How to Tell if Drive Cycle is Complete

As long as emissions or smog test is concerned, a complete drive cycle is paramount. Since you can either pass or fail emissions test, a complete drive cycle is what determines whether you’ll pass the test or not. Therefore, how do you tell if drive cycle is complete?

The best way to tell if a drive cycle is complete is by driving the car for 100 to 200 miles. Your drive cycle should be complete at the end of the 200 miles.

How To Tell if Drive Cycle is Complete

Below are the different methods through which you can tell that the drive cycle is Complete?

Method 1:

If your emissions test is in few days and you mistakenly disconnected your battery or did a jumpstart that may have reset your car’s computer, to tell if your drive cycle is compete, you need to drive for 100 miles to 200miles both on highway and in the city.

This method can be done correctly without the use of an OBD-II scanner.

  • Check your mileage after your battery is reconnected and write it down somewhere
  • Drive the car for few days both on expressway and in the city
  • Ensure to drive at both high and low speed
  • While driving, turn your radios, headlights, air conditioner on
  • You can drive for about 100 miles to 200 miles
  • Its better not conclude by driving the car in one day, drive the car at least 3 days.

Therefore, after driving for days and competed the 100 – 200 miles, your driving cycle should be complete.

However, if while driving and the car throws a code and illuminate a check engine warning light on your dashboard. You’re immediately urged to stop driving and fix whatever that caused the light to come on before starting another drive cycle.

Method 2

This method can be done with or without a scanner tool. Since you need to fix a check engine light problem, while doing so, tell the technician not to clear the code that may have caused the warning light to come on. Let him just scan the car, get the code/information he need to fix the car and start fixing the car without clearing the code.

After he’s done fixing the car, take it for a drive, continue driving your car until the check engine light goes off on its own. When this happens, you have completed your car’s drive cycle.

The light that goes off on your dashboard means that the self-diagnostic is complete and the car reads ready with no fault hence while the code cleared and the light disappeared.

Meanwhile, if perhaps during and after the repairs, the technician cleared the code that caused the warning light, you don’t need to worry. All you need to do is to follow the diving tips explained in the method above to have your driving cycle complete.

Also, if after driving for days and getting to 100-200 miles, if the check engine light did not come back on and no other warning lights graced your dashboard, it means your car is in good shape and you can go ahead with the emissions test.

How to Complete a Drive Cycle

The best way to compete a drive cycle is to:

  • Fix your car (if your car has no code or warning light, scan it to be sure it doesn’t have a stored codes)
  • You can decide to either clear the code or leave it (the code will either goes off on it on or stays on when the drive cycle is completed depending on whether the fault is fixed or not)
  • Buy a full tank before starting the drive cycle
  • Park your car for about 8 hours without unlocking or locking during the 8 hours. Just park it and let it sit on its own. You can just park it over night
  • The next day, after it has sit for 8 hours, start the car and let it idle for a while before driving out
  • When you drive out, turn on your heater, AC and radio on for a while before turning it off.
  • Ensure to drive both in the city and on the highway, driving for 25 mph to 45 mph, then to 55 mph for a while. On the highway, you can floor the car for a while and get to a good reasonable high speed.
  • Once you get to 200 miles, your drive cycle should be complete.

You’re recommended not to do this in one day. 3 days is better. If a new code comes up in the process, fix it and repeat the driving cycle until the car’s computer is free from any error code.

How Long Does it Take for a Car to Complete a Drive Cycle?

It depends on the type of car you drive and the way you drive it. It can take hours or days to compete a drive cycle. For a drive cycle to be complete, you must drive both in the city and on the highway and some speeds.

Therefore, I cannot give you a specific time since I don’t know the kind of car you drive. Moreover, considering the nature of the emission test, its better not to rush the drive cycle and do it the right way to avoid failing your test.


To tell if a drive cycle is compete depends on how long and how far you’ve driven your car and what happens while the car is being driven, whether you made a repair on the car or not.

Ensure to take the car for a drive on the highways and in the city for a few days and if after clocking 100-200 miles and no warning light comes up on your dashboard, you can proceed with the emission test.

However, if the warning light comes on, fix the issue(s) and repeat the driving process again to compete the driving cycle.