Northern Colorado Emission Testing Faces Opposition

February 7, 2011

Northern Colorado car owners and legislators have been grumbling over the impact of the requirement to have vehicles tested for emissions. This is new to the vehicle screening regime in Larimer and Weld counties, and would require vehicles to go through testing similar to what is done in the Denver metro area.

The decision to include the new region has been besieged by controversy from the outset. As reported in a series of articles appearing at Face The State, the program got off on the wrong foot when it was discovered that typos in the legal documents had failed to provide for a phase-in period that would have allowed the initial testing standard to use 2008 standards instead of the more stringent levels that exist in Denver.

But now as testing is on-going another source of driver consternation has surfaced. The testing tips section of the Air Care Colorado website cautions applicants to "Make sure that your tires are properly inflated." The reason, the site states, is that uneven air pressure or the presence of mismatched tires could make it difficult for vehicle to adapt to the dynamometer that is used for testing. A "dyno" simulates driving conditions by allowing vehicles to operate at different speeds and loads - think treadmill for a car.

So what is the problem? It seems that improper tire inflation is not the only thing that can cause a problem on the dynamometer, since tires that are bigger than 32 inches or smaller than 17 inches (we will have to assume diameter including the wheel) are incompatible. What this means is that someone who appreciates the look of low-profile wheels or the clearance provided by oversized tires must pay to have their tires changed for the test, unless the tires and wheels are OEM.

A young man from Fort Collins could not have his Chrysler 300 checked until he spent $600 on tires and rims that were suitable. Lucky for him he was able to sell them back to the tire store for $525. Could there be a budding market for tire and rim for rentals?

One Weld County commissioner, who thinks the inspections are more about producing revenue than cleaning the air, is concerned about the impact on seniors who may not be able to afford to repair their vehicles after failing. Sean Conway said that the Colorado Department of Health was not able to measure the program's impact on air quality. He said that seniors on fixed incomes could lose their independence, even though there is no evidence that the additional testing is effective.

Republicans are shepherding a law through the legislature that would rescind testing in the two northern counties. It is likely to face opposition in the Colorado Senate as well as from the state's governor.

[Air Care Colorado & Face The State]
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