How to Pass Inspection & Complete a Drive Cycle

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About: Field Guide for the Millennial Man

In this video I'll show you how to complete a drive cycle and pass inspection after turing off your check engine light.  It is true that your car will not pass inspection if the check engine light is on.  However there is more to it than simply turning it off.  By the way the easiest way to turn off the check engine light would be to disconnect the battery for 30 seconds.  Inorder to pass inspection your car needs to complete a full drive cycle so that all (8) internal monitors have a status of "Ready".  If any of the (8) monitors have a status of "Incomplete" that means you have not yet completed a full drive cycle and you need to drive your car around more.  Your car will need to experience city driving situations and highway driving situations inorder to complete a full drive cycle.  

Usually if your check engine light is on that means you need some repair work done on your car but that is not always the case.  I drive a 2002 Chevy Impala and the check engine light has been coming on for about 4 years.  The trouble code is "P0420".  That means the catalytic converter is functioning below the normal efficiency levels.  Back in 2007 when I first noticed the problem I had the catalytic converter replaced.  At that time the performance of the Impala was greatly reduced.  Specifically when ever the accelerator was pressed there was a significant time delay before the car would accelerate.  It almost seemed as if the transmission was slipping and then suddenly it would catch and the car would accelerate.  The problem however was not the automatic transmission.  The problem was the catalytic converter.  There was a carbon blockage that clogged the air flowing through the power train.  Exhaust was escaping through the EGR valve because the catalytic convert was blocked up so much.  So I bought the new catalytic converter.  The cost was roughly $800 as I learned that my vehicle was manufactured to the California emissions standards and not the federal emissions standars.  That was news to me.

About two or three months after the catalytic convert was replaced the check engine light came on again.  This is around the time I asked for an OBD-II code scanner for Christmas.  The same "P0240" trouble code was being stored in the engine control module.  The catalytic converter was under warranty so I had it replaced thinking it may have been defective.  Again the "P0420" trouble code came back.  At this point I started to see a pattern.

There was no performance problem with my car anymore.  That had been resolved after the first catalytic converter was installed.  The only issue was that the check engine light kept coming on.  The Oxygen Sensors before and after the catalytic convert have been tested and I was assured they were functioning properly.  If the Oxygen Sensors are out of whack that could possibly trick the engine control module into thinking that there is a problem with the catalytic converter.  So that was ruled out.  

To this day in order to pass inspection I have to erase the check engine light and complete a drive cycle.  Only then will my car pass inspection.  Of course two weeks after the inspection the check engine light will come back on.  Hope this informations helps someone out, or maybe you have your own theory about whats really wrong.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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    27 Discussions

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    Jaquar

    16 days ago

    i have a 2003 Jaquar xjr driving great and the check engine light will not go off so I can get smog. I have disconnected the battery and the computer and its still on how much do you think i need to drive to reset it.The code that is coming up on my car is P1601 Any thoughts?

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    KittieT3

    Question 17 days ago on Introduction

    How about the paperwork does it have to be signed by a mechanic or no?

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    EricaR56

    3 months ago on Introduction

    Hi there, I just came across your article and I have a 2006 Pontiac G6 that has a check engine light on..the code was reading catylic coverter so I had it replaced along with transmission and was still popping back on so I also had the O2 scensors done and the light is back on again! Still reading the same code! My sticker runs out this month and I don’t know what to do...my car does the same exact thing when I accelerate it’s slow to response and then it like kicks in especially on the highway I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me please? Ty in advance!

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    Jineane

    4 months ago on Introduction

    I sent to inspection and got rejected for not ready for inspection. Purge valves were replaced some time ago and a pressure gauge in the gas tank. Since then I drove to Atlantic city and back several times and city driving. How do I know when the car is ready? I never heard of this before.

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    JineaneJineane

    Reply 4 months ago

    I am puzzled and need answers. This is a 2001 Saturn SL2.

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    JMBB0711

    6 months ago

    I see this has been posted for quite some time...I will just tell the story of my 1985 Toyota camry that I bought brand new..Some years after buying it on day the CEL came on. For some reason that irrated me and I floored it like I was passing somebody. Held it for a few seconds and when I let off the gas the light..............went out? For years after that evry time it came on I fixed it by putting the spurs too her. Never did find out what the code was, and I didnt care as it always passed NY inspection. Then I sold it to my neighbor as I was moving. He always admired that car. I wonder if he still does??? That was 20 yrs ago...

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    LaurenD80

    7 months ago

    About 30 miles i meant

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    ToriD9

    Question 11 months ago on Introduction

    I have a Jeep Liberty 2005. I need to get it inspected but my check engine light is on due to an evap leak code p0456. We can not find the leak anywhere. How can I reset the check engine light so it’ll pass until I find out what’s wrong with it?? I also changed the gas cap and that also didn’t work. Thanks in advance!!

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    Petierox

    2 years ago

    Hey Big Nate... I have a 2004 Honda Accord V-6. I had to have the downstream O2 Sensor replaced. I've now driven 398 miles and have followed the mechanics instructions as to how to complete drive cycle. My computer will not reset itself. All codes have been cleared and the battery was also disconnected. Do you have any suggestions?

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    MallorieR

    2 years ago

    I have a 2013 Chevy Impala took it for a inspection yesterday and I was told I needed to complete a driving cycle and I have drove 120 plus miles still no luck any suggestion. May I mention took it to the dealer about a month ago for the check engine light he said it was a bad sensor

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    BrittanyK24

    2 years ago

    so how do you know if it's completed it's "drive cycle" and ready after clearing the code? I would think that after you cleared the code and then had to drive it to complete the drive cycle & it run it's tests that the check engine light would pop back up during that process? maybe I'm missing a key step in between the two? please help.. thanks!

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    slewis8086

    2 years ago

    So, the check engine light is a constant source of eye roll-itis in the
    Jeep, so much so that there is a meme dedicated to it that says "this
    little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine" and shows an image of the
    malfunction indicator light. Well, I was using a stand-in gas cap which I
    replaced with a mopar in order to pass inspection in Texas, and the
    Jeep was so familiar with the engine light, that it left the sweet thing
    on, much to my chagrin. Following your advise, I disconnected the
    battery, and allowed it to sit a spell before re-attaching it. When I
    fired up the engine, im-ME-diately, that pesky light went bye-bye!
    Thanks a million; I'll be getting my state inspection tomorrow.

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    ErichS12

    3 years ago

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but the purpose of completing the drive cycle is to give the computer ample time (mileage) to compile the adequate sensor data needed to identify any out of range values. The module is "ready" when enough data has been collected and if the problem has not been corrected at this point it will simply trigger another code and tbe CE light will already be back on. In your case, it's a couple of months before the code is thrown, (emission faults usually take longer to show up) but experience varies greatly between different makes and models... and age is definately a factor. You were probably able to make it back to the inspection station before the light came back on because the technology in your car is over 12 years old. Late models are not near so forgiving and most likely this method will be of little to no use.

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    ScottH89ErichS12

    Reply 3 years ago

    my 1999 Volvo is like that - it doesn't even run the EVAP test until a drive cycle - meaning drive 25-30 miles, shut down, cool off engine, start cold, drive ~25-30 miles without throwing any other CEL codes (!) Only THEN does it even test the EVAP system, and if that passes, all Ready codes are 'ready'.

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    JohnOnDaTown

    4 years ago

    Thank you very much for posting this very helpful information. I also checked out the video and it was extremely helpful. I own a 2010 Chevy Impala and I've had a check engine light for about a year now. The car drives with no problem but when I went to go do an inspection in the state of Delaware I failed. I try to do the right thing and take it to a mechanic he charge me $100 for the diagnostic and then informed me that all together it would cost about $724 to fix all the problems and get that check engine light off. This was very distressing as I am on a tight budget and didn't have that kind of money at this time. Also I don't really trust the mechanic being that I'm very new to this area and feel that it could be something as simple as a gas cap and he's just taking me for a ride. I'm going to get a new gas cap cuz I do need one and buy the cheapest scanner. I'll post the results. Wish me luck!

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    strock

    4 years ago

    Hello this is strock can you tell how to do drive cycle for chrysler 300m 2000 year

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    strock

    4 years ago

    Basically what u are saying complete a full drive cycle turn off check engine light you should be able to pass the inspection

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    ArabiG6

    4 years ago on Introduction

    sometimes it takes 300 miles to pass a drive cycle