After 38 years, Washington’s emission check program ended Jan. 1, 2020. With the end of the program, vehicle owners are no longer required to have their vehicle’s emissions tested before renewing their registration.
Why did Washington end the emission check program?
In 2005, the Legislature phased out emission testing based on Ecology’s projection that the program wouldn't be needed by 2020 (RCW 70.120.170).
Air quality in Washington is much cleaner now than when the program began in 1982. Every community currently meets all federal air quality standards. The combination of the vehicle emission testing program and advances in vehicle technology led to reduced transportation-related air pollution. We think air quality will continue to improve as newer, cleaner vehicles replace older, less-efficient models.
Ecology and our local clean air agency partners will continue to monitor, protect, and improve air quality. We continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles — the largest source of carbon pollution in Washington.
Frequently asked questions
No. Starting Jan. 2, 2020, an emission test is no longer required to renew your vehicle tabs.
Driving a vehicle with modified emissions controls or a vehicle that smokes is still illegal in Washington. Keeping your car’s emissions system running well protects your health and saves you money in vehicle repairs. If you ignore your check engine light, you may be causing significant damage to your engine. The computer that runs your car relies on the data coming in from the emission controls to keep the engine operating properly. If you don’t fix a problem in one part of the system, you’ll start to see problems crop up elsewhere.
We expect air quality to continue to improve as older vehicles are replaced with newer, cleaner cars. Ecology will continue to monitor air quality conditions throughout Washington. If we see reasons for concern, we will take steps to protect air quality.
Tampering with emissions controls is illegal in Washington. The Washington State Patrol and local police can ticket vehicles that are a threat to public safety.