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Damage From Emissions Control Testing?

06 Aug 2003 by

A friend of mine has been posting this message on a few different car sites, and he asked me to post it here too. Hopefully someone can offer some legal insight.

Up until 1999, the State of Illinois let the owner drive the car during the stationary emissions test, but now the state mandates that the emissions test workers must drive the car. The main issue my friend has is that his car has a manual transmission and the test requires the tester to go through the gears to achieve a certain speed and RPM reading. Problem is that the car’s transmission can be damaged by someone who doesn’t shift correctly or by the stationary test itself, and making a damage/liability claim against the State is virtually impossible.

Here’s the gist of the post:

“…I do not dispute the environmental objectives but definitiely question the IM240/dynanometer tests. There have been numerous documented and certainly many unreported incidents of damage to brakes, transmissions and engines directly related to testing procedures. It was my understanding that several states, responding to public outcry and damage claims, ceased dynamometer testing. Why should the IEPA require someone other than the vehicle’s owner to take control during testing? This was not the case prior to 1999 (intro of IM240/dynamometer), and, in my opinion, violates personal property rights.”

Does he have a case or is he out of luck? My friend’s point is that his car is his own personal property and the state doesn’t have the right to force him to give up control so someone else can drive it (even if it’s for a test). Just as the state needs a warrant to enter your home, they shouldn’t be able to enter your car and control it for a test — especially when the acceleration test can be performed by the owner as it was up until 1999 (and is still in other states). Is there any hope here?

20 comments so far (Post a Comment)

06 Aug 2003 | steve said...

Connecticut used to have emissions testing, and when I lived there I always thought about this issue. In reality, I think the chances of transmission damage are nil .... and I'm more paranoid than most about my car.

The scariest part about watching the emissions tech put my Audi thorough its paces was the four-wheel dyno! The car drifted right and left during the entire test. I now live in Virginia, and I think my last emissions test was actually done via the car's on-board diagnostic system.

06 Aug 2003 | dave said...

Well, I think the bigger question is who can get into your car. From a philosophical view I think he has a case... however, the Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

protecting you only from search and seizure, not usage for conformance to a state mandated law. I guess its up to personal opinion if this is an "unreasonable search and seizure".

06 Aug 2003 | reynard said...

Is your friend a management consultant?

Ahhh, sorry...I'm sure he'd do a much better job of controlling the vehicle during the test than someone who performs the task dozens of times a week without incident.

06 Aug 2003 | Don Schenck said...

What's the big deal? The environmental whacko leftists don't care if your car gets damaged ... you shouldn't be driving a car anyhoo. Or eating meat. Or eating at McDonalds. Or smoking. Or or or ...

He should fight this tooth and nail. It's about friggin' time The Left and their Big Brother mentality is held accountable! You want to test my car, fine ... but ONE TINY SCRATCH and you're gonna pay, understand?

ARGH! NOW you got me FIRED UP!

06 Aug 2003 | JF said...

The other issue is that he's worried that these guys who test the cars are dirty and oiled up and they can stain the seats and inside of the car. The car is a very expensive sports car so I understand where he's coming from.

06 Aug 2003 | hurley #1 said...

A few things:

Details on the testing procedures state that only trained personnel can carry out the dyno tests.

However, this article from Hemmings Motor News, December 1999 shows that the problem has indeed been a concern for a while now:

The Illinois EPA (IEPA) reports it received 276 claims of automobile damage caused by the new IM-240 dynamometer emissions test in February and March, 1999. The new test was launched on February 1 and is currently employed in 139 test lanes at 35 test stations. Motorists interviewed reported test damage ranging from blown head gaskets to "destroyed" engines and transmissions. Envirotest Systems, the firm to which IEPA has contracted the IM-240 test operation, has routinely refused to compensate motorists who claim their vehicles were damaged by the test. In turn, IEPA has refused to act on motorists' complaints, referring vehicle owners with claims against Envirotest to the Better Business Bureau. The damage to a 1986 Ford pickup truck was witnessed by the test station manager. After driving the truck off the dynamometer, the test driver got out of the vehicle, leaving the door open, the engine running, and the shift in reverse. The driverless vehicle backed up, hitting a solid post that smashed the open door and bent its frame.

In response to the complaints, a resolution was passed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board in 2000, but I couldn't find any info on the outcome, if any:

HR 301 (Kosel.) Urges the IEPA to provide notice and take certain actions concerned with complaints against facilities certified to perform automobile emission inspections. Introduced following a series of accidents in which individuals' automobiles have been damaged while undergoing the IEPA's new IM-240 "treadmill" emissions tests in the Chicago metropolitan and Bi-State Metro East nonattainment areas of the State.

There's contact info for Illinois EPA hotlines and other resources here.

06 Aug 2003 | hurley #1 said...

Actually that resolution was not passed by the Pollution Control Board, but by the Illinois House. I don't know if it got any further than that...

06 Aug 2003 | suppafly said...

I find it hard to believe that the State of Illinois even has emission tests considering I've lived here my entire life and have own several cars (older and newer) and have never had to have them tested. I suppose if you have your car tested in cook county this might be an issue, but most people in Illinois don't have to get there cars tested.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure there should be someway for you to sue for damages to your personal property regardless of the testing being state mandated. A private company damaged your vehicle, unless you signed some waivor, it would seem like you could sue them just like anyone else. Get the media involved, that seems to help.

07 Aug 2003 | Don the Mechanic said...

You want to drive your own car through the test, fine ... but ONE TINY SCRATCH on my testing equipment and you're gonna pay, understand?

ARGH! NOW you got me FIRED UP!

07 Aug 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Hey Doofus ... I never said I wanted to drive my own car on your State-mandated dyno ... I said if YOU scratch it (while YOU are driving it), YOU pay.

What's so hard to understand?

07 Aug 2003 | Hagbard Celine said...

...especially when the acceleration test can be performed by the owner as it was up until 1999 (and is still in other states)...

It's about friggin' time The Left and their Big Brother mentality is held accountable!

Why must a simple issue of a state government doing things the wrong way be twisted into some dichotomous rant? The original poster stated that he doesn't oppose the evnironmental objectives, just the methodology. Sounds more like a bureaucratic mess than a vast left-wing conspiracy to scratch your sports car.

07 Aug 2003 | Don the Mechanic said...

Hey Peabrain ... read carefully and you'll be astonished to find that I never said you did. The original post that Fried quoted said that. That's what I was responding to. Everyone happy with the idea of it being a two-way street as far as damages are concerned? I'm guessing some of the cry babies around here wouldn't be too happy about driving their own car on the testing equipment if they had to pay for any damage they did to the testing equipment as well as to their own car.

What's so hard to understand?

Sheesh, I'm gonna go dig over my tiny garden with one of my huge cigars ;)

08 Aug 2003 | Don Schenck said...

Moron ... I re-read your post. Sheesh. You're right!

HA! Caught me being stupid again, did ya? Well ... GET IN LINE! :-)

08 Aug 2003 | Don the Mechanic said...

Thimblewit ... thanks for the apology.

Hey! My ticket says #49296 ... am I gonna be in line long? ;)

11 Aug 2003 | Darrel said...

" The environmental whacko leftists don't care if your car gets damaged "

Considering a damaged car is most likely a less eficient car, I'm sure they do.

Of course, what's the 'real' problem? Too much polution? Well, how about legislating higher fuel efficiency and lower emissions at the (gasp!) *factory* instead of putting the burden on the consumer?

Ah...who am I kidding. That'll never happen. And now we can enjoy our new Porche and VW SUVs.

11 Aug 2003 | Don Schenck said...

I'm with Darrel on the fuel efficiency idea. I've long said we should phase in a Federal $1.00 per gallon fuel tax, with that money being used toward a sound energy program. It's insane that this great country doesn't have an energy policy that is environmentally friendly, creates jobs, and helps bring security. Crazy.

Ah...who am I kidding? That'll never happen. And now we can enjoy our new Porsche and VW SUVs.

19 Aug 2003 | Geeky said...

Thank god i live in Alaska, where they only sniff your tail pipe at idle and at 2500rpm in PARK!.. i dont care who you are you touch my car, you are bringing back a broken limb.. YOUR OWN.. sorry is sucks so bad in IL, move to Alaska, we need more "respectable folk" ... Peace

02 Dec 2003 | Ron said...

Unfortunately, I am also a victim of car abuse by the testers of Illinois. But, legally nothing can be done except hope and pray that the tester knows how to handle a manual transmission. What's worse is that should a car fail, the repair people know that you are screwed, and so they take advantage of you as well. The whole system needs an overhaul. We, in select counties in Illinois, need Arnold S. more than California. Hang in there. The current governor hasn't gotten wind of this fiaco, yet. I switched to diesel and don't have to put up with this emission bs.

05 Jan 2004 | envirotest insider said...

Having inside info on Envirotest/Airteam, let me just say a few things:

Envirotest is a company like any other, they are for-profit. If you are unhappy, vote appropriately to terminate their contract with the State.

Their employees are put thru rigorous training procedures and all are tested as to their efficiency with manual transmissions.

I saw someone stated their car veered side to side on the with satisfactory alignments will not jump on the dyno.

Think about it, the Skokie facility alone tests over 5oo vehicles per day. These lane inspectors are used to crappy cars and complaining owners.

If you're afraid of being ripped off by a mechanic, use Airteam's Repair Facility Report; it ranks mechanics by # of repairs completed and successful passing #s.

As to damages, Envirotest is a BBB member and resolves all unsatisfied complaints thru their dispute resolution procedures.

17 Jan 2004 | Hector said...

For example, if you see an AIM window peeking out from behind your browser and you click on it, that window will come to the front, but the main application window will not. The Viewer is another example. The Aqua system of layers works well in many instances, but not in all. Thank goodness that the Dock is always there to come to the rescue. I know that clicking on an application icon in the Dock will always result in not only the application coming to the front, but also any non-minimized windows associated with it. And if the application is active but no windows are open, clicking on the Dock icon should create a new window in that application.

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