Staying on top of auto emissions and upkeep

Emissions testing is done every year in most areas subject to it. Here in Georgia they only require it for metro Atlanta counties. My car is still in co-ownership name with my dad so I get to use his county (a more rural one) and do not have to test each year. It is a 2003 model so I am pretty sure there is no issue environmentally. The test here is $20 so I like saving that money each year.

One thing I have found out, at least in Georgia and probably all other states, is that if you have a check engine light on in your car you automatically fail the test. The machines used in testing look for this. The problem could be simple (such as a gas cap) or more complex (such as an oxygen sensor or catalytic converter). The only way to find out is to get the code from a scanner.

You are in luck because you can go to Auto Zone (and probably the other auto parts stores too) and they will pull the code and tell you what it is for FREE. It is normally a "P" code such as "P0407". If they cannot tell you what the code means you can google search for the code and you will find your answer. You can then talk to your mechanic or multiple shops if you do not have one to see how much the repair cost is.

Your should always get the code checked if the light comes on as soon as possible. Most of the time it is some sort of sensor that needs to be replaced but sometimes it can be more serious. The general rule is the longer you wait the more expensive the problem will be to fix. If you have your tag expiration coming up you are better of solving it now so you don't have to pay a late fee for the new tag because of repair delays or worse a traffic ticket.

If the code is not emission related it is always best to get it repaired. A lot of problems can reduce the power your engine produces or waste fuel. This ends up costing you more in the long run and reduces the value of the car if you wish to sell it. A check engine light is a red flag to any potential buyer.

Keep up with the maintenance of your car and all should go smoothly for you overall. Oil changes, tires, belts, and fluids should all be done regularly. Don't let your brakes get too worn out or it costs a LOT more to replace. If they make the "squeaky" noise then get them changed. Being smart with your car(s) is being smart with your money.