Northwest NEWS

August 27, 2001


New contract to bring emission check improvements

A new 10-year contract has been awarded to Agbar Technologies Inc. of Chicago to operate testing stations for the Department of Ecology's motor vehicle emission check program.
   The new contract (effective July 2002) will bring several changes to the emission check process:
   Test stations will accept checks and credit cards, ending a 20-year cash-only policy.
   Hours will expand. The tentative new schedule will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Current hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
   Lines must not exceed four vehicles or 20 minutes.
   Five- to 25-year-old vehicles registered in the test areas will continue to need inspections every two years.
   The inspection process itself will change - most noticeably in Puget Sound - as Department of Ecology implements test proceedures statewide that are now used in Vancouver and Spokane:
   Dynamometers will return to the Puget Sound area. The test station attendant "drives" the vehicle on rollers set in the floor to simulate on-road acceleration. Heavy-duty and four-wheel drive vehicles won't use this test.
   Gas cap leak checks will expand to the Puget Sound area. Worn seals on gas caps allow fuel to leak into the air even when the vehicle isn't running. Leaky gas caps also defeat other parts of the evaporative emission control system.
   Two other changes will be new to all areas:
   1996 and newer gasoline cars and light trucks will receive an "on-board diagnostics" (OBD) test instead of a tailpipe check. The attendents will connect a data cable to the vehicle's computer to download information on emission-related engine conditions. OBD will prevent high emissions before they occur.
   Diesel cars and light trucks will receive dynamometer inspections. Heavy-duty diesel trucks will continue to receive the current "snap-idle" test, a series of brief engine revvings.
   For information, call Ecology air-quality program at (360) 407-6880 or visit