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Questions (and Answers)

Feel free to call us at (510) 262-0200 anytime if you have questions about your smog check. Hopefully we can answer some of your questions here in advance. If not, try our Resources and Links section.

Q: What are the environmental benefits of the smog check program?
A:
The smog check program has greatly reduced air pollution created by millions of cars in California. According to the California Air Resources Board, the program removes about 400 tons of smog-forming pollutants from California's air every day.

Q: Is my vehicle required to get a smog check?
A:
Your vehicle needs a smog check if it is more than six model years old and the model year is 1976 or newer. (This does not include motorcycles, electric and hybrid vehicles, and two-cylinder engine vehicles.) For more information from DMV on exceptions, click here. Starting in January, 2010, diesel-powered light-duty vehicles starting in model year 1998 also require smog inspection.

Q: What happens if my vehicle fails a smog check?
A:
You will need to make the necessary repairs to pass a smog check retest. At SMOG MAN, your retest is FREE of charge, with no expiration date. To avoid conflict of interest, we cannot provide technical information or advice in this area. We recommend that you call the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) toll free number at 800-952-5210. You may be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (also known as the old vehicle buy back program).

Q: How often does my vehicle have to be tested?
A:
Your vehicle must be tested every two years. A smog check is also required if you sell your vehicle and it is more than four model years old. Some vehicles may require a smog check at a STAR certified station.

Q: Why should I pay more than the cheapest price I can find?
A:
Bargain-basement pricing typically comes with bargain customer service and quality. By finding the lowest possible price for your smog check, you may also be finding a technician who will find a reason to fail you and then charge you again for a retest! A reasonable and fair price for a smog check buys you a fair assessment of your car and should get you a FREE RETEST as well. If you find a deal that's too good to be true, it is!

Q: What should I bring the day of my smog check?
A:
You should bring your DMV paperwork, your car, and any coupons for discounted service. The technician will handle everything else and let you know the outcome. Smog Man sends the results automatically to DMV, so there is no need for you to handle any additional paperwork. If you pass, you are ready to renew your registration.

Q: How can I help my vehicle pass a smog check?
A:
Performing proper and regular vehicle maintenance according to your owner's manual, and not tampering with the emissions control equipment are keys to passing smog check.

Here are some helpful tips for passing:

  • Make sure your "Check Engine" light is not on while the car is in operation; this would cause you to fail. Get it fixed before your smog check.
  • Make sure you do not change the engine oil just before your smog check, it can lead to elevated emissions levels. Consider getting your car smogged first, then changing the oil.
  • If your vehicle is shaking, vibrating, or rattling while stopped, or if it hesitates or loses power when accelerating, the underlying cause of this problem may cause you to fail. Get these problems fixed before your smog check.

Q: What is a Test-Only station? What is a Gold Shield Station?
A:
Test-Only and Gold Shield were designations of the older smog check program and were an attempt to avoid conflict of interest between stations that perform emissions inspections and stations that repair problems when an emissions inspectino fails. On January 1, 2013, the new STAR program superceded the Test-Only and Gold Shield designations. It is a performance-based program that attempts to use data analysis to determine the quality of individual smog check technicians and overall quality of smog check stations.

Q: What is the STAR program and how does it affect me?
A:
Starting January 1, 2013, the STAR program replaces the "test only" program for directed vehicles. Thus, all vehicles that previously could only be tested at a Test-Only or Gold Shield station (directed vehicles, gross polluters, etc) may now only be tested at a STAR certified station. For more information about the program from a consumer's perspective, see the Bureau of Automotive Repar page on the STAR program by clicking here.

Q: What is a gross polluter?
A:
Some vehicles that fail their smog inspections emit such high levels of pollution that a special category, called "Gross Polluter", was created in law to identify these vehicles and encourage their repair. Click here for more information.

Q: How will I know if I need to take my car to a STAR station?
A:
You will be notified on the registration renewal notice sent by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if your vehicle must be inspected at a STAR certified station.

Q: What is CAP and how do I qualify?
A:
The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) provides financial assistance to repair or retire a vehicle that fails a smog check.

Repair Assistance: If your DMV renewal notice requires a smog check at a Test-Only or Gold Shield station, you may qualify for up to $500 in repair assistance once you pay the first $100 in repair costs. You may also qualify if your income is within certain levels, regardless of where you got your smog check. If you qualify based on income, a $20 co-pay is all that you need.

Vehicle retirement: If you feel your car is not worth repairing, the State may buy the car from you for $1,000 and have it scrapped at a local dismantler.

You can download the CAP application (English), Programa de Assistencia al Consumidor (Spanish), or call (800) 952-5210.

Q: What (exactly) is involved in a smog check?
A:
There are many aspects to it and it depends a lot upon your car. Our licensed technicians are well trained and versed in these procedures. For all the details, click here.

Q: What makes and models of cars do you smog?
A:
We service all cars, including: Audi, Bentley, BMW, Mini Cooper, Bugatti, Caravan, Charge, Dakota, Durango, Cherokee, Pacifica, Ram, Sebring, Stratus, Viper, Wrangler, Ferrari, Ford, Crown Victori, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, F150, F250, F350, Focus, Freestyle, Grand Marquis, Mountaineer, Mustang, NAvigator, Ranger, Taurus, Thunderbird, Town Car, Zephyr, GM, Colorado, Corvette, Envoy, Equinox, Escalad, Grand Prix, GTO, Impala, Lacrosse, Limousin, Malibu, Montana, Monte Carlo, Rendezvous, Solstice, SRX, SSR, STS, Terraza, Trailblazer, Uplander, Vue, XLR, Daewoo, Honda, Accord, Civic, CRV, Element, Insight, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, S2000, Hyundai, Accent, Azera, Elantra, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tuburon, Tucson, Jaguar, Kia, Amanti, Optima, Rio, Sedona, Sorento, Spectra, Sportage, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lotus, Maserati, Mazda, MPV, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi, Eclipse, Endeavor, Galant, Lancer, Monter, Outlander, Nissan, Altima, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Titan, Sentr, Xterra, Porsche, Boxter, Carrera, Cayenne, Cayman, Rolls Royce, Phantom, Suzuki, Aerio, Grand Vitara, Toyota, 4 Runner, Avalon, Camry, Solara, Corolla, Highlander, Rav 4, Rav4, Scion, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacom, Yaris, Volkswagen, VW, Quattro, Golf, Jetta, Beetle, Passat, Phaeton, Rabbit, Touareg, TT, Volvo



License #: 028122 (Bureau of Automotive Repair)

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