Illinois Vehicle Emissions Testing: When, Where and How to Get Your Vehicle Tested

Congestion on a highway

NOTE: An earlier version of this article indicated that license plate sticker deadline dates had been extended through the end of the year. That extension only applies to driver's licenses and state identification cards.

Illinois residents who are required to get their vehicles’ emissions tested are being urged to do so sooner rather than later to avoid long lines.

Vehicles in the state of Illinois that need to have their stickers renewed are required to go through emissions testing in specific communities to comply with federal guidelines.

Here is what you need to know:

Who Needs to Have Their Vehicle’s Emissions Tested?

Under provisions of the federal Clean Air Act, residents who live in “large urbanized areas that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards” must have their vehicle’s emissions tested every other year.

In the state of Illinois, two areas fall into that category: the city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, and the Illinois counties that border the city of St. Louis.

For the Chicago area, residents in Cook, DuPage and Lake counties are required to get the tests. Certain residents in Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties will also need to have their vehicles tested.

Residents can check to see if they’re required to obtain the tests by using the following ZIP code finder tool, produced by Illinois Legal Aid.

What Vehicles Are Required to be Tested?

According to state officials, most gas-powered vehicles that are four years old or older, and were manufactured after 1996, are required to be tested every other year.

Motorcycles, antique vehicles, cars manufactured before 1996, farm vehicles, and vehicles with a gross vehicle rate of greater than 14,000 pounds are exempt from the requirements. Diesel-powered and electric-powered vehicles are also exempt.

When Do Residents Need to Get Their Vehicles Tested?

Residents are required to get emissions tests for vehicles before they can renew their vehicle registration.

The state uses a car’s model year to determine which years residents must get tests in, and uses the month that registration expires to determine when a resident must get their vehicle tested.

For example, if a resident were to purchase a 2016 model year vehicle, and registered that vehicle in June, then that resident would be required to have their vehicle tested in every even-numbered year thereafter, and the test would be due by June.

How Much Does a Vehicle Emissions Test Cost?

In the state of Illinois, vehicle emissions tests are free.

Where Can I Get an Emissions Test?

The state of Illinois has a tool that allows residents to find not only their nearest testing station, but also a repair shop in the event that a vehicle fails an emissions test. That can be found here.

Are There Any COVID-19-Related Precautions Being Taken at Testing Sites?

Residents who get their vehicles tested will be asked to come to the testing site by themselves, and are asked to wear masks. They will also be asked to practice social distancing within the facility while they wait for their vehicle to be tested.

Residents will also be asked to give test-takers their mileage verbally to help minimize the amount of contact the test-taker has to make with the vehicle.

Under current policy, test-takers will only touch a vehicle to attach and to remove testing equipment, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

What Happens if My Vehicle Fails a Test?

A vehicle will need to be repaired and retested if it fails its emissions test. Motorists will be given several documents if their vehicle fails a test, which can be used by licensed mechanics to help diagnose and repair any issues.

If My Registration is Already Expired, When Should I Get My Test?

As soon as possible. The state of Illinois expects that wait times at testing facilities will continue to remain high due to earlier extensions of license plate renewals, as well as COVID protocols at offices.

Tests are good for up to two years after they are performed, according to state officials.

For any additional questions, residents are urged to visit the Illinois Air Team’s informational website.

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