Story and photo
By Jack Minor
Vehicle emissions tests are nothing new to Weld County residents however, there are some things different about the new inspections.
Previous inspections simply involved bringing your vehicle in and having the test performed with a sensor in the tailpipe while the engine idled at several different speeds. This annual test will still be performed for 1981 and older vehicles, however, testing for all newer vehicles will be a little more rigorous.
Newer vehicles will undergo the I/M 240 test every two years. This test consists of a four-minute test on a treadmill called a dynamometer. The dynamometer is designed to simulate various actual driving conditions. New vehicles will be granted an exemption from testing for the first four years from the year of the vehicle.
Envirotest spokesperson, Renée Allen, said due to the nature of the tests drivers need to make sure their vehicle is in good driving condition. If the inspector feels the vehicle is not safe to place on the dynamometer, he/she will refuse to perform the test.
An example would include bald tires which could blow out on the dynamometer. Other items causing concern could be defective warning lights on the dashboard such as brake, oil or temperature lights. “Even if a driver says, ‘well that light has always been on’ we can’t take a chance that the test could damage the vehicle” she said.
Vehicles with tire sizes smaller than 17 inches or larger than 34 inches cannot be safely tested on the dynamometer. Vehicles that have manufacturer-equipped under or over-sized tires will undergo the idle test while vehicles with larger or smaller tires than the original equipment will need to replace them with stock tires before being allowed to obtain an inspection. A local worker told the Gazette last week that a vehicle already had a blowout during testing.
Allen said in the event of damage to the vehicle, the driver would need to take the vehicle to a mechanic and if the mechanic determined the damage was not caused by pre-existing conditions then Envirotest would be responsible for the damages.
Chad Dobson, manager of the local Greeley testing station, said things have been slow in November with mostly dealer inspections but he expects things to pick up in December. Even rural addresses are now required to be tested. He said his crew is highly experienced. “One of the good things about this bad economy is I am able to hire people that are overqualified.”
Allen explained that although the inspections have been required since Nov. 1 the first vehicle registration cards stating the test was required did not go out until the end of November. Vehicles will be tested on even-odd years based on the year of the vehicle. Testing is also required anytime a vehicle is sold even if there is time left on the emissions test. The exception would be new vehicles within the four-year grace period.
Many residents have expressed anger over the new registration tests. The Weld County commissioners protested the program noting that all of the ozone monitoring stations in northern Colorado revealed that the county was already below the EPA standards for years to come. Though residents of Weld County may not be interested in politics, in this case, politics was interested in them. All three branches of Colorado government have been dominated by Democrats and fought by Republicans as this mandate occurred.
Air Care Colorado explains on its website that Weld County is part of a geographic basin, which, taken as a whole, has suffered from elevated levels of ground level ozone area pollution. It goes on to state that the Denver area has had the testing since 1995 and, “Now it is time for individual vehicles in Larimer and Weld County to contribute to vehicle emissions.”