What is a Smog Check? Answers to Questions about Smog Test, Smog Check, Cap, Check Engine Light

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What is a Smog Check?

A Smog Check is a computerized test that is performed with the vehicle’s a exhaust system and computer control system to determine how many pollutants, and of which type, the vehicle is emitting. All states have set emissions limits which vehicles cannot exceed. During a smog check, a device is connected to the tailpipe while the engine is run to determine the emissions of the car in idle and while being revved, which are measured against the state standard for that type of vehicle. The smog technician does a visual inspection and checks to make sure that the muffler is in working order, and usually opens the hood to make sure that all hoses and pipes are properly connected, and that the car’s internal computer is working properly. Some states have a biannual smog check program, while others require testing every year. Most states exempt certain vehicles from the smog check, such as vehicles more than thirty or less than five years old. Most states require a successful smog check to sell a vehicle, and will require a smog certificate before the title can be transferred.

What is the Smog Check Program?

The Smog Check Program is a vehicle emissions inspection program that is an important part of the State’s efforts to improve the quality of air we breathe. Smog Check inspections are designed to identify and either repair or retire high-polluting vehicles. Approximately 10 million vehicles are inspected each year under the program. The Smog Check Program has greatly reduced air pollution created by millions of cars in California. According to the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the program removes about 400 tons of smog-forming pollutants from California’s air every day.

Who administers the Smog Check Program?

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) administers the Smog Check Program. BAR licenses approximately 7,500 stations and about 21,000 technicians to perform Smog Check inspections and emissions-related repairs of vehicles.

What vehicles require a Smog Check?

Gas-powered vehicles, model-years 1976 and newer, including hybrid-powered 2000 and newer model-years, are subject to the Smog Check Program with the following exceptions: (1) the first six model-years are exempt from the biennial Smog Check requirement, and (2) the first four model-years are exempt from the change-of-ownership inspection requirement. Diesel-powered vehicles model-years 1998 and newer, with a gross vehicle weight rating up to 14,000 pounds, are subject to the Smog Check Program. There are no new vehicle exemptions for diesel vehicles as there are with gas vehicles. Other exempt vehicles include two- cylinder vehicles, electric powered vehicles, two-cycle-powered vehicles (not including rotary engines) and motorcycles.

Do you need a STAR Station Certified Smog Check or a Regular Smog Check?

Your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration renewal indicates whether your vehicle must be inspected at a STAR station.

What is a STAR station?

STAR stations are Smog Check stations that meet higher performance standards established by BAR. Some STAR stations are licensed to perform only tests, while others are licensed to perform both tests and repairs. The station is required to post a sign on the services it performs.

Why am I being sent to a STAR station?

State law requires that a percentage of vehicles have their Smog Check inspections performed at a STAR station. One reason may be that your vehicle was identified as being more likely than others to emit unhealthy levels of harmful pollutants. This may be true even though your vehicle may never have failed a Smog Check. Another possibility is that your vehicle was chosen as part of a random selection for Smog Check Program evaluation purposes.

Who is Responsible for Smog Check When Selling a Vehicle?

When a vehicle is sold or transferred in California, the seller is responsible for getting a smog certificate prior to completing the sale. When you bring a vehicle into California, the owner of the vehicle is required to get a smog certificate prior to registration and sale of the vehicle.

How often does my vehicle have to be tested?

Smog Check inspections are required biennially (every other year) on vehicles more than six model-years old. Additionally, a Smog Check is required if you sell a vehicle that is more than four model-years old and when registering an out-of-state vehicle for the first time in California.

How long does a Smog Check take?

The average Smog Check inspection takes about 20-30 minutes to complete.

What happens if the “Check Engine Light” is on?

If the Check Engine Light is on this usually means a bad thing is going on with the vehicle. If the check engine light is on most likely it will fail at inspection. It can be very costly to repair a failed smog check vehicle. However there are shops that provide a smog check diagnostics before the test is performed.

What If My Vehicle Fails the Smog Check?

In order to complete your registration, you will need to obtain the repairs necessary for the vehicle to pass a Smog Check retest. Before beginning repairs, you may want to find out if you are eligible for the Consumer Assistance Program. If there is a dispute about the results of your Smog Check inspection or if you would like a second opinion, contact the Referee Call Center at 800.622.7733 to schedule an appointment. The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) is administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) and is designed to help improve California’s air quality. A consumer may retire a qualified vehicle and receive $1000. Consumers meeting low income eligibility requirements may receive $1500. In addition, CAP provides qualified consumers who own a vehicle that cannot pass its biennial (every other year) Smog Check inspection up to $500 in financial assistance toward emissions-related repairs. You may be eligible for financial assistance from the government to retire or repair your vehicle.

How do I apply?

You must first submit an application. The CAP Application

If you apply for repair assistance, accepted for the program, you will receive an approval letter and a list of participating Smog Check Repair Centers you can take your vehicle for Smog Certified Repairs. If you apply for Vehicle Retirement If you qualify and is accepted for the program, you will receive an approval letter and a list of Contracted Dismantlement Centers in your area that you can go to and receive a check for the vehicle’s retirement. More Information About The Consumer Assistance Program .

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