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Planning A Move To New Jersey? What Should You Know About Vehicle Inspections?

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If you've spent your driving years in a state where regular vehicle inspections aren't required, you may have driven vehicles with minor to major defects -- broken headlights, a rusted-through exhaust system, or an illuminated check engine light (CEL). However, for those planning a move to New Jersey, driving a vehicle with one of these issues could violate state emissions laws. Read on to learn more about the requirements to which your vehicle will be subject after your move, as well as the minor repairs you'll be able to make on your own to ensure your car, truck, or SUV passes muster in the Garden State. 

What does New Jersey require to pass your auto inspection?

Although the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets national emissions standards to which all vehicles sold or driven within the U.S. are subject, New Jersey's environmental regulations have been made stricter in an effort to help the state achieve minimum air quality standards. These regulations require each vehicle licensed in New Jersey to have an emissions inspection every 2 years. You'll need to have your own vehicle inspected at a licensed station within 14 days of permanently relocating to New Jersey.

During this inspection, your vehicle's emissions and exhaust system will be inspected to ensure there are no potential problems -- a faulty oxygen sensor, holes in your muffler or exhaust pipes, or a leaky (or missing) gas cap. Any of these could increase the amount of harmful exhaust your vehicle emits and lower your fuel economy. If your vehicle fails this inspection, you'll be required to make any necessary repairs within a prescribed period of time or face hefty fines or civil penalties if your vehicle is caught and you are ticketed. 

What minor repairs can you make to ensure your vehicle complies with state laws?

A faulty O2 sensor is one of the most common problems for which a vehicle will fail a New Jersey inspection. If you've noticed that you seem to be spending more money on fuel lately (without increasing your trips) or if your CEL has recently come on, you may be dealing with a failing O2 sensor. Your vehicle should have several of these sensors, which are responsible for ensuring there is an efficient fuel-to-air ratio in your gas chamber and an equally efficient ratio in your exhaust. When one of your front O2 sensors wears out, your vehicle may begin running an overly "rich" (or fuel-heavy) mixture. This can cause your fuel economy to plummet.

Fortunately, changing your O2 sensor can be a relatively simple process for most vehicles. You'll first need to have your diagnostic codes run to determine which sensor is failing. Many auto supply stores will do this for free. You'll then need to purchase a new O2 sensor designed for your year, make, and model. Next, you'll need to look at the wiring diagram in your owner's manual to locate your O2 sensor within your engine. For some vehicles, this sensor can be reached relatively easily by removing your front tire and reaching up into your engine. If you're having trouble locating or accessing your O2 sensor, or if you don't feel comfortable performing the replacement yourself, a mechanic from an auto shop like Steven & Francine's Complete Automotive Repair Inc should be able to take care of this process in just a few minutes.

Another common issue that can cause your vehicle to fail an emissions inspection is a hole in your exhaust pipe or muffler. Not only can a small hole amplify the sounds your vehicle makes in enclosed spaces, it can interfere with the ability of your muffler to filter out harmful soot particles that lead to smog pollution. However, these holes can be patch-welded at an exhaust or muffler shop for a fairly low cost. If the damage to your exhaust pipe or muffler is severe, you may need to purchase a replacement exhaust system and have your current one removed.