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Frequently asked questions

Q: My renewal notice says my car needs a Smog Check. But the car is out of state, and will not be back for many months. It's too far to bring it back to California for a smog inspection. Can I get the car smogged in another state and send the results here?

A: Unless your vehicle is in Nevada or Mexico, you need not bring it back to California in order to complete your registration. Do not obtain a smog inspection in another state; it will not be valid in California.  Simply fill out and sign DMV's "Statement of Facts" form (you need the free Adobe Acrobat reader to download and print this form). The registration tags will be mailed to wherever the car is currently located.

Q: For how long is a Smog Check certificate valid?

A: Section 44015 (e) of the California Health and Safety Code states that a Smog Check certificate of compliance or non-compliance is valid for 90 days.

Q: Who is responsible for obtaining a Smog Check when a vehicle is sold?

A: Section 24007 (b)(2) of the Vehicle Code states 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: I recently smogged my vehicle; now I'm selling it. Do I need to smog it again?

A: According to Section 4000.1 (d)(1) of the California Vehicle Code, a car which has had a Smog Check and received a certificate of compliance in connection with an annual registration does not need to be smogged again when sold if the sale date is within 60 days of the registration renewal date.

Q: I bought a car but did not get a smog certificate. Now I need expensive repairs in order to register the vehicle. What should I do?

A: Contact the seller to see whether that person will work with you on repairs. If they are not willing to help you resolve the problem, your option is to pay for the repairs yourself and then attempt to recover those costs in court.

Q: Why am I being sent to a Test-Only station? My car has never failed Smog Check.

: Your car was most likely picked up in the High Emitter Profile. Even though it may never have failed before, it has been identified through a computer-based selection process as a vehicle which is likely to be emitting unhealthy levels of harmful pollutants. Or, it could be part of the 2 Percent Random Selection Program, which is required by state law.

Q: I have a motorhome. Is it safe to smog it on the dynamometer? What should I do?

A: Any vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR; fully loaded weight) of 8500 pounds or more is excused from dynamometer testing. Your Smog Check technician will be able to give any such vehicle the two-speed idle test. Some motorhomes with a GVWR of less than 8500 pounds still may not be safe for dynamometer testing. If your Smog Check technician decides he or she cannot safely test your motorhome on the dynamometer, they should write that on your invoice. Then, call the Referee Scheduling Center at 800-622-7733 and make an appointment at the nearest Consumer Assistance and Referee Center. Bring your invoice. The referee will be able to give you the two-speed idle test.

Q: When will my post-1974 model year vehicle become exempt from Smog Check?

A: 1974 and subsequent model year vehicles will be exempt from Smog Check when they turn 30 years old, starting in 2003. Many 1974 model vehicles were built in 1973; however, the Smog Check exemption is based on model year, not date of manufacture, so these vehicles are not currently exempt.

Q: I have a vehicle that is four model years old or newer. My DMV registration renewal notice says it must have Smog Check, but I thought it was exempt from the biennial Smog Check requirement.

A: It is excused from its biennial Smog Check until it is five model years old. DMV computers will recognize the exemption and process your renewal accordingly. These cars must be smogged prior to a change of ownership, however.

Q: Why isn't my 1995 vehicle exempt? It's less than five years old.

A: Again, the exemption is based on model year. Currently, the model years excused from the biennial Smog Check requirement under are: 1999, 1998, 1997 and 1996.

Q: I'm planning to register my vehicle as non-operational this time around. Do I still need a Smog Check?

A: No, the Smog Check is only for operational vehicles. However, if you miss your biennial Smog Check while the vehicle is non-operational, you will be required to get a smog inspection prior to bringing the vehicle back to operational status.

Q: It seems like Smog Checks are more expensive now. Why can't BAR lower the price?

A: The Bureau of Automotive Repair does not set the price of Smog Checks. Smog Check stations are privately owned and operated businesses, and as such, determine the fees for their time and expertise based on free-market forces. As with many other things, it pays to shop around for your Smog Check. You can search our list of Active Smog Check stations by city or ZIP code to find a station near you.

Q: Why is my car being tested on new smog equipment?

A: The new equipment and the new test, which is performed under simulated driving conditions, is required by state law in the state's smoggiest regions (Enhanced Areas) in order to meet federal clean air standards. The new equipment tests for oxides of nitrogen (NOx), an important smog-causing compound. The old equipment did not test for NOx.

Q: What is an Enhanced Area?

A: An Enhanced Area is one which has been designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an area which does not meet federal health standards for ozone.

Q: Why are Smog Check stations using the new equipment to conduct the old two-speed idle test?

A: Not all vehicles are compatible with the new dynamometer. Vehicles with full-time four wheel drive, with non-disengageable traction control, or with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of greater than 8,500 pounds do not go on the dynamometer.


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Copyright 1999 [Smog]. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 25, 2000.