Becoming a Smog Check Inspector in California


Becoming a Smog Check Inspector in California

Auto mechanics are expected to meet some requirements before they can carry out emission tests on vehicles. In California, they must obtain the certification to do so by undertaking the necessary training. This training is a prerequisite for becoming a certified smog check inspector. It has a lot of advantages. Some auto mechanics have acquired the skill to run a smog check but lack the required training and certification, hence, they are regarded as a ‘roadside mechanic’. Certification improves your reputation and reliability on the job. It increases customer confidence at your smog test station and make you employable if you are pursuing a career in Auto Mechanics. In the automotive industry, technicians who are certified are paid a higher salary than the uncertified ones. Most importantly, only smog check stations with the required certification are approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV.

California state law requires all vehicles in the state to undergo a biennial emission test program in order to check the amount of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere. The smog check process is administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in the California Department of Consumer affairs through over 7000 state-licensed and private stations.


A certified smog check inspector is qualified to perform smog check inspection on vehicles and issue the smog check certificate. This must be performed in a Test-Only or Test-and-Repair station. Some smog check technicians perform diagnosis and repair to correct smog check failures.


An individual must pass a state administered exam to become a licensed Smog Check Inspector. Applicants must complete a Level 1 and Level 2 training and pass the exam within two years.

Level 1 training

Level 1 training is for candidates little or no prior knowledge of smog check. The training is administered for 68 hours in BAR-certified school. This training provides students with the basic knowledge of engine and emission control system required to properly conduct smog test inspections. Some candidates who have previous experience may skip Level 1 training. They include those who:

  • Possess ASE A6, A8, and L1 ASE certifications;
  • Possess an AA/AS degree or certification in Automotive Technology with a one year work experience;
  • Have completed BAR certified training and have two years of experience.

Level 2 training

Level 2 training must be completed by all applicants, experienced or inexperienced. The training lasts for 28 hours and covers all check procedures.


Applicants applying for renewal must complete a four hour BAR-certified update training.

Experience is now as important as the training in obtaining a smog check certification. BAR has made it mandatory for candidates to have a practical experience at an automotive repair shop experience.

Smog Check Repair Technician Certification

Some smog check inspectors diagnose and repair smog check failures. They are also called smog check Repair Technician. Smog check repairs must be performed by a licensed Repair Technician at a licensed Test-and-Repair or Repair-Only station.


An individual must pass a state administered exam to become a licensed Smog Check Technician. Candidates must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Possess certification in Electrical/Electronic systems, Engine Performance, and Advanced Engine Performance Specialist from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
  • Possess an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree or higher in an Automotive Technology from an accredited institution. This includes one year automotive repair experience in engine performance.
  • Possess a certification in automotive technology from any accredited institution. This includes one year automotive repair experience in engine performance.
  • Must successfully complete BAR Specified Diagnostic and Repair Training within the last five years and must possess a minimum of two years of experience in engine performance area.


Applicants for Smog Check Certification Renewal must possess any of the above qualification criteria and a proof of an update training from a BAR-certified training institution within the last two years.

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