Mechanics

Smog Test

Smog Test Information

Test Only - In order to comply with state law, the California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR) directs a portion of the vehicles registered in Enhanced Smog Check Areas to Test-Only stations. Enhanced Areas are those parts of the state with "serious," "severe," or "extreme" ozone pollution problems like oxygen sensors, Mass Air Flow Sensors, faulty spark plug wires, spark plugs and air filters .

What is a Test Only? - Test-Only facilities are licensed Smog Check stations that, by law, are only allowed to test cars; they cannot repair them. Any needed repairs must be performed elsewhere at either a Smog Check station designated as a Test-Repair or Gold Shield station. To learn more about the various station types, and what station best fits your Smog Check needs.

High Emitter Profile - The majority of vehicles directed to Test-Only stations are selected by application of the High Emitter Profile (HEP), which identifies the vehicles most likely to fail their Smog Checks. The High Emitter Profile (HEP) uses data from several different sources. Some of it comes from the state Vehicle Identification Database (VID), which collects data from each Smog Check performed in California. The VID is used by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), BAR, and other government agencies. In addition, general vehicle data such as make, model-year, vehicle miles traveled, and engine size help define the HEP. This information is used to determine which vehicles are most likely to fail their Smog Checks, especially at Gross Polluter levels--at least two times the emissions level allowed for a particular vehicle. No single factor identifies a vehicle for a Smog Check to be done at a Test-Only station. The data is weighted and vehicles selected using this computer profiling of vehicles most likely to fail their Smog Check. DCA/BAR has gradually increased the number of vehicles directed to Test-Only stations to meet the air quality improvement goals of the State Implementation Plan (SIP). The SIP is a blueprint outlining the methods California will use to meet federal air quality standards.

Two Percent Randomly Selected - As required by State law, two percent of the vehicles in the Enhanced Areas are also directed to Test-Only stations for their Smog Checks. These vehicles are selected randomly to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the Smog Check Program.

How Motorists are Notified - The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) notifies owners of vehicles that have been selected to have their Smog Checks performed at Test-Only stations. The registration Renewal Notice sent for these vehicles will say "Smog Certification Required at Test-Only Center".

Consumer Assistance Program - You may qualify for up to $500 in financial assistance to repair your car if it requires a Smog Check at a Test-Only station and failed that test.

Smog Check Station Types and Services

The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) licenses or contracts with several different types of Smog Check facilities. The various stations are designed to provide consumers with multiple options to meet their needs.

Test-and-Repair Stations

Test-and-repair stations are licensed by the state to provide Smog Check tests and repairs to most vehicles. Under current law, test-and-repair stations are prohibited from certifying repaired Gross Polluters or vehicles that have been directed to Test-Only stations for inspection. Only Test-Only stations and Gold Shield stations are able to certify repaired Gross Polluters.

Test-Only Stations

Test-Only stations are licensed by the state to perform only tests on vehicles. They are prohibited from performing any repair services. Gross Polluters can be certified at these stations. In addition, potentially high-polluting vehicles in the state's smoggiest regions are directed to these stations for their initial Smog Check inspection, as specified on the Department of Motor Vehicles registration renewal form.

Gold Shield Stations - Consumer Assistance Program

Gold Shield stations are licensed test-and-repair stations that have received additional certification by BAR. In addition to the services provided by regular test-and-repair stations, Gold Shield stations can certify vehicles identified as Gross Polluters. They can also perform the "after-repairs" certification of vehicles directed to Test-Only stations for an initial inspection, as long as the Gold Shield station has performed repairs to the directed vehicle. Gold Shield stations also contract with the Bureau of Automotive Repair to perform state subsidized emissions-related repairs on vehicles participating in the Consumer Assistance Program. Gold Shield stations located in the Basic program areas of the state can certify Enhanced area vehicles for new and used car dealers who purchase them and offer them for sale in the Basic and Change of Ownership program areas.

Consumer Assistance Program applicants - You must apply and be approved for Repair Assistance prior to going to a Gold Shield station for state subsidized repairs. If you are approved, you will receive a Letter of Eligibility to present to the Gold Shield station.

Gold Shield Stations - Change of Ownership Areas

Gold Shield stations are licensed test-and-repair stations that have received additional certification by BAR. Gold Shield stations located in the Change of Ownership areas of the state can certify vehicles identified as Gross Polluters and can certify Enhanced area vehicles for new and used car dealers who purchase them and offer them for sale in the Basic or Change of Ownership area. They do not perform repairs on vehicles participating in the Consumer Assistance Program.

Test Repair - Dealer Stations

Test Repair - Dealer stations are licensed test-and-repair stations located in the Basic program area that are also licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles as a New or Used Motor Vehicle Dealer. These stations are allowed to certify vehicles previously registered in the Enhanced program area prior to offering them for sale in the Basic program area, and are allowed to offer the same service to other local vehicle dealers. These stations are not allowed to certify Gross Polluters.

Referee Centers

Referee Centers are state-contracted facilities that handle special cases for consumers who own vehicles that need specialized inspection services. They perform a number of important functions for consumers, including: the certification of vehicles issued a Limited Parts Exemptions; grey market vehicles, specially-constructed vehicles, and vehicles with engine changes, verifying certain disputes between a station and consumer; issuing Smog Check repair cost waivers and hardship extensions; and helping resolve other Smog Check issues. To make an appointment at a Referee Center, call 1-800-622-7733.

Consumer Tips

As with other consumer products and services, it is always best to shop around for quality service that best meets your needs. Since market forces drive the price of a Smog Check and any related repair work, some stations may charge different prices than others. To determine what services a station provides, or for other information about the Smog Check program, please log onto the Smog Check website at www.smogcheck.ca.gov or call 1-800-952-5210.

Need to get your vehicle "smogged" to obtain your vehicle registration sticker? Vehicles seven years old need a Smog Check test every other year in order to re-register the car or truck with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles and to also help California reach its daily goal of removing an extra 100 tons of smog-forming emissions from the air.

The Automobile Club of Southern California recommends the following maintenance tips to ensure your vehicle is operating cleanly to pass the state-mandated Smog Check. The Auto Club offers Test-Only Smog Checks at its facilities in Los Angeles and Costa Mesa. Its 70 local offices issue vehicle registration stickers once your vehicle has passed the Smog Check. The Auto Club's Approved Auto Repair (AAR) Network has facilities that perform the test as well. To find our Test-Only centers, or to locate a repair facility in the AAR Network in Southern California.

AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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Article first published (Updated 2013-08-16)