Check Engine stock

(Stock/Chris Isherwood)

Cache Valley drivers who’ve been ignoring a check engine light or certain other car trouble may qualify for some help from a local problem.

The Bear River Health Department will host an informational clinic, inviting car owners to learn more about the program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 2 and 9 a.m. to noon May 3.

“We host these clinics as a way for interested individuals to stop by and learn about how we can help them,” said Joshua Greer, BRHD’s environmental health supervisor. “However, we offer the same program year-round and can make an appointment at any time.”

Since rolling out its Repair and Replace assistance program for Cache and Franklin counties in 2017, BRHD has helped to repair an estimated 500 vehicles and has replaced 80 cars for residents whose vehicles fail to pass the emissions test.

The Repair and Replace program is funded with nearly $2.5 million in grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency. Qualifying individuals can receive up to $1,000 in repairs or $5,000 for a replacement vehicle if they meet certain criteria.

First, the car in question must be registered to an individual who has lived in Cache County or Franklin County for the last 12 months. The vehicle doesn’t need to be registered in those counties, but the individual must prove that they live in the area and that the vehicle is used here. This allows students who may have come from another state to qualify.

Second, the applicant must meet federal poverty guidelines.

Greer said that if a vehicle’s check engine light is on, the individual will probably qualify as long as they meet the other requirements.

“With most newer cars, that check engine light is an indicator that something is wrong, and they probably aren’t going to pass the emissions test,” Greer said.

The Bear River Health Department has diagnostic equipment that can hook up to the computer in almost any car, even when a mechanic cannot.

Cars that are from 1996 or newer qualify for a voucher to help with repairs. Cars that are from 2003 or older qualify for a voucher to help cover the cost of replacing the vehicle.

“If a car fails the emission test and is in between 1996 and 2003, the registered owner has the option of either repairing or replacing their car,” Greer said.

After a person qualifies and receives a voucher from the health department, they can go to a certified dealer and pick out a car. After the sale, the dealers send BRHD the required paperwork and they send them a check.

Greer said that he hopes the program continues to help another 1,000 to 2,000 people.

“While we are concerned about the air quality in Utah, ultimately a better-maintained car is going to last longer, have less pollution, have less wear on the roads and work better for the owner,” Greer said. “Anyone who thinks they might qualify should come in as soon as possible to take care of their cars.”