Emission Testing 'Not Ready' Status

While the Valley is on track with keeping emission pollution under control, sometimes a car will go through the testing station and get a ‘not ready’ rating.

Not ready

“Does that mean I failed?” the driver asks, worried.

“No, not at all. Just park over there and go to the office. They will explain it there,” the testing tech replies.


In the office, Phoenix Emissions Inspector Marco Hernandez explains.

“Your vehicle’s Onboard Diagnostic (OBD) Computer stores the emission system status. Under certain circumstances, such as replacing the battery, the emission system resets, and a reading isn’t available from one or more of the monitors.” 


He further explained that an unready vehicle would be locked out of the testing process until the next day. But, if the car isn’t ready for the following test, it will be locked out for a three-day period. This is an excellent thing to know if a driver is in the process of renewing their vehicle’s registration and is getting close to the end of the registration renewal date. Upon being ‘not ready’ at the third test, a seven-day lockout will commence. It should be noted that if a driver tries to ‘jump in and have a vehicle re-tested before the end of the lockout period, the car will automatically be locked out of testing at the next level even if the car is ready. SO, if the vehicle is on a one-day lockout and the drive takes it back the same day, it will jump to a three-day lockout, etc.

The only way to override the lockout is to take it to a repair facility, where they can fix it and certify (on the back page of the vehicle rejection notice) that it was repaired and will pass. 


What a driver can do

Hernandez offered a detailed written explanation, which included the following, which are noted as ‘generic drive cycles.’  One or more of these generic drive cycles can make a vehicle ‘ready’ again.  It is noted that all accessories should be off during the generic drive cycles, which includes the radio, A/C, and cruise control. Because the A/C needs to be off, a driver may wish to conduct the generic drive cycle sequence at night. 


  1. No check engine light on (this is a must to take the emission test)
  2. Fuel level between 14/-¾
  3. Engine temperature cold (cooled down overnight)
  4. Drive between 20-30 MPH for 22 minutes, allowing speed to vary (sounds like a trip around the parking lot of the mall. We’re game!)
  5. Stop and idle for 40 seconds, gradually accelerate to 55 MPH (sounds like getting on the freeway during rush hour, doesn’t it?)
  6. Maintain 55 MPH for 4 minutes using steady throttle input
  7. Stop and idle for 30 seconds, then accelerate to 30 MPH
  8. Maintain 30 MPH for 12 minutes
  9. Repeat steps 6 and 7 four times

NOTE: It is recommended that an assistant accompany the driver to read and inform the driver of the next step and monitor the time that is in the above generic drive cycle as recommended.

A note to those of you who aren’t prepared to go through the emissions testing line again without knowing if your car is ready: many of the auto parts stores have a tester which will tell you if your car OBD computer has the readings available.

What if the readings don’t become available?

If the car is still in the ‘not ready’ status after going through several cycles, it’s probably a correct operating temperature problem, either too hot or too cold. (HINT: We live in Arizona. It’s not too cold.) This could be caused by such things as a faulty thermostat, cooling fan or other cooling system problems. 

An electrical problem will also cause the system to not set to ‘ready.’ Such items as a blown fuse, bad wiring or even an internal computer issue can erase the memory. 

Hopefully, this provides a basic overview of the ‘not ready’ status of the emission control testing process.  

If you are in the Phoenix Metro area and want a no-hassle cash offer on an old, wrecked, unwanted, salvage or burned car, SUV, van or truck, give us a call at I Buy Junk Cars 480-771-8290.