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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 3, 2019 10:56 AM
From: Representative John A. Lawrence
To: All House members
Subject: Cosponsor Memo – Eliminating Dynamometer and Tailpipe Emissions Testing for 1994-1995 Model Year Automobiles (Former HB86)
Dear Colleagues –

In the near future, I will reintroduce legislation changing how the emissions test is administered for model year 1994-1995 automobiles in Pittsburgh and the greater Philadelphia region. This proposal will do away with the tailpipe test performed in Pittsburgh and the two-speed idle test via a dynamometer/treadmill in the Philadelphia region, and replace them with a gas cap test and a visual inspection. The reason for this change is the antiquated equipment used to perform the tailpipe tests at local mechanic shops across the state is, at this point, over 20 years old, and increasingly difficult to maintain or purchase new. As a result, affected vehicle owners find it nearly impossible to get their car inspected or tested for emissions. This bill passed the House last session 187-4 but did not receive final consideration in the Senate.


Automotive emissions testing has a long history in Pennsylvania. Current policies, instituted over the last twenty years, result from a patchwork of legislation, court decisions, and regulations. This legislation primarily deals with a specific subset of gasoline powered passenger vehicles and light trucks manufactured from 1994-1995.

In 1996, the OBD II standard was adopted across the automotive industry. This computer based technology allows auto mechanics to diagnose engine issues by plugging a handheld device into the car’s computer. This technology is used on emissions testing for all automobiles manufactured from 1996 to present.

Prior to 1996, emissions testing was performed by a tailpipe probe attached to a computer analyzer or a combination of a probe with a dynamometer. For those unfamiliar with this term, a dynamometer is a large device that the car is driven onto for testing. The device has a “treadmill” and probes are placed in the vehicle’s tailpipe. Using the device, the mechanic starts the car and “drives” it on the treadmill to simulate driving in the real world. The probe tests the resulting emissions, and the results of the test are used to determine if the car passes or fails.

When OBD II began, a phase-out of the tailpipe/dynamometer was planned to begin in 2003 by PennDOT Regulation. Vehicle model years in the 1970s and early 1980s were the first to drop off, and each year the next model year dropped from the requirement. Thus, as of 2019, a small window of vehicles from model year 1994-1995 are still subject to the tailpipe/dynamometer test if they are not registered as antiques, classics or collectibles.

At one time, dynamometers were in every mechanic’s shop in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Each shop bought (usually at a cost of $10,000 or more) and maintained their own dynamometer equipment. As time progressed, these dynamometers have become relics of time gone by. They are no longer manufactured, and if they break, they are difficult to fix since parts are non-existent. The same goes for the accompanying computer equipment and software in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia region stations. In addition, the number of 1994-1995 model year vehicles actively on the road decreases every day, so mechanics have increasingly little incentive to keep the old dynamometer equipment. From the mechanics perspective, if their dynamometer breaks, it makes no sense to spend money to maintain and store equipment rarely used.

This is increasingly becoming an issue for the owners of 1994-1995 model year vehicles. In some areas it is impossible to find anyone who has the equipment necessary to perform the emissions test and thus legally operate the motor vehicle. I encourage you to research this issue for yourself – if you represent a Southeastern PA county or an affected county around Pittsburgh, call your local auto mechanic and ask them if they can provide an emissions test for a 1994 or 1995 automobile. You will quickly learn that this is a big problem for owners of these vehicles.

My proposal will subject 1994-1995 vehicles to the same gas cap test/visual inspection that any 1993 or earlier vehicle receives.

Your support of this initiative would be welcome.

Introduced as HB266