Every other year, I need to have my car tested for emissions before renewing the annual registration required by the State of Arizona. I remembered at the beginning of last month that my registration expired. I even remember about mid-month and told myself, pick a day to get er done. However, it occurred to me on May 4th that my registration had expired.
I look up the nearest vehicle emission inspection (VEI) facility in metro-Phoenix. The program is administered by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), and has improved over the years. Since my vehicle is 1996 or newer, I recalled from my last visit in 2012 that the dynamometer test (the front axle and wheels are driven on rollers at varying speeds to simulate urban driving while measuring the exhaust that is captured via a cup-like device) had been eliminated.
In its place is the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) test that is used for 1996 and newer light duty vehicles. Instead of opening the hood, hooking up the capture cup to the muffler exhaust, and revving the engine as the wheels spin on the dynamometer, the technician connected his computer to the OBD computer in my car and found under the dash on the driver’s side. This system, called OBDII, continuously monitors the engine emissions and the controls systems connected to it.
I’m in a particularly good mood because the OBDII test has reduced 15 to 30 minutes of just waiting in line to begin the emissions testing process. It’s 10:00 a.m., and although the temps aren’t sweltering, it’s still a cool 85 degrees in Phoenix, AZ and not a cloud in the sky. My vehicle passed the OBD test. Y-E-A-H!
Wait, there’s another test. The fuel cap test! As the folks at ADEQ explain it, most vehicles have a “closed fuel system.” With the gas cap in place there is moderate pressure in the fuel tank and lines. This pressure is part of the emissions control system. If the cap cannot maintain pressure in the system, the air/fuel mixture can be compromised, resulting in elevated emissions. My vehicle failed the gas cap test! O-O-P-S!
I tell myself, this is good news! Why? If I had my choice of tests to fail, it would be the gas cap test. Why? Because the solution is very easy: buy a new one. I found a new fuel cap for my vehicle at AutoZone for $10.00. Y-E-A-H! The next morning, I get in line again at the VEI location. Today, there is no waiting, and a re-test of the OBD system is not required since my car passed that test the day before.
Now, it’s off to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Although I am thrilled to be done with emissions testing, it’s hurry up to wait again just to get a sticker for my license tag. I get that feeling of déjà-vu as I walk into the DMV.
My last visit to the facility on Larkspur Lane in Tempe was uneventful but a long wait for that sticker. I think it was almost three hours. What was memorable about this particular visit is that a young couple came in to get passport photos for themselves and their infant son. He looked to be about six months old. The photographer was adamant about getting him to smile for this photo shoot; therefore, she used a few toys to capture his attention. She also captivated a number of patrons including myself – bored stiff while waiting for our number to be called by one of the customer service reps.
This particular office is not packed with customers, but it is full. And there’s that line again….10 persons deep, and that is just for someone to ask what services I need today? Although there at least 24 windows at this location, the customer service representatives behind each window do not handle all of them. After reviewing my paperwork, the representative gives me the option of using their self-service kiosk, or wait until my number comes up at one of the windows. This is a new option since my visit last year. “So, Ms. Brown, would you like to use the self-service kiosk?” I respond, “Why not?”
The kiosk screen is menu driven. As it turns out, the menu is the same as the one offered on the internet via ServiceArizona.com. A menu is provided at the top of the screen and the first option is what I am looking for: Vehicle Registration Renewal. I select it by touching the screen and begin the process. I enter my vehicle identification number and license plate, and in about two seconds, everything regarding my vehicle came up including a late fee.
I swipe my debit card to pay for the registration fee. Viola! My registration sticker is printed on a form. Happy camper that I am, I grab the form, touch the screen to end this transaction, and head for the door.
So, there I was standing in line at DMV, but only for a short while. My recollection of getting the emissions test and a registration sticker could have taken four to five hours depending on the facility, day of the week, and the time I arrived at the VEI station and the DMV office.
I also know that the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has worked very hard over the past 10 years to improve service to customers and reduce wait time. Yesterday, from start to finish, took about an hour between the two facilities. My actual time standing in line – about five minutes. Good work ADOT!