New law change impacting drivers who need vehicle emissions testing

JACKSONVILLE, NC (WITN) - A law change is impacting drivers who need vehicle emissions testing.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, cars 20 years and older are now exempt from emissions testing. Before December 1st, cars were only exempt if made in or before 1995.

Cars years 1996 through 1999, which previously needed emissions testing do not in 2019-2020.

The change to the emissions testing law applies to Alamance, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Lee, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Onslow, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Union and Wake counties.​

Experts say older cars aren't compatible with the state-regulated on-board diagnostics, or OBD2, test. Despite the law requiring vehicles newer than 20 years old to test, those generally put out fewer emissions than those older than 20 years.

"The newer vehicles are cleaner," said auto mechanic Erich Bauchspies. "Originally it was vehicles '95 and older were exempt ... They were not an OBD2 vehicle, so it wasn't a universal type of hookup on the vehicle."

Also, vehicles that were produced within three years of the current year, and have less than 70,000 miles on the odometer are exempt from the annual emissions inspection.

Experts say the best advice for drivers to avoid a surprise failure on an emissions test is to have routine vehicle maintenance performed.