (at least in PA) that anything I spend to determine what is causing those codes to appear (and to make them NOT appear, in order to get the car tested) would NOT be applied to anything I have to spend in order to get my car fixed once it is able to be tested and it ends up failing?
on January 01, 2011
you first must fix the "check engine" on problem - no other way around it.
on January 01, 2011
thats corect. diags are not part of the waiver process. it must be 150 spent on parts and labor to do with the failure issue.
it has to fail 2 times, then receipts for the minimum of 150, then its 29.95 for the waiver.
that is the process here in pa.

on January 01, 2011
You will need to provide itemized receipts that show that at least $150 was spent on emission diagnosis/repairs of the test failure. Refer to the brochure given to you when your vehicle failed for additional information.
on January 01, 2011
My vehicle didn't FAIL. It didn't even get tested.
on December 31, 2010
a drive cycle is a very specific way to drive a car to get the monitors to run. you driving it your normal way may never set a monitor. a expierenced tech can get them to run in about an hour or less of driving. take it to a shop that can do this for you. you will spend about 90 to have this done but worth it.
was the light on or any repairs done to get this way??

on February 17, 2011
Roy, can you recommend a shop in the San Francisco Bay Area? I'm willing to drive an hour to two hours in any direction. Please advice on experienced tech to take it to that you might know of. Thanks.
of Steve's Imports on December 31, 2010
My question is, did your car have a "check engine" lite on? and was it reset recently.
If so you just need to drive the car a little longer to go through the drive cycle.
on February 17, 2011
Steve, fyi... I drove my car according to the drive cycle the dealer gave me - and it still did not reset the monitors to "Ready". It was not exact, b/c I don't have a stop watch for 15 seconds & 1 minute requirements at the speed indicated, but it was close. My battery was replaced 8 months ago and my car recently had it's 60K service & timing belt replacement. I attempted to get it smog'ed 2 weeks ago and it failed due to 3 monitors not being ready. :(
of Honest 1 Auto Care on January 01, 2011
I would really like to know what the codes are that are stored in the computer, I'm guessing either EVAP or CAT type codes, since you were informed that the vehicle was in no real danger of failing if driven "across country". If your Check Engine Light or CEL is on, you can take your vehicle anywhere you want for repair, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO TO THE DEALERSHIP. There is a huge misunderstanding about this out there in the motoring public, if you wanted to look it up, just google "right to repair act". The only thing you have to do is find a repair facility equipped with the correct tools to diagnose your vehicle, it being a Mazda, most any reputable shop will be able to handle it. Even if you can't remember the codes, I think Shuck's or Autozone or some of those parts stores advertise "FREE" check engine light diagnostics. Yes they will tell you the codes, but after that, I would not recommend listening to them, they work at a parts store for a reason. If you could supply the codes for us that would be great, I'd tell you to swing on by the shop I work at on 20th and Stark near downtown Portland, and we would pull the codes for you, but it may be a bit out of your way. My boss knows more about the fee's, waivers and that kind of thing, he also lives in Vancouver, but I will not see him till Monday. I'll keep in touch though.
on January 01, 2011
Hi, the codes were CAT, EVAP, and EGR. In addition, the mechanic found a manufacturer specific code: P1141 (B152 O2 heater circuit voltage).

What I'm not understanding is... Why did both the mechanic AND the official state guy that he called for further advice refer me to the dealership??? This is not "the motoring public."

And the very reputable shop where I had this diagnosis done said they did not have the equipment to tell me WHY I was getting these codes. So all you folks telling me not to go to the dealership is kind of confusing. "Any reputable shop" (my shop) told me they couldn't help me! And they specifically advised going to the dealer in order to determine WHY my car is not ready to be tested..... not just telling me what the codes are but telling me what is causing the codes. My very reputable regular mechanic said he didn't have the equipment to tell me that.

Also, I will go back to my own mechanic to get the repairs done (eventually) that will remove the check engine light. THAT'S NOT THE ISSUE! I don't expect the dealership to do all my repairs!

I don't know how often I need to explain this in order to get an answer to my actual question........ I appreciate the responses and opinions, but please pay attention to what I am actually asking!
of Honest 1 Auto Care on January 01, 2011
Sorry, I wasn't trying to deviate from helping you with what you asked, some of what you were saying just didn't seem correct to me. I'm going to speak with my manager on Monday and see if we can get the answers your looking for. In the meantime, it sounds like the MONITORS that have not yet run are the Catalytic converter (CAT), Evaporative emission system (EVAP), and Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, along with having a store Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) P1141 (B1S2) heater circuit voltage low. B1S2 stands for Bank 1 Sensor 2, sensor 2 referes to the oxygen sensor AFTER the catalytic converter. This DTC will have to be diagnosed and repaired before the other monitors will likely run, and if the repair is made, the vehicle will again have to be taken through its drive cycle for the monitors to complete once the DTC information is cleared. I think that you are correct about the 150$ amount, and I feel like you will be granted the waiver simply by showing the extimate for repairs as being over 150$, but like I said, I am not sure but will ask on Monday and get back with you.
on January 01, 2011
Thank you! I appreciate the further information. My mechanic was wondering if perhaps the DTC was causing the other codes to appear. I mentioned that to the dealership, and that guy told me that it was more likely the other way around....... Lots of opinions out there, I just need to spend the least amount of money to get my car test-ready! I'll deal with a possible FAIL if and when it happens.
of Honest 1 Auto Care on January 01, 2011
I would agree with your automotive technician (we prefer this over mechanic for future reference) when he says the code probably has something to do with the other monitors not yet running, but it's a little different. Whenever the vehicles memory is erased, i.e. the codes are cleared, all of the monitors reset. Coincidentally enough, the CAT, EVAP, and EGR monitors typically will not run unless the vehicle is completely warmed up to operating temperature, from a completely cooled down engine, and then generally you have to be cruising down the freeway for 10-15 minutes at a steady speed. All vehicles have slight variations, and some tend to be easier to get to run than others. If it makes any difference, I'm willing to bet that you simply have a faulty rear oxygen sensor, and after that is replaced and all the monitors run, you will be good to go, but the proper testing and diagnosis should be performed first.
on January 03, 2011
Here is a list of a few shop in the Vancouver area.
They will help you get your waiver
on January 03, 2011
Again, I appreciate the list of shops in Vancouver. But as I have stated, I do not yet even need a waiver, because my car DID NOT YET FAIL. I am talking about getting the car DIAGNOSED TO FIND OUT WHY IT CAN'T BE TESTED.

Turns out that I took the car today to the dealership, and all they could find was the same O2 sensor problem that my initial technician found, which was causing the check engine light to be on. So great, I had to spend $107 to find out something I already knew. My technician was trying to help me AVOID having to make unnecessary repairs, and he couldn't determine if replacing the O2 sensor would actually solve the problem of the fault codes or not. The Mazda dealership thinks that it actually will. I REALLY wish that hadn't cost $107!

But anyway, I'm going back to my regular technician to have the sensor replaced. And that will cost about HALF of what Mazda would have charged me.

THE BIG QUESTION I still have is....... Can any of this money that I'm spending to get my car READY to test be applied to a waiver if my car actually ends up FAILING the test? Or do my payments start at zero again if it fails, and THEN I have to spend $150? Can a WASHINGTON RESIDENT provide an answer to this?

You know, that's the question I've had all along..... and everyone has been going on a wild goose chase with giving me all kinds of other information except about the ONE question that I have!

Pretty please? Can you answer what I'm asking?
on January 03, 2011
as far as why the monitors are not being set, yes there is a diag for that. if you have run that long and they have notpassed, then ther definitelyis a problem.
no, diag charges are not applied to the waiver fee. the only money that counts is the parts and labor incurred in repairs.

on January 03, 2011
But Roy, you live in Pennsylvania. Do you know that for sure about Washington? And can you point me to a URL that states this?
on January 03, 2011
Hey Barb call me at my shop at 503-233-4003 and I can go over your was waiver my name is Pete
on January 23, 2011
Went through this problen last year in WA state. No you can not get a waiver if your car is "not ready for test." you actually have to fail the test, then have repairs done. they just keep sending you away until it test. So as i read your question the answer should go like this. -The money you spend to diagnose the problem before an actual test will not apply towards the limit to receive a waiver.- I beleive that is the answer you needed, But not the one you "wanted"
on January 23, 2011
Thanks, Anon...... that was EXACTLY the answer I needed.... from Washington state. Don't know why everyone talked all around that direct question and couldn't provide a direct answer!

I was finally able to get my car tested and it passed. The O2 sensor needed to be replaced. That's what was causing the check engine light to be on. My regular guy did it for half the price that the dealership would have charged. I just wish I didn't have to pay the dealership $107 to tell me something I already knew. My regular guy was just trying to help me avoid paying for something that I didn't need to pay for, and he couldn't be sure that the O2 sensor was the cause of the problem without the dealership weighing in. He was actually trying to do me a favor. Oh well. I still trust him. This facility IS, by the way, a fully certified emissions facility. All is well (for now).
on December 31, 2010
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE IT TO THE DEALER. Take it to a emmisions certified independant repair shop. Boy I sure am glad we don't have emmissions testing where I live.
on February 10, 2011
Your car can qualify for a waiver if:

You spent $150 or more on emission-related repairs done by an authorized emission specialist.You can provide the test station manager with the repair receipts signed by an authorized emission specialist.It's proven that none of your vehicle's emission-related equipment has been altered.Your vehicle flunks a second emission test after repairs.The waiver allows you to still register your vehicle for the upcoming year.

Reporting a Polluter
on February 18, 2011
NO MORE REPLIES NEEDED, THANK YOU! PROBLEM IS LONG SINCE RESOLVED! And people are STILL answering a question that I DIDN'T EVEN ASK (including the one who commented on my lazy ass)!!!! You see the word "waiver" and immediately jump in to provide an answer.... IT'S NOT WHAT I ASKED, AND I AM NO LONGER ASKING A QUESTION. If I could delete this darn post, I would. If anyone out there wants or is able to delete it for me, I would be most grateful. People aren't even bothering to read what I actually write!!! Thank you to all who actually bothered to read and understand what I was asking.
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