Emissions scandal brewing?

Several years ago the state mandated emissions testing as a gesture toward a cleaner environment. But, like every other thing in these parts, there’s someone pocketing quite a few ducats over the deal.

For example, I recently had to take my Beetle in for testing. I was told that I cleared the actual emissions test, that my car is clean, but I would not receive my endorsement due to a faulty sensor in my car’s computer. I asked what would have happened if my car had been an older model, sans techno gadget and was told that I would have passed.

I called Pep Boys on Elston and $450 later, the mechanic took my car to the inspection station and sure enough, it passed. -Only to have my check engine light come back on 2 weeks later. ARGH!

BUT that’s not where this story ends.

Since my expensive little trip to Environmentalism I have had several chats with other people who have run through the same gauntlet, or rather have had it run through them.

1) They go to the inspection station.
2) They are told that their car is technically “compliant” but that they will have to have a sensor in their car’s computer fixed.
3) The mechanic they take their car to assures them that the car will not only be fixed, but that they will personally take the vehicle to the emissions station to make sure that it passes. Because, as we all know, mechanics are just. that. helpful.
4) Anywhere from $400-$650(!) later the car passes inspection and you’re left wondering where the weak link is.

So Mayor Daley, Governor Blagojevich, where *is* the weak link? This stinks to high heaven. Emissions inspections are supposed to be in place to limit the amount of pollution being spewed into the environment. So why is this particular scenario playing out over and over? I smell a big, fat, rat.

15 Comments so far

  1. K. (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 11:08 am

    I dont’ know, but you just struck fear in my heart, because I, too, am due to bring my beetle in for emissions testing. in fact, I was supposed to do it monday and forgot. This is reeeally fishy.

  2. tankboy (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 11:14 am

    This shows you where my head is at…I think you meant “ducats” and not “duckets.”

    Also…NEVER USE THE PEP BOYS ON ELSTON! they have ripped me off repeatedly. The customer service sucks and the actual work they do blows. Contact me for an awesome mechanic on the West side next time Alana!

    Although, for this particular repair, you probably could’ve gotten a quick fix from the ghetto mechanic hiding out just South of Grand…

  3. Alana (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 11:24 am

    K, please be sure to let us know how your inspection goes.

    TB- Thanks for the heads up. I effing hate Pep Boys. The wrangling I had to go through even to get this ripped off… And it was my privilege, of course. Grrr!

  4. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 2:01 pm

    The good thing, in Illinois, is that the testing facilities are separate from the places that do the repairs. In New York State, you get your car tested at the same place they do repairs, so as you can guess, you never pass the test without having to replace, at the very least, wind-shield wipers (the NY is a general safety inspection).

    The Illinois EPA also publishes a list of certified repair facilities and their repair/pass performances.

  5. cal skinner (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

    I copied the complaint and sent it to the Govenror’s Inspector General.

    Of course, we’ll never know if anything comes of that because of the secrecy rules, but it’s was worth a try.

    cal skinner

    crystal lake, il

  6. steven (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

    Very fishy indeed. Alana, if TB’s mechanic doesn’t work out, drop me a line, I know of a great one on Ashland.

  7. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 3:33 pm

    Steven, I hope not the place at Lawrence and Ashland — their mechanics are fine, but I had the most incredibly horrible billing experience of my life there. $2000-overcharge horrible.

  8. steven (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

    Fuzzy, nope, this one is at Addison and Ashland. Quick turnaround and fair prices.

  9. Alana (unregistered) on July 27th, 2005 @ 4:04 pm

    Here is my first working theory:

    I think that there is an understanding that when a check engine light is on, the car is flagged for having a faulty sensor. I think it’s probably common knowledge in the industry that if the mechanic fixes it, they either give a kickback to the emissions inspector or the emissions inspector gives it to them, or maybe they split a portion of the insanely high bill. There is a good reason why the mechanics offer to be so helpful and insist on taking the car to be inspected themselves.

    Mechanics are like my ex-husband. If they do *anything* that appears to be a good deed on the surface, you’ll always find out eventually that it served them better than you.

    Any other ideas?

  10. Shawn (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 11:16 am

    Maybe this comment will shed some light on your experience. According to the IEPA emissions testing rules, if your vehicle fails an emissions test and you spend $450 or more to fix it and the re-test shows any improvement, you will be given a waiver which lasts until your next test. This could explain how someone’s car passes after being fixed and then fails the next time.

  11. CP (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

    Yeah, Pep Boys on Elston just bent me over a few weeks ago, they have the shittiest attitude I’ve ever seen at an auto shop, and their repairs are not that great. I’ll never EVER go there again. But what’s nice about my car is that it’s titled downstate (I put it at my parents house) so I don’t have to pass any emissions or or buy an city sticker and they can’t do anything about it. it’s very sweet. Try and find an address that you can use that isn’t in the Chicagoland area if it’s possible. I went into the local DMV when I renew my registration and made sure it stayed addressed there and it was no problem.

  12. rob (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 1:54 pm

    i just dropped a GRAND on this same problem yesterday.

    My oxygen sensor got knocked off (it definitely did get knocked off, my truck sounded like a harley.) so that was $500 bucks and then, of course, the check engine light comes on again. This time it’s a charcoal filter. $297 for the part and another $200 in labor to get it put on.


  13. K. (unregistered) on July 29th, 2005 @ 12:13 pm

    Well, shockingly, my VW Bettle failed at the emissions station on Webster because “the OBD cable is wiggly and I’m not getting a reading.”

    Yeah. Bullshit. I had 40,000 mile service six months ago, which cost over $500, and involved a check of literally the ENTIRE CAR. I don’t buy that for a second. SO, Alana, I’ve officially bought into your theory.

  14. K. (unregistered) on August 4th, 2005 @ 8:57 am


    Regardless, I’ll be filing a complaint. (also: Jennings VW RULES, because they would’ve been fully justified in charging me for half an hour’s worth of labo.)

  15. George (unregistered) on October 10th, 2005 @ 10:19 am

    I also bought my car at Jennings (’01 GTI) and my car also failed the last emission test even though it did not have an engine light indicator lit. Took it back to Jennings, it needed a drive through code reset, or something like that. They drive the car while the computer’s hooked up and clear the codes . . . something they admitted that should have been done by them the last time I took it in for service. NO CHARGE! It passed when I took it back to retest.

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