What is a Smog Check, Anyway?
A smog check tests your car’s exhaust system to see how many pollutants your car is emitting, as well as the type of pollutants that are being emitted. Your car’s tailpipe will have a device connected to it that will measure the car’s emissions both while the vehicle is in idle, and while the engine is revved. The results are then compared to the state standard for your vehicle type. Your car’s muffler will also be checked to ensure that it is working properly, and typically the technician will look under your car’s hood to inspect the hoses and pipes, as well as the vehicle’s internal computer.
Is Every Car Required to Have a Smog Inspection?
Not every vehicle must have a smog inspection. You will not be required to have a smog check if your vehicle fits one of the following descriptions:
- It is a hybrid.
- It is a year 1975 model or older that is gasoline-powered.
- It is a year 1997 model or older that is either diesel-powered or has a Gross Vehicle Weight rating (GVWR) higher than 14,000 pounds.
- It is an electric vehicle.
- It is powered by natural gas and has a GVWR rating higher than 14,000 pounds.
- It is a motorcycle.
- It is a trailer.
How Often Do I Need to Get a Smog Check?
This depends. There are areas in the state that are part of the biennial smog certification program, and if your car is registered in one, you will need to provide evidence of a smog certification every other registration renewal period (every two years).
Other circumstances that change the frequency of required smog inspections include:
- Your car is six or fewer model years old: Instead of having smog checks, you will pay an annual smog abatement fee for the first six registration years.
- You transfer a vehicle that is four or fewer model years old: A smog certification will not be required in this instance. However, the car’s new owner must pay a smog transfer fee.
- This is not true for diesel-powered vehicles.
Your DMV Registration Renewal Notice will let you know if your car must have a smog check.
What Do I Do After My Smog Check?
Once you complete your smog check, your next move will depend on whether or not your vehicle passed the test. If your car passed the smog check, you can complete your vehicle registration. Your car’s test results will be sent to the DMV electronically.
If your car failed the smog check, you can do one of a number of things:
- Have your car diagnosed and repaired: This must be performed by a licensed smog check repair technician at a licensed smog check repair station. Once repairs are done, take your car to be re-tested at a smog check station.
- Use the Smog Check Referee Program to get a second opinion: This program can help you if you have any disputes from a smog check.
- Apply for financial assistance for your repairs: The Consumer Assistance Program can grant you up to $500 for emission-related repairs if you meet certain income eligibility requirements.
- Get a Repair Cost Waiver: If you’ve already had some repairs done to reduce emissions and are unable to afford more repairs to pass your smog test, you can use this option.
Apply for Vehicle Retirement: If you don’t believe that your vehicle is worth repairing, you have the ability to retire it from operation.