Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Cohen Sends Governor Haslam Letter on "Check Engine" Light Issue

March 14, 2012
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) today sent a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam outlining his concerns with the “check engine” light issue and asking the Governor to work with him to resolve this problem. The letter is a continuation of Congressman Cohen’s effort to resolve the ongoing problem where vehicles in Memphis fail their emissions test due to an illuminated “check engine” light.

“Between the stories I have heard from my constituents and my own experience with the emissions testing, I believe the program is deeply flawed,” Congressman Cohen said.  “Because the State voluntarily decided to implement this program, I have asked Governor Haslam to work with me to either eliminate it or significantly change it.   While I believe we all have a part to play in protecting our air, it is inexcusable that hard-working Memphians have to shell out hundreds of dollars for repairs that will have limited if any emissions reductions benefits.” 

After failing the emissions test as a result of an illuminated “check engine” light, Congressman Cohen received several diagnostic examinations and even underwent the traditional tailpipe emissions test, which he passed.   Despite registering zero emissions on the tailpipe test, Congressman Cohen is saddled with $800 repairs in order to pass inspection.  In the letter, Congressman Cohen tells Governor Haslam that while he can afford the repairs, many of his constituents are far less fortunate and cannot afford to pay for these expensive and unnecessary repairs. 

The Clean Air Act of 1970 requires that gasoline-fueled vehicles of model year 1996 or later be equipped with onboard diagnostics (OBD) systems in order to monitor and identify defective emissions-related components and other system malfunctions that might lead to an increase in harmful emissions. The State of Tennessee elected to incorporate OBD testing instead of tailpipe emissions testing in its statewide vehicle inspections requirement for participating counties and municipalities.

Under the OBD-II standard, the ‘check engine’ light corresponds to a four-digit trouble code which can only be determined with the use of a special code reader device. Trouble codes are classified according to whether they are related to problems with the engine and transmission, the vehicle body, the vehicle chassis, and the OBD computer network. All four of these classifications of trouble conditions will cause the “check engine” dashboard indicator light to activate, resulting in a failed vehicle inspection.

A copy of the letter to Governor Haslam is attached.