12/06/04 — Wayne to get hit with higher inspection fees

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Wayne to get hit with higher inspection fees

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on December 6, 2004 2:21 PM

New inspection regulations that begin next month could have some Wayne County motorists fuming.

Beginning in January, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles is mandating emission testing in Wayne County on most vehicles newer than 1996 as part of the annual safety inspection. The tests are run through the vehicles' on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems.

Older vehicles will be exempt, as will diesel-powered vehicles, motor homes and trucks over 8,500 pounds.

The OBD test will not greatly increase the amount of time an inspection takes, but it will raise the price. The safety inspection costs $9.10 now, but inspectors will be permitted to charge up to $30 for the safety and OBD test.

There's also the chance that testing will find exhaust problems, which the motorist will be required to have fixed before a new sticker is issued.

The emission testing is already required in 28 N.C. counties, including Johnston, mainly in the state's urban areas.

But to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, the DMV is expanding it to seven other counties next month. Motorists in Wilson and Lenoir counties will also be included.

Eight mountain counties will be added in July, and five coastal counties will come on board in January 2006. Duplin, Greene and Sampson counties are not now on the schedule.

Wayne County has 91 inspection stations, most of which will be ready for the new testing requirements.

"We've had great success with Wayne County," said OBD instructor Luby "Danny" Worley. "We should have lots of technicians who will be ready to inspect cars next month."

Since January, Worley has taught the new testing procedures to more than 140 technicians through Wayne Community College's continuing education program. Those technicians have come from Wayne, Wilson, Lenoir and Pitt counties.

The stations had to purchase the computer equipment to do the OBD tests, Worley said last week. They could choose from five different models, which typically cost $6,000.

To help the stations pay for the equipment, the state allowed the stations to charge up to $23.50 per inspection in labor costs. The DMV collects a $6.50 fee per inspection.

There will be an additional $10 fee if inspectors have to check the legality of window tint.

If Wayne County follows the example of other counties, more than 90 percent of the stations doing safety inspections will choose to do the OBD testing too, Worley said.

A handful will get out of the inspections business altogether, because the computer equipment will soon be required to do the safety inspections as well, he said.

North Carolina adopted the emissions inspection program as its response to the federal Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that cars and trucks create about half of the ozone air pollution and nearly all of the carbon monoxide air pollution in U.S. cities.

The state first began monitoring vehicle exhaust in its most populated and urban areas. Tail-pipe testing was mandated in the first nine counties, but OBD testing has been the standard in the outlying counties.

Beginning next month, inspection stickers will be denied to Wayne County vehicles that fail the emissions inspection. Generally, failure occurs when high levels of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon are detected.

High carbon monoxide levels are generally caused by a rich fuel mixture, a plugged PCV valve or fuel in the crankcase ventilation system; a dirty air filter; a malfunctioning closed-loop fuel metering system; or saturated fuel evaporation canister or malfunctioning vapor purge system.

High hydrocarbon levels could be caused by electrical misfire; too much spark advance (or initial timing); an air-fuel mixture too lean; vacuum leak; leaking exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve; malfunctioning closed-loop fuel metering system; or engine wear.

Parts that could also affect emissions are the gasoline tank cap, thermostatic air cleaner, catalytic converter, and the air pump/air injection systems.

People who are unable to fix their cars may be able to attain a waiver from the Division of Motor Vehicles. Generally, owners must have spent $200 to show they've made good faith efforts.