This past weekend, I had to register my wife's 2000 Ford Windstar with the State of Ohio.
In Ohio, you need to renew vehicle registration every year. Every other year, you need to have the emissions checked, but only in certain counties (generally, the larger cities such as Cleveland, Akron, etc.). Curiously, the county that the capital is in is exempt from emissions testing, even though it has Ohio's largest city in it (Columbus). The fee for vehicle registration is around $55. The fee for emissions testing is around $20.
So, I take my wife's van in there and after waiting patiently in line (
). I get up to the front and the attendant informs me that I cannot get an emission test: the vehicle's check engine light is on.
I explain to him WHY the light is on. I explain that I am sure the emissions are ok. (A vacuum hose had been knocked off the van's exhaust manifold, causing the check engine light to go on).
He says I am free to tell him to test the vehicle, but it will fail regardless of the actual emissions of the vehicle. It seems that a new rule went into effect that prohibits a car from passing, regardless of what the actual vehicle emissions are, if the check engine light is on.
The attendant was nice enough to inform me that if I took the test and failed (as he assured me I would), I would then need a certified technician to verify that my car complied. He said it runs in the neighborhood of $200 for a mechanic to do this.
If I left then, I could get the vehicle "fixed" (i.e. the engine light turned off and the computer reset) for much less. The fee is much lower (free at Autozone, actually, but my wife paid a mechanic a $69 "diagnostic fee" to have it turned off).
I took the vehicle back (after doing no actual service to it) and it passed.
Needless to say, I have a few issues with the implementation of Ohio's vehicle emissions program...
1. The test, in some instances, does not depend upon actual vehicle emissions, and relies upon the accuracy of the computer to diagnose the probable vehicle emission (the check engine light).
2. The test inherently creates a need to patronize a specific professional (the certified mechanic) again, regardless of the actual performance of the vehicle.Question for debate: does environmental testing such as the one I described best serve the interest of the public? How could this system be changed so that actual emissions become the focal point?