Colorado emission testing rules -- new vehicle exemption to change from 4 years to 7 years in 2015

DENVER - A state commission has approved changes in the emission testing program in Colorado.

The program, operated along much of the Front Range, requires most vehicles to pass an annual or biennial emissions test, depending on the age of the vehicle, prior to registration renewal.

Under new rules to start in 2015:

  • New vehicles will be exempt from emissions testing for seven years instead of four
  • Visual inspection for 1996-and-newer vehicles will be eliminated
  • On-board diagnostics testing will be used for the two inspection cycles following the expiration of the model year exemption

“We continually evaluate the vehicle inspection program so that improvements can be made that balance customer convenience and air quality benefits," said Will Allison, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division."These changes will do just that.”

The changes will create the longest exemption period of any similar emissions program in the country, officials said.

As for the on-board diagnostics, vehicles manufactured since the mid-1990s are equipped with on-board diagnostics, which refers to the self-diagnostic and reporting capability of the vehicle’s onboard computer. Trained technicians can plug vehicles into a testing computer to check for trouble codes related to emissions. With this change, most vehicles will not need to submit to the well-known treadmill-style test at one of the area’s Air Care Colorado testing facilities for the first 11 years.

The changes are scheduled for 2015 to allow time for the required legislative and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approvals.

The Colorado Department of Revenue also will need to make significant alterations to the vehicle registration system to accommodate the changes.

Officials say the emissions program helps reduce harmful ground-level ozone concentrations along the Front Range by eliminating 25 tons per day of ozone-forming pollutants. The program also reduces emissions of numerous air toxics and carcinogens, including benzene.