Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply:
Graham asks: How do you feel about the bill going through Tennessee about removing emissions testing?
My reply: Emissions test may have been justified when most of the cars on the road were still sporting engines designed prior to the need to comply with emissions tests – and so tended to run poorly when emissions equipment was grafted onto them. People would – understandably – “defeat” and “tamper with” the Band-Aid emissions equipment, because doing so made the car run better. Also, cars from that era – roughly, from the beginning of the 20th century through the mid-1980s – weren’t computer controlled, could not self-adjust and needed frequent (by today’s standards) adjustment to remain in tune and not spew pollution.
But, almost all of those cars are off the road now. The handful still in operation are cars like my ’76 Trans-Am, a car that only goes out occasionally. Whatever its emissions are, they’re an irrelevance as far as air quality, people’s health and so on.
Testing them is pointless – which is why most states exempt cars that old.
And modern cars?
They have engines designed with emissions in mind; they are a system optimized to work together. Few people tamper with or defeat the factory emissions controls because the cars run better with everything operating as designed. Also, all cars built since the mid-1990s have onboard diagnostics and self-adjust to maintain peak performance and lowest emissions. If a problem arises, the “service engine soon” light will come on to alert the driver to the need to .. . have the car serviced soon.
Granted, some will ignore the light and continue to drive. But overall, emissions testing these cars serves no meaningful purpose (i.e., doesn’t have an effect on air quality, either way) and so I can’t see the need for them, except as a way to impose another needless expense and hassle on drivers.
. . .
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