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Frequently Asked Smog Check Questions    

First, always feel free to call us at (209) 933-9999 anytime if you have any questions.

Q: How often does the DMV require Smog Inspections?

A: The DMV requires smog inspections biennially. Some vehicles in rural areas are only required to complete a smog inspection during a Change-of-Ownership. To determine the type of Smog Check Program you are in, call the Bureau of Automotive Repair at (800) 952-5210.

Q: How about Diesel vehicles?

A: Diesel vehicles 1998 and newer, and weighing under 14,500 GVWR will need a smog check.

Q: What are the differences between Test-Only smog inspections and regular smog inspections?

A: Test-Only stations can only test vehicles and are not allowed to perform smog related automotive repairs. A Test-Only station’s main obligation is to insure a non-bias and accurate smog inspection. The State of California uses the following three strategies to determine designation:

  1. Gross Polluters (vehicle fails with very high emission readings) 
  2. High Emitter Profile vehicles 
  3. A random sample

Q: What is a STAR Station?

A: The new STAR Program begins Jan 1,2013 and will replace the Gold Shield and Test Only program. STAR stations are licensed Smog Check stations that meet higher performance standards established by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. State law requires that a percentage of vehicles have their Smog Check Inspection performed at a STAR station.

Q: What is an “EVAP” test?

A: The Low Pressure Evaporation Test(LPET) checks your vehicles fuel evaporative system is not leaking gas fumes. It is required on vehicles 1995 and prior(some models are exempt). 

Q: My vehicle’s ”Check Engine” light is illuminated, will I fail the Smog Inspection?

A: The Check Engine light being constantly illuminated is an automatic Smog Check failure. 

Q: I want to add on an aftermarket performance product. Will I pass my Smog Check?

A: Aftermarket performance products MAY not be authorized for California street use. Any legal product will have an Executive Order number from the Air Resource Board(ARB) that corresponds with your make and model of vehicle.

Q: How can I help my vehicle pass a Smog Check?

A: Performing proper and regular vehicle maintenance according to your owner’s manual are keys to passing a Smog Check.

Q: Is my vehicle required to get a Smog Check ?

A: It all depends on your situation:
*Registration Renewals – Your vehicle needs a Smog Check if it is more than six model years old.
*Buying/Selling – If you are buying or selling a vehicle , a Smog Check is needed if it is more than four model years old.
* Out of State Vehicles- Out of state vehicles being registered in California require a Smog Check regardless of year.

Q: Does my vehicle qualify for a Smog Exemption?

A: Smog inspections are required unless your vehicle is:
*Hybrid *Gasoline powered 1975 year model or older *Diesel powered 1997 year model and older with a GVWR of more than 14,000lbs *Electric *Natural gas powered with a GVWR of more than 14,000lbs *Motorcycle *Trailer

Q: I am buying or selling a vehicle, who is responsible for the Smog Check?

A: It is the responsibility of the seller to provide a valid smog certificate at the time of delivery of the vehicle. There is no provision in the law to sell a vehicle “as is”.

Q: What should I take to the Smog Check Station?

A: If you are renewing your registration, you only need the vehicle, your DMV registration renewal notice and a method of payment.

Q: What happens during a Smog Check?

A: The licensed inspector will connect testing equipment to your vehicle. The equipment is connected to computers at the Bureau of Automotive Repair. If the vehicle passes the test , the vehicle information and test results are transmitted to the DMV and you will be provided with a receipt and copy of the test, known as a Vehicle Inspection Report(VIR). Smog certifications are good for 90 days from date of issuance.

Q: What if my vehicle fails the Smog Check?

A: If your vehicle fails the Smog Check you can : *Have it diagnosed and repaired at a licensed repair facility *Apply for financial assistance for emissions-related repairs from the Consumer Assistance Program(CAP) *Seek a repair cost waiver through the Referee Network if you cannot afford repairs * Apply for Vehicle Retirement thru the (CAP) up to $1500 at a State approved dismantler.

Q: A family member gave me a car. Is a Smog Inspection required?

A: If you acquire a vehicle currently registered in California from a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild, you are entitled to an exemption.

Q: I am buying a vehicle from Out-of-State, will it pass California Smog Check?

A: There is a difference with California legal and Federal legal emission requirements. A vehicle which is equipped with at least the Federally required emission components, will pass a California Smog Inspection as long as the vehicle’s exhaust emissions fall within California’s limits.