CT Emissions Nightmare!

What can I do to pass the damned State of Connecticut Emissions test?

My car has been well maintained, and has always passed these tests previously, with no problems.

It is running fine, and has no apparent operational problems.

I have taken my car (1999 Saturn SW2 wagon) in to be tested 7 times (Midas Muffler in Canton, CT), and failed every time!

The first time, I was told that the computer had to be reset.

I went to the repair outlet that I normally use, and after inspecting the failed test report; I was told that I should just drive the car some more, preferably with some of that driving at highway speeds. I did that and failed the test again. I was told at the testing site (Midas Muffler) that I needed to drive the car some more and try again. I did that and failed again.

I repeated the same routine, and received the same subsequent test failure several more times. Midas Muffler kept telling me that ?the car wasn?t ready?, and that the computer had not ?reset? yet.

(The car has been driven over 700 miles since the first test failure to the most recent.)

Midas Muffler then provided me with the State of CT ?OBD II Dive Cycle? test that I religiously performed, and then went for another Emissions test, that resulted in yet another failure!

Midas Muffler then gave me a phone number to call at the State of Connecticut DMV to seek help.

I did that and the person I spoke to, asked what type car it was, and after being told; he said that I might want to change the thermostat, and have the car retested.

This seemed pretty silly to me as the existing thermostat seemed to be working fine, but for lack of anything better to try; the thermostat was replaced with a new (high temperature) unit.

Went for another emissions test and failed again!

This has truly become a nightmare!

Can anyone offer any help that might result in my car being able to pass this idiotic emissions test?


Bob Wallace

You are correct when you say emissions testing is idiotic, that’s for sure. These “tests” accomplish NOTHING other than enriching the companies that perform them…When you ask: “Can you prove to me that these “tests” actually improve air quality?”, the room falls silent…The fact is, not enough cars fail the test to make any difference in air quality. They all could be ignored and there would be no measurable difference in air quality. But if they were abandoned, tens of thousands of people would have to go out and get a real job…

Now, on to your case… Are there still any Saturn DEALERS in operation?? If so, that (not Midas) is the place to go. They can probably work magic with your computer and provide you with a passing test report. If not, they will be able to explain to you exactly why your car fails the test and what you must do to make it pass…But learn these words: “Do you guarantee your repair will allow my car to pass the test?” If they can not do that, smile and walk away…

By the way, there ARE mechanics that can make ANY car pass ANY emissions test and their magic has NOTHING to do with what is coming out your tailpipe…Seek and yea shall find…

Why did you replace the thermostat with a one that opens at a high temperature in stead of a stock thermostat?

If the thermostat was the problem, replacing it with the wrong one might be your problem now.

If anyone can help you, they will need to know the specifics regarding the emission tests. Which emissions were found to be too high? Publishing the actual numbers might help.

Regarding Caddyman’s assertion that these tests are meaningless, the city of Los Angeles has improved its air quality since California enacted stricter emission standards. So has Houston, Texas. With his sweeping generalized assumptions, I am sure that won’t be enough to convince him, but his statements seem laced with self righteous indignation, so I wanted to make sure the room didn’t “fall silent.”

Why did you replace the thermostat with one that opens at a higher temperature than the OEM thermostat?

I suggest installing the correct thermostat, going through the drive cycle, and having the car retested at some place other than a chain shop. You keep going back to the place that failed your car. Why are you doing that?

Take the car somewhere else. I suggest an independent mechanic, not another chain shop.

I’m not familiar with the CT emissions testing procedure, but it seems to be a profit generator for chain shops that say “Failed,” but don’t tell you why.

How will you ever know what to “fix” if they don’t tell you why it failed?

Air Quality in urban areas has improved because the emissions from motor vehicles have been greatly reduced over the years. Testing had NOTHING to do with this. The original purpose of emissions testing was to reduce the amount of Carbon Monoxide which was approaching lethal levels in many urban areas. Those days of “Test Pipes” and carburetors with open idle mixture screws are LONG past…Todays cars, and to a lesser extent, trucks, speaking of the entire fleet, are squeaky clean compared to the “fleet” that existed when emissions testing was imposed on motorists. Failing 3 or 4 percent of today’s fleet because the EGR valve supposedly has low flow or some other computer code makes absolutely no difference in air quality…That big cement mixer that belches black smoke and NOx from a pair of 6" diameter pipes produces a thousand times more air pollution than the worst “Gross Polluting” passenger car… No emissions test for him…

I replaced the existing thermostat with a high temperature type. acording to what the man at the CT DMV (Emissions Dept.), recommended!
As it turned out, the temperature reading on the analog temperature gauge read exactly the same as with the old thermostat, and I didn’t notice any difference what so ever, in the heat produced within the car’s interior.
While I’m certainly not qualified to evaluate the actual clean air benefits, if any; that may result from the DMV’s Emissions program; it’s very difficult not to believe that the DMV’s main objective is just to raise additional funding for their bureaucratic empire!
Bob W

In many states, emissions testing has “evolved” to where a tailpipe sample is no longer taken. They simply plug in an OB-2 connector and scan for failure codes. Ka-Ching, $35 please…Some cars will not allow a “test” scan if the trouble codes have been recently cleared. The car must be driven a day or two to make sure all is well in sensor / module land…That’s the OP’s problem. For whatever reason, the OB-2 system refuses to be scanned which results in a test “failure”…Even though the actual emissions are fine and the car runs perfectly, you can be forced to buy a new ECM ($$$) simply to get a “test” completed successfully. However, in the automotive underground, some repair facilities have a supply of “loaner” ECMs and other interesting devices that allow the test stations computer to spit out a passing test report and everyone is happy…Yes, you can be sent to prison, but no one ever has been…

Those days of “Test Pipes” and carburetors with open idle mixture screws are LONG past.

Not necessarily. Take a close look at this thread http://community.cartalk.com/posts/list/2135156.page where the OP has stated that he has removed the catalytic converter from his car. Where I live (Florida) our cars aren’t inspected or tested, and I know people who have removed the catalytic converters from their pick-up trucks. Emissions testing deters and identifies this kind of deliberate polluting.

If states like CT, CA, and TX didn’t do emissions testing, emissions from motor vehicles wound not have “greatly reduced over the years.” The car companies didn’t reduce emissions out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it so they would meet state standards. If the state standards aren’t enforced, you may as well not have them.

So you are taking advice from the same people you accuse of having a conflict of interest? What is wrong with this picture?

You need to find someone to solve your problem who has no conflict of interest.

Again, I think you would get more out of this discussion if you posted the actual numbers form your emissions tests. I won’t know what to do with them, but there are other regulars who will know why certain numbers are out of line, and can give you better ideas about solving your problem.

One has to start somewhere. Go to one of the chain auto parts store and borrow, or buy (about %60) an OBD2 scan tool. Use the scan tool to get any trouble codes, AND, take note of any of the icons which may be flashing. One icon may be EVAP, etc. Let us know which they are, and whatever trouble codes are shown (P0420, etc.).

Caddyman, I agree wholeheartedly with you on the uselessness of emissions testing, but you’re wrong about the trucks having no emissions testing. Big trucks are tested semi-annually, just like cars, and they’re also tested randomly right on the side of the road, at the authority’s discretion. Plus, if one fails, the truck must be fixed, regardless of the cost to repair. I don’t know why the myth that trucks are exempt continues to be presented as fact.

I have no idea what that means.

Check out this response from FrozenPilot http://www.saturnfans.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34319 He states that the Saturn doesn’t actually have a Camshaft Position Sensor. The engine computer might be choosing the closest code (P0341) to match the input.
The possible cause is corrosion in the ignition coil pack sockets that the spark plug wires go into. Clean out the corrosion and change the spark plug wires, might be all that is needed.

I will partly agree with Caddyman here, but not totally. The test do help reduce the number of cowboys who like to modify things and in particular remove pollution control devices. They also encourage some owners who don’t maintain there cars to keep them cleaner. However I really wonder how much good they do related to the cost.

How about stopping in at one the auto parts stores that will read the car’s computer and give you a list of the error codes (format = P1234) for free! Post them back here and maybe we can help you not only pass your test, but improve your car.

Sounds to me like you need to find a mechanic who understands vehicle computers and CT emissions tests. Your regular mechanic might or might not be willing to recommend someone.

One occasional cause of problems like yours is that there is some sort of problem that is causing the vehicle computer not to be powered when the ignition is off. On many vehicles, that clears all memory of past events – which would be OK except that several emissions tests require past data and will not be run until it is present. When the state’s emissions computer looks, it finds these tests are NOT READY rather than PASS or FAIL which is not good enough to pass. On the other hand, it’s not bad enough to turn on a Check Engine Light as it is a normal condition after a computer reset or many maintenance activities.

==== P0341

It appears that Saturns do (well, might anyway) have a crankshaft position sensor. It’s a camshaft position sensor they do not have. See http://www.automotivehelper.com/topic76746.htm

Whether the P0341 is keeping you from passing the emissions test is something that you will probably need a mechanic to discover. The good news – if it is the crankshaft position sensor, it shouldn’t cost all that much to replace it $100-200 maybe. Probably sounds like a bargain after seven emissions tests.

Please allow me to bump this thread to the front of the line so someone can help explain what this code means.

In NH if your vehicle is failing and meets certain criteria in age/value you can get a pass on failed emmissions test. Have you checked your state DMV/emissions testing for this?

Interestingly my brother in law has the exact same car (year/model) and NH got a pass as the computer stated the same thing after some hoops. There is something defective about Saturn’s that causes this.

That being said have you thought of trying an independent mechanic instead of Midas who really are not mechanics for this type of work?

My sister went to the Midas on Rt 44. They wouldn’t test her emissions until she replaced her exhaust pipe (which she had them do). Talk about a conflict of interest…

I would not go back there. Find a local mechanic or dealer, hand them all your test results, and see what they say. When you retest, go somewhere else.

From my experience, CT emissions testing is a bad joke. My friend’s 1994 Ranger had the “check engine” light on so long, the bulb burnt out (it no longer lights during the self-test when you start the engine). It passed emissions with flying colors. My grandfather’s car passed WITHOUT a gas cap (he lost it). And my Pinto doesn’t have to go through emissions testing because cars over 25 years old (the ones that really pollute) are exempt from testing. Go figure…

Like I said, the entire “Emissions Testing” industry is just a money-based scam. There is NO relationship between testing and air quality…

“My Government Loves Me And Is Doing This To Protect My Health And Well-being”… Right…