How to Pass Emissions in Colorado

How to Pass Emissions in Colorado: A Comprehensive Guide


Living in Colorado, one may be required to pass an emissions test to ensure their vehicle meets the state’s air quality standards. This guide aims to provide a step-by-step approach on how to pass emissions in Colorado. Additionally, we will address some frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the emissions testing process.

Step 1: Understand the Emissions Testing Requirements:

Before delving into the specifics of passing emissions, it is crucial to understand the testing requirements in Colorado. Emissions tests are mandatory for vehicles registered in the Denver Metro Area and the North Front Range. These tests are typically conducted every two years, and certain vehicles, such as hybrids and electric cars, are exempt.

Step 2: Maintain Regular Vehicle Maintenance:

Proper vehicle maintenance is essential for passing emissions tests. Regularly servicing your vehicle, including oil changes, air filter replacements, and spark plug checks, can help ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition and reduces the risk of failing emissions tests.

Step 3: Check the Check Engine Light:

If your vehicle’s check engine light is on, it will automatically fail the emissions test. Before taking your vehicle for testing, it is crucial to resolve any issues triggering the check engine light. A diagnostic scan can help identify the problem, which can then be fixed by a qualified mechanic.

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Step 4: Drive Your Vehicle on the Highway Before Testing:

Driving your vehicle on the highway for at least 20 minutes before the test can help warm up the engine and catalytic converter. This ensures that the emissions control system is functioning efficiently, increasing the chances of passing the test.

Step 5: Ensure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated:

Properly inflated tires can improve fuel efficiency and reduce harmful emissions. Before the emissions test, check your vehicle’s tire pressure and inflate them to the recommended levels. This simple step can make a difference in passing the test.

Step 6: Use High-Quality Fuel:

While this may seem obvious, using high-quality fuel can positively impact the emissions test results. Choose a reputable gas station and avoid using low-quality or contaminated fuel, which can lead to increased emissions.

Step 7: Drive Smoothly During the Test:

During the test, it is crucial to drive smoothly and avoid any sudden accelerations or decelerations. Maintain a consistent speed and follow the technician’s instructions. Aggressive driving or sudden changes in speed can negatively impact the emissions readings.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. What happens if my vehicle fails the emissions test?

If your vehicle fails the emissions test, you will be provided with a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) detailing the reasons for the failure. You will then need to fix the identified issues and have your vehicle retested within a specified timeframe.

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2. How much does an emissions test cost in Colorado?

The cost of an emissions test in Colorado varies depending on the testing location and the type of vehicle. On average, the cost ranges from $15 to $25.

3. Can I repair my vehicle before the retest?

Yes, you can repair your vehicle before the retest. It is advisable to address the issues that caused the initial failure to increase your chances of passing the subsequent test.

4. Are there any financial assistance programs available for emissions repairs?

Yes, Colorado offers financial assistance programs for low-income vehicle owners who need to repair their vehicles to pass emissions tests. Programs such as the Repair Assistance Program (RAP) provide financial aid to eligible individuals.

5. What if I recently purchased a used vehicle that failed the emissions test?

If you recently purchased a used vehicle that failed the emissions test, you may be eligible for a one-time waiver. This waiver grants a temporary exemption, allowing you to register the vehicle without passing the emissions test. However, the waiver is subject to certain conditions and should be thoroughly understood.

6. Can I appeal the results of an emissions test?

Yes, if you believe your vehicle was incorrectly failed during the emissions test, you have the right to appeal the decision. This involves contacting the Colorado Air Quality Control Division (CAQCD) and providing supporting documentation to challenge the test results.

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7. What if I am unable to afford the necessary repairs to pass the emissions test?

If you are unable to afford the repairs necessary to pass the emissions test, you may explore options such as the Vehicle Buyback Program, where the state offers to buy your vehicle at a reduced price. Additionally, financial assistance programs, as mentioned earlier, can provide aid to those who qualify.


Passing emissions tests in Colorado involves proper vehicle maintenance, addressing check engine light issues, and following certain driving practices. By understanding the requirements and taking necessary steps, you can ensure your vehicle meets the state’s air quality standards. Should your vehicle fail the test, various programs and options are available to assist in resolving the issues. Remember, maintaining a clean and well-functioning vehicle not only helps you pass emissions tests but also contributes to a healthier environment.