The Maryland "Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program" VEIP requires that our vehicles be checked every two years. A notice is mailed about a month in advance so there is plenty of time to have your vehicle checked. If you wait past your notice time then the cost doubles from $14 to $29. (Plus, a new $15 penalty fee is assessed every four weeks.) The emissions test takes only take a few minutes. You are likely to spend more time waiting for the test. Try going mid-month and in the middle of the morning or afternoon to cut down your wait time. Another option is to check out the lines before you go. The Maryland VEIP website has a page that feeds in a picture of the lines, so that you can avoid going if there is a long wait. The photo below is from the Columbia, MD vehicle inspection station.
You should be aware that there are several parts to an emissions test; the inspector checks for: leaking fluids, excessive smoke, any sign that there has been tampering with the exhaust system, a properly fitting gas cap, badly worn tires, and any dashboard warning lights. So if your car's “check engine light” is on, do not take your car to be emissions tested because it will fail! Instead, visit an authorized emissions repair facility, and have them check out why your car’s check engine is on.
The check engine light is a visual signal from your car's computer testing system or On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) system. If there is a problem in the operation of your car’s emissions control system then the “check engine light” will come on. A certified emissions repair shop can hook up a computer and download the emissions data. The data will contain one or several trouble codes depending on the extent of the problem. The codes can tell a skilled auto mechanic the area of the problem(s).
If your check engine light is on, you can stop by British American Auto Care for a free scan, but this is only the first step in properly diagnosing the problem.
After downloading the codes, the next step is to look at the data related to the code or codes. This can be in the form of a data snap shot or it can involve watching various information streams related to input and output sensors. This can take anywhere from half and hour to, in some cases, up to three hours! There is a charge to complete the diagnosis. It depends on the complexity of the program causing the “check engine light” to come on.
After this diagnosis has been performed the service writer can then provide the cost of the repair(s).
Once the repairs have been performed and the system has been retested the “Check Engine Light” will be off and should remain off if all of the systems are working correctly. The computer runs many monitors, and these have to pass a number of tests before the vehicle is ready to be taken in for an emissions test. With some cars we can reset the monitors so that you can take your car back right away for the emissions test. In other cases we will ask you to wait a couple of weeks, and then, if the “Check Engine Light” stays off, you can return for the test.
Checking the emissions computer system should be a part of the regular maintenance on your vehicle. When performing scheduled maintenance, your auto technician will connect a computer to your OBD system to see if there are any pending codes. These codes show the technician where a problem is likely going to happen so corrective action can be taken.
The VEIP is only one of the inspections Maryland requires. The other is the Vehicle Safety Inspection which is performed when you are just moving into the state or when you are selling a car. If you are in need of a safety inspection versus an emissions inspection, you can find information about that here.