Smog Check Process in California
In an effort by the state to improve the quality of air intake, Vehicles in California undergo a mandatory smog check every two years at locations approved by DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) in every county to identify and repair those with excess emissions. This is a pre-requisite required for vehicle registration and renewal after an initial inspection for both new and old residents whether or not they have been certified from their previous states. The smog check process is administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in the California Department of Consumer affairs through over 7000 state-licenced and private stations) and has indeed greatly reduced air pollution emitted from millions of cars in California.
New residents are allowed 20 days after their residency has been granted to carry out a smog check. They must present a smog check certificate before their vehicles are registered. First the DMV demands for the Vehicle Identification Number, with which one may look up a vehicle test history. Smog certification is valid for 90 days upon inspection for old residents, within this period they must register their vehicle or renew their registration. On completion of initial smog check, re-certification is mandated every 2 years and the time due for next smog check is indicated on the registration or renewal reminder. A Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) is given at the smog stations on to indicate a pass or failure after completing the smog test. A failure code during emission check will result to a failure in a vehicle’s smog inspection. A vehicle required by the state to be checked for smog is called a Directed vehicle. Smog checks are performed at stations called STAR certified stations which must meet the standards certified by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).
3 checking process
The California smog checking process consists of three basic processes in the order listed below. A vehicle must pass all the three test processes to pass the California smog check.
Enhanced Smog Test
The processes listed above is the Basic Smog Check required for counties in California with a low smog pollution, this test is done at idle and 2500 rpms. However, a process proven to be more accurate in checking vehicle emissions called the Enhanced Smog Test is required in counties recorded to have higher smog pollution. In this process, the smog machine collects emissions from the exhaust as the vehicle is driven on a Dynamometer.
Change of Ownership areas
There are counties with lesser air pollution. In these counties called ‘Change of Ownership’ areas, vehicles required to undergo smog test are those imported into California with the exception of those produced according to California certification.
Smog Check Requirements
The following categories of vehicles are exempted from the biennial smog check:
Inspection centres are positioned across the states to assist vehicle owners solve issues related to smog checks which are not available at the stations. Referees resolve issues such as:
New Smog Check Technology
A new technology was legislated in 2010 (AB 2289-Eng) to improve on the traditional smog check program. It is a computer-based smog test which uses the diagnostics capabilities of a vehicle’s computer system to determine vehicle’s emission instead of the long existing tailpipe test. It uses information gathered from the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system to check if a vehicle’s emission system is working properly. This new technology performed alongside a visual inspection of emission control components is applicable to most diesel-powered vehicles model-year 1998 and newer, gasoline cars that are model-year 2000 and newer as well as hybrid vehicles. In addition, most 1996 and newer vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating less than 14,000 pounds have in-built second-generation OBD systems (OBD II). Another important advantage of OBD II is that it monitors the emission control system of a vehicle and alerts the driver of any defect arising from increased a pollution.
Types of Smog Stations
STAR Stations are smog check stations that meet the specified performance standard established by BAR. Directed vehicles and gross polluters must receive certification from a STAR-certified station as often recommended by BAR or as indicated on the registration renewal issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. While some star stations are licenced to perform tests and repairs (Test-and-Repair Stations), some are licenced to perform only tests (Test-Only Stations), and others only repairs (Repair-Only Stations). A vehicle can be checked for smog at any smog station unless it is required to a check at a STAR station.
At the Smog station
Before a vehicle is checked for smog at a station, a Registration Renewal Notice from the DMV and a payment method must be presented.
To identify a vehicle, an Inspector first input the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and/or Licence plate number following the (Emissions Inspector System) EIS or OIS prompts to verify that the VIN shown on the registration document matches the VIN on the vehicle. It is prohibited to enter any VIN for any vehicle other than the one being tested.
In performing a Smog Check, a device connected to computers at BAR is connected to the vehicle by a licenced inspector. If the test is successful, a test result called Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) is issued to the vehicle owner and also transferred electronically to the DMV.
If the test was conducted for the purpose of renewing a registration, this can be proceeded at the DMV. However, if a vehicle fails a smog test, the following actions can be taken by the vehicle owner: