Information for Motorists: What If My Vehicle Failed Its Inspection?
Follow These Steps to Get a Passing Sticker
What if you car fails, and you think it should have passed?
Shopping for Vehicle Repairs
Registered Emissions Repair Shops & Technicians
Economic Hardship Repair Extensions
These Steps to Get a Passing Sticker
If your vehicle fails its safety inspection, its emissions test or both, it must be repaired and pass a re-test within 60 days of its initial inspection. Here are the specific steps you will need to take:
Step One. Repair Your Vehicle
Safety. A vehicle that fails its safety inspection must be repaired immediately. When you drive a car, truck, SUV or bus with safety defects, you are putting yourself and others at risk. You may also be issued a citation by police, which could lead to insurance surcharges.
If your vehicle passed its emissions test, Skip to Step Three
Emissions. A vehicle that fails its emissions test must be repaired and pass a re-test within 60 days of its initial inspection. Give the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) you received from the inspector to your repair technician, who can use the information it provides to diagnose your vehicle’s emissions control problem(s). Need a copy of your Vehicle Inspection Report? Get a reprint here. If the inspector also gave you an Emissions Repair Form, be sure to have the repairer complete it and then return the form to the inspector when you take your vehicle back for its re-test. Check with your repairer to see if he or she has filled this form out on-line for you. If so, you will not need to return the form to the inspector.
There are two important reasons for completing repairs immediately:
- It is technically illegal to operate your vehicle before fixing safety defects identified during an inspection.
- Emissions control problems can significantly reduce gas mileage and may cause long-term damage to your vehicle that will make repairs more expensive.
Keep your repair receipts inside your vehicle as proof that repairs have been made until your vehicle passes its re-test. This is especially important if your vehicle failed its initial safety inspection.
Sometimes, repairs don’t fix the problem(s) that caused your vehicle to fail its emissions test or estimated repair costs are extremely high. In these cases, you may still be eligible for a passing sticker. If your private passenger vehicle or OBD-equipped motor home:
- Failed its emissions test and was fixed by a Registered Emissions Repair Technician but fails its retest, you may be eligible for a Waiver of Emissions Standards and a passing sticker that will be valid until your vehicle’s next annual inspection.
- Needs a major and costly repair to pass its emissions test (e.g., transmission replacement or engine overhaul), you may be eligible for an Economic Hardship Repair Extension and a one-time, one-year sticker to continue operating the vehicle while you save for repairs or look for a replacement.
To get either a waiver or an extension, you will need to bring your vehicle and its inspection and repair records to a Motorist Assistance Center (MAC) for evaluation. The MAC will provide you with an authorization so the inspection station that failed your vehicle can then issue you a passing sticker, or will explain how your vehicle does not meet waiver or extension requirements. Your Vehicle Inspection Report will contain instructions on how to schedule an appointment at a MAC.
There are no waivers or extensions for any safety defects or for emissions problems with commercial vehicles.
What if you disagree with the inspector, and don't believe your vehicle should have failed the inspection? The Registry of Motor Vehicles has established a formal investigation process for motorists to “challenge” their inspection results. If you believe the inspection results are incorrect, you can initiate the investigation by downloading an Inspection Station Complaint Form from the RMV website and mailing it to the RMV's Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services Department. (The form can also be obtained by calling 617-351-9345.) During the investigation the vehicle will still carry the Rejection sticker. Ultimately, if the vehicle passes a challenge inspection or the initial inspection station is found to be in error, that initial inspection station will provide the motorist with the Passing sticker. If the vehicle fails the challenge inspection, the motorist will be charged an additional $29 inspection fee and will be required to make the necessary repairs before getting a Passing sticker. To view or download other RMV Vehicle Inspection forms, click here.
Step Two. Be Sure Your Vehicle is “Ready” for its Emissions Re-Test
After emissions repairs, your vehicle may need to automatically re-set its on-board computer by performing a series of system checks that need to be completed under actual driving conditions. Your vehicle cannot be given an on-board diagnostic (OBD) emissions test until it completes this process. About one week of combined city and highway driving is usually enough to allow the computer to record enough new data to be “ready” for an emissions test, although some vehicles may need more time. For additional information, contact the manufacturer of your vehicle, the dealer who sold it to you, or a Registered Emissions Repair Technician.
If your vehicle has chronic or repeated problems with OBD readiness, it may be referred to a Motorist Assistance Center (MAC) and will need to be evaluated there before you can bring it back to an inspection station for a re-test. In the event of a referral, you will be given instructions on how to schedule an appointment at a MAC.
Your vehicle must be re-tested and receive a passing sticker within 60 days of its initial inspection. If not, the Registry of Motor Vehicles may suspend your registration.
If your vehicle failed both its safety and emissions tests during its initial inspection, it will be re-tested for both at the same time. The first re-test is free if you bring your vehicle back to the station where it was originally inspected. If you go to a different station, you will need to pay another $29 inspection fee for the first re-test and each subsequent re-test. If your vehicle fails its free re-test, you will also need to pay the $29 inspection fee for each subsequent re-test.
If your private passenger vehicle fails its emissions re-test but was repaired by a Registered Emissions Repair Technician, you may still be eligible for a waiver of emissions standards and a passing sticker. See Emissions Waivers for additional information.
When shopping for a reliable technician to fix your vehicle, you may want to follow this advice from the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs:
- Make sure the repair shop has experience working on your type of car.
- Look for shops that have certifications like the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) seal or the American Automobile Association (AAA) sign.
- If you might need to apply for an Emissions Waiver, be sure to have your repair work done at a Registered Emissions Repair Shop.
- Get a second opinion if you are wary of unnecessary repairs or question the technician’s diagnosis. (When your vehicle has an emissions problem, the repair shop will generally conduct a computerized diagnostic test to determine what needs to be fixed, and will probably charge for this service.)
- Obtain a written estimate listing specific repairs to be made before authorizing any work. The shop is required to give you this.
- Know your warranties. Ask if the repair shop offers a repair warranty, or if the parts come with a warranty. Under Massachusetts law, you have the right to have shoddy work repaired for no charge.
- Use a shop that is convenient to your home or office, or ask friends and family for a recommendation.
You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against a specific repair shop before you have any work done there.
If your vehicle fails its emissions test, the state recommends taking it to a Registered Emissions Repair Shop that employs one or more Registered Emissions Repair Technicians .
While you can try to fix your vehicle yourself or bring it to any mechanic you choose, there are many reasons why you should use a Registered Emissions Repair Technician who is:
- Certified by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
- Specially trained in repairing emissions control problems
- Has the right equipment and tools to successfully repair your vehicle on the first try
Only a Registered Emissions Repair Technician can provide you with the necessary paperwork to qualify your vehicle for an Emissions Waiver if it fails its re-test or for an Economic Hardship Repair Extension if your vehicle needs a major and costly repair, such as a transmission replacement or an engine overhaul.
There are more than 300 Registered Emissions Repair Shops conveniently located across the state. You can find a list of nearby shops on your Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR), call the toll-free Motorist Hotline at 866-941-6277 for a list, or search for them here.
Waivers are not granted for safety-related failures.
If your private passenger or OBD-equipped mobile home vehicle fails its emissions re-test, it may be eligible for a waiver of emissions standards and a passing sticker that will be valid until your vehicle’s next annual inspection. Only repairs performed by a Registered Emissions Repair Technician qualify for a waiver. Repairs made by anyone else are not eligible. If a Registered Emissions Repair Technician has tried to fix your vehicle but it still doesn't pass its emissions test, you can apply for an emissions waiver. There are no waivers for safety defects.
Your Vehicle May Be Eligible for a Waiver if:
- You have spent at least the following on emissions repair costs (including labor and materials):
- $855 for a vehicle five model years old or newer
- $755 for a vehicle six to ten model years old
- $655 for a vehicle more than ten model years old
- Your vehicle’s emissions control system must be intact, with no evidence of tampering
- The vehicle must have passed its safety inspection within the previous 60 days.
- The vehicle’s OBD system (internal computer) must connect successfully with the inspection station’s computer, must be “ready” for its re-test (i.e., it must have completed its self-checks of the emissions control system), and cannot be showing diagnostic trouble codes for engine misfire, catalytic converter efficiency failure, or energy storage (for a hybrid vehicle).
- You provide the following
- Work orders and receipts from a Registered Emissions Repair Shop detailing the repairs that were made;
- A completed Emission Repair Form signed by a Registered Emissions Repair Technician (or the technician must have entered repair information into the state’s online database); and
- Vehicle Inspection Reports from both your vehicle’s initial inspection and its re-test(s).
If you lose your Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR), call the toll-free Motorist Hotline at 1-866-941-6277 to request that a duplicate be mailed to you. Please note that only repairs performed by a Registered Emissions Repair Technician qualify for an Emissions Waiver.
How to Apply for an Emissions Waiver
- To obtain a waiver, your vehicle needs to be evaluated at a Motorist Assistance Center (MAC).
- Call the toll-free Motorist Hotline at 866-941-6277 to schedule an appointment at a MAC near you. The agent you speak with will conduct a pre-appointment screening to be sure you have met the basic requirements.
- Bring the required documents to your appointment.
- If your vehicle qualifies for a waiver, the MAC will provide you with a waiver authorization so the inspection station that failed your vehicle can then issue you a passing sticker.
- If your vehicle does not qualify for a waiver, MAC staff will advise you which requirements were not met.
Please note that if you have not obtained a waiver within 60 days of your vehicle’s initial inspection, the Registry of Motor Vehicles may suspend your registration.
Extensions are not granted for safety-related failures.
If your private passenger vehicle or OBD-equipped motor home failed its emissions test because it needs a major and expensive repair, such as a transmission replacement or engine overhaul, you may be eligible for an economic hardship extension of the deadline for your vehicle to pass its re-test. The extension gives you a one-time, one-year sticker to continue driving the vehicle while budgeting for repairs or a replacement. There are no extensions for safety defects or for commercial vehicles.
To qualify for an Economic Hardship Repair Extension
- Have a Registered Emissions Repair Technician prepare an estimate of repair costs for your vehicle.
- If the Registered Emissions Repair Technician refers you to a specialty repair shop for an estimate – a transmission repair shop, for example, because he or she does not fix transmissions – be sure to bring the Registered Emissions Repair Technician’s referral documentation with you to that shop.
- The estimate to repair the major
component needs to be at least:
- $1,282 for a vehicle five model years old or newer
- $1,132 for a vehicle more than five but less than ten model years old
- $982 for a vehicle more than ten model years old (Note: These thresholds are 1.5 times the applicable eligibility criteria for a waiver of emission standards.)
- Have any other emissions problems (other than the major component replacement or overhaul) repaired, if they were identified during your vehicle’s initial inspection.
- Demonstrate that your vehicle passed its safety re-test if its initial inspection identified any safety defects. If more than 60 days have gone by since your vehicle passed its safety inspection, it may be required to undergo a safety test again.
Economic Hardship Repair Extensions are not available for commercial vehicles, or for vehicles that are inspected due to a change in ownership.
How to Apply for an Economic Hardship Repair Extension
- To obtain this extension, your vehicle’s repair estimate needs to be verified at a Motorist Assistance Center (MAC).
- Call the toll-free Motorist Hotline at 866-941-6277 to schedule an appointment at a MAC that is convenient for you.
- Bring your repair estimate and Vehicle Inspection Reports (from your vehicle’s initial inspection and re-test) to your appointment.
- If your vehicle qualifies for an extension, the MAC will provide you with an extension authorization so the inspection station that failed your vehicle can then issue you a passing sticker.
- If your vehicle does not qualify for an extension, MAC staff will advise you which requirements were not met.