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NYS Inspection w check engine light on

I took the car in for a new inspection sticker, and when I returned to pick the car up, I was told the car had failed because the check engine light was on. I asked him if he could have predicted failure with the light on, and why he didn’t tell me the car would fail before I committed to the test. (I hadn’t noticed the CEL when I drove in).

******* He told me it is against the law in NY State to warn me ahead of the test that the CEL is on before he begins the test. *******

So had to go to the dealer and have them check and reset the light before I could have the test done
How can I confirm this assertion? Seems ridiculous.

If you live in an area that test “emissions” then a CEL that is on will automatically “fail” the car. You didn’t notice the CEL was on prior to the inspection; does that mean the light wasn’t on or that you just didn’t pay attention to it?

This is the same as California. If the CEL is on, the car automatically fails.

One thing you should be aware. When the dealership turns the CEL off, the car’s computer knows about it. And it will tattle on you when you go back for the next test. So it might fail again, due to a CEL reset having been recently done. The car takes a while to decide whether the emissions equipment is working or not. The car has to go through a series of driving procedures before it decides whether the CEL should be on or not, and until that is done, which may take days or a few weeks depending on your driving habits, they may tell you they can’t test it. This is done to prevent the owner from disconnecting the battery to turn off the CEL light in order to pass the test.

If you Google “how to pass a New York emissions test”, you’ll probably get some good info. Or if you don’t see anything there, try “How to pass a California emissions test”. There’s some good tips on some of those websites, one of the tips being “Make sure the CEL is off before you go to the test”.

You can also reset the CEL yourself by simply removing the negative battery cable for a minute or two, saving an expensive trip to the dealer…Most autoparts stores will “read the codes” for you free so you know why the light is on…

It wouldn’t surprise me if this were an accurate statement. I believe that, at least in some states, once the inspection process begins (which it technically did when they looked at the light), then you fail, with your current sticker removed. Whatever process is needed to resolve a failed inspection begins at that point.

On another note, you seem to be saying both that the light was on and that it wasn’t on. Which is it?

Sorry but the whole thing is ridiculous. We had this in Minnesota for a few years and the only one benefiting by testing was the private testing vendors. We finally got rid of testing while the vendors howled about it. They’re more concerned about collecting their test fee than cleaning the air.


The process may be ridiculous but don’t blame the inspector. It could well be that the inspector thinks certain policies are ridiculous also but if the inspector violates those policies they could be subject to fine or jail time.

Some years back there was a new story about a fleet mechanic in KS who was faced with 7 years in prison and a 50k dollar fine for illegally adding a partial can of refrigerant to a company owned vehicle

When OK had a safety inspection program we used to get a lot of complaints over that one too.
The law stated that when an inspection commenced (meaning the car hit the service bay) the inspection had to be completed; meaning the car either passed or was rejected for whatever reason with a rejection slip written up in the case of the latter.
Many people would get very irate over a rejection slip and would insist that the inspection just be ended, the paperwork shelved, and they would bring the car back after repair.
Fine for them maybe, but not so fine for the inspector who was faced with a fine and jail time for doing so.

Same here in NH. If the CEL light is on…FAIL.

You do NOT have to take it to the dealer to reset the CEL. Any competent mechanic can do it. Or as Caddyman said…just remove the battery cable for a while.

In NH just clearing the code won’t work. You have to drive a certain amount of miles with the code off before it’ll pass inspection.

NY Inspections- You automatically fail if the check engine light is on. If you clear the codes you have to drive the ar for a day or to for the various systems to have run a self check to be in a ready to read state. You can however pass inspection with one system not ready to be read.
Many people on this site have disagreed with me in the past about this. If you want to disagree with me about this please look it up yourself on NY States DMV website, it isn’t difficult.

Also consider that if a CEL is on no one knows why until it is investigated. So find out why the light is on and fix it.

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As Mike said, in NH the CEL is an automatic failure.
And checking for the CEL is part of the inspection. Once you submit the vehicle, once you turn the key over to the shop, if the tech sees the CEL lilght on he cannot ignore it. He must at that point fail the vehicle.

You have only yourself to blame, for ignorng the CEL. You’re fortunate that all you suffered was a failed inspection.

Shortly after replacing the battery in my Silverado, I brought it in for an inspection in NYS. It failed because the disconnect had wiped out the data and the computer could not run the inspection test. The mechanic told me to bring it back after driving it for a few days, and then it passed. So if you do clear the codes by disconecting the battery, make sure you drive it for at least 3 days so there is enough stored data for the test to read.

I have a little trouble understanding the gist of this post. Are you upset that you were charged for an inspection that your car failed? Are you expecting someone to tell you that you will fail before the test is done? Exactly what were you expecting?

@keith … I think the OP’er has a valid point. It would be completely reasonable in my opinion for the OP’er to assume that the mechanic doing the emissions test would look first – before doing anything else – look at the dashboard, notice the CEL is on, then tell the OP’er not to procede with the test. Instead, the better plan is to take the car to the OP’ers own mechanic to fix the CEL first, then come back for the test. I can see why it would upset the OP’er to have to wait while the mechanic did the whole test, then ask the OP’er to pay for it, when the CEL was clearly on before the testing even started.

There may be a reason for the way they do it. And it may well be the case that the mechanic isn’t allowed to offer that courtesy. But it seems unfair.

I guess I don’t know how NYS conducts this inspection. Here you go to an inspection station, not run by mechanics BTW, it is state run, wait in a long line, pay your money, then they do the inspection.

The problem with looking at the dash, seeing the CEL is illuminated, and then bringing a stop to the process may not be something that an inspector can legally do though.
As I stated earlier, when OK had a safety inspection program once that process proceeded forward it was actually illegal under threat of fine and jail time to stop it even if the cause of failure was obvious before the car was even pulled into the service bay.

I’m not familiar with NY statutes but if I were an inspector there and the law said that I would go to jail for a year, face a 10 grand fine, or whatever punishment they have by deviating from what the state said then there would be no deviation.
Anyone not happy with the process should complain to the people who enacted the statutes rather than the people charged with enforcing them.

Well, you learned a valuable lesson! Before you submit your vehicle for testing, you might want to take 5 minutes to assess the easy stuff to reduce your chances of failing. Things like walking around the car checking lights, windshield wipers including washer fluid squirts out, THE CEL IS OFF, you know easy stuff like that. Because once you say you want a test and surrender your keys, they can’t just stop at any point (even the first step) and say you’re going to fail do you REALLY want a test?

Where I live it’s a pain to fail, so I check everything they do prior to submitting. I failed once and it was a major inconvenience. Even if you test at the start of the month your registration will expire, once you fail, the clock starts ticking on repair and re-test. At least here, if you fail, one subsequent re-test is included free of charge.

@TwinTurbo, what do you think about this? I live in Calif and we have pretty strict emissions testing. Every two years. And for the past 2 times (4 years), my car has passed, but just barely. Because it barely passes, each time I do the test, I have to always go the next time to a place where they put it on a treadmill and test it at 15 mph and also I think at 35 mph. Most people get by w/just an idle test, but the state of Calif considers my car special! It gets the full treadmill treatment.

Anyway, on my car, all the emissions measurement’s are fine except for the HC emissions at 15 mph. That measurement just barely passes. When the car was new, it passed easily. So something has caused the HC at 15 mph to go up significantly.

The reason I’m posting is for your opinion on what my best gambit would be if it fails the next time? Like you, I get one free repeat test. The car has always had the routine maintenance up to date, so that’s not likely the issue. And I always do what the “How to pass emissions test” websites say to prepare (like put in a new air filter, new oil&filter, drive the car on the freeway 50 miles at 65 mph), and what they recommend just prior to arriving at the test (engine at full operating temp, gas tank full) .

I think the problem w/my car is either the O2 sensor or the cat. Do you agree? And if I fail next time, which should I replace before the 2nd free test? The O2 sensor? The cat? Or both?

Glad I moved to florida in 91…no inspections what so ever…safety or emissions …I have a modified 89 stang 5.0 no cats high performance cam etc… as long as it runs you can drive it.

I went through NJ inspections and always failed for one stupid thing or another. Headlights out of specs just little etc. As long as it does not smoke as far as the cops can see you are ok to drive.

It would never pass NJ emissions.

Hmm going to have to noodle on that for a bit. It’s been a while since one of my cars was treadmill tested. Are they doing just two speeds or the IM240 protocol? That is a specific profile with various speeds and slopes that can last several minutes. That test hits speeds around 15mph several times if your car is marginal and subjected to the entire duration. Surprising if the leaders in emissions testing (CA) are only doing two speed protocol.

Failing when coasting down from 40 to 15 would make me think differently than going from idle to 15 mph cruise for example. Know any more specifics on what precedes the failure? Something like; they run at 35 for a minute then drop to 15 and it fails immediately…

Have to think on it…