Car Emissions – What You Need to Know

Busy road with several cars surrounded by car exhaust.

What can cause a car to fail an emissions test?

What happened to the days when we could just get in our cars, start them up and take off without having to worry about car emissions? And for those of us who aren’t sure, what are the emissions of a car anyway? Car emission is what comes out of a car as it is running. Emissions consist of these primary substances: 

  • Nitrogen oxide
  • Non-methane organic gases
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Particulate matter
  • Formaldehyde

What causes car emissions?

Car emissions are the worst contributor to the air pollution problems we have today according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). With that said, what is it that causes these car emissions? The answer is simple – gasoline. Car emissions are explained as simple as that – it is the gasoline you pump into it once a week at the neighborhood gas station that forms the pollution that comes out of the tailpipe. Those same pollutants are escaping from the gas pump too as you gas up your car and as the car engine idles at the signal light. 

How much emission does a car produce?

The average passenger vehicle discharges almost five metric tons of carbon dioxide annually – if it is running properly. With an average fuel economy of just over 20.0 MPG and roads traveled over 11,000 miles a year, each gallon of gasoline in a car will create almost 9,000 grams of CO2. 

Maybe these numbers don’t mean much to you personally. You may be thinking, “I don’t drive 11,000 miles a year,” and maybe you don’t. But many do, and some drive even more. And you’re not the only driver on the road are you? If you were, there wouldn’t be a need for traffic reports at rush hour, or traffic enforcement and wreckers. 

In 2020, the year that we were “quarantined” to our homes, there were still 280 million vehicles on the roadways of America in the 4th quarter. Just for basics, multiply that by 280 million times the 9,000 grams of CO2 discharged in a three-month period. Apparently, not everyone was staying quarantined. 

What happens if your car fails an emissions test?

While there are federal laws about car emissions and testing for them, each state in the country has their own laws that typically follow suit. In Illinois, if your car emissions test fails, it is required to be retested. You’re even given a piece of paper stating that the test showed the car emissions were high and you didn’t get a sticker. 

When this happens, you will have a deadline for getting the problem resolved and the car brought back in for retesting. The State of Illinois provides a limited test extension, during which the garage you visit for your car emission tests will advise you on your next steps.

But what else happens when your vehicle can’t pass the state car emissions testing? Keep the numbers we mentioned above in mind and remember – you’re not the only one on the road. The large amount of gases and solid matter that cars emit are affecting several things, like: 

  • Contributing to global warming
  • Causing acid rain
  • Harming the environment 
  • Harming human health

But maybe this is exaggerated? Or are there facts to back this up? Keep reading and you can make your own conclusion: 

  • Global Warming – Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and others are a major part of global warming. Yes, most of the country was buried under snow in early 2021, but there is still proof of global warming everywhere you look. Global warming is affecting farms, nature, sea levels, and wildlife. 
  • Air, Soil and Water – Car emissions and the pollution they create are having a widespread effect on the quality of our air, soil, and water. While the nitrous oxide is a contribution to depleting the ozone layer that protects the Earth from the UV rays of the sun, the sulfur dioxide mixing with nitrogen dioxide is changing our refreshing rainwater to acid rain. That is damaging our buildings, crops, forests, and any vegetation. With oil and fuel spills, even more is seeping into the soil and contaminating the water from our lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Have you noticed your water tasting different over the years? 
  • Human Health – The pollutants from car emissions have a high number of particulate matters that can become airborne, like metals and soot. These are causing eye and skin irritation, aggravating allergies and, as they become lodged in our lungs, more of us are experiencing respiratory problems as well. At ground level, the reactions of hydrocarbons with nitrogen dioxide and sunlight form ozone. While this is beneficial to a point, it can also damage human health by causing breathing difficulties, chest pains, and making us cough more. 
Car tailpipe with a green leaf coming out of it.

In Conclusion

If this article has shined a light on problems with car emissions and the environment, you may be asking yourself, “How can I reduce my car emissions?” Well, many would say buy an electric car, but that brings about a whole new batch of concerns. However, there are some things we can all do that will help reduce car emissions and in turn, help the planet. 

  1. Drive less and wiser.
  2. Drive fuel efficient cars.
  3. Don’t sit idle if you don’t have to.
  4. Use the home delivery services that COVID brought to us.
  5. Keep your car, garden, and lawn equipment in good condition. 

If your car failed its car emissions testing, things you can do that may help pass it next time would be: 

  1. Put a fuel additive in the gas tank – be sure to follow the instructions
  2. Put top grade premium fuel in your car 
  3. Get oil changes more frequent and stay regular with them
  4. Keep the basic services up-to-date like changing the air filter

Need help with car emissions testing for your vehicle? Or are you looking for a way to make sure your vehicle is producing as few emissions as possible? Contact the team at Express Auto Repair & Emissions by calling 847-895-9131 to get the help you need.