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Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

What New California Residents Need To Know About The Smog Test

Although 33 states require smog checks in vehicles, it seems to be a bigger deal in California than any other state. If you have just moved to the great state of California, you have probably already heard about the smog test that your car will need to pass. While smog tests can often be a hassle for any car owner, it can seem especially daunting when you are unfamiliar with the rules. Understanding the expectations and how to prepare for the smog test can help make sure you pass the inspection the first time.

Do You Have to Get a Smog Inspection?

There are certain vehicles that do not require a smog test for registration. These are mostly vehicles that are environmentally-friendly and diesel trucks that have no hope of passing but are necessary to keep the country running.  The vehicles that do not need to have a smog test include:

  • Motorcycles and trailers

  • Hybrid and electric vehicles

  • Natural gas vehicles that weigh more than 14,000 lbs

  • Diesel vehicles manufactured before 1997 and/or weighing more than 14,000 lbs

  • Gas vehicles manufactured before 1975

Also, new cars that are less than 6 years old can opt to pay a $20 smog abatement fee every year.

How Long Do You Have?

After you establish residency in California, you have 20 days to register your vehicle. If you fail to meet this deadline, you will have to pay late fees from $30 (less than a year) to $200 (more than 2 years) in addition to highway patrol fees if you happen to be pulled over and present an expired registration. However, before you can register your vehicle, you must pass the smog test. It is best to have the test conducted fairly quickly. This will give you time to fix any problems with your vehicle and have another test (or two) conducted before your registration time frame is up.

Also, don’t think you’re sitting pretty if you already have a passing smog inspection certificate from another state. California requires your vehicle to pass in their state, with their standards. After you successfully pass your first test and register your vehicle, you will be required to pass the smog test every two years.

What Happens During the Smog Test?

The smog test consists of two portions. The inspector will look for any blue or black smoke coming from the tailpipe during the visual test. Then the inspector will attach your vehicle to a smog check machine. Your vehicle will be tested for the levels of CO, NOx, and HC it emits. If the levels of emissions are within state guidelines for each of these compounds, you will receive a smog inspection certificate. If any of the levels are above the limits, your car will fail the inspection.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Car’s Chances of Passing?

If you don’t own one of the lucky few vehicles listed above that are exempt from the smog test, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of passing.

  1. Repair Your Vehicle First – If you suspect there is something wrong with your car or truck, bring it to a mechanic to have it checked out and fixed before you bring it in for a smog test. In addition, the smog technician may refuse to perform the test if the Check Engine or MIL light is on because this is an automatic failure. Taking your vehicle to a mechanic beforehand can save you an extra inspection fee and a lot of hassle.

  2. Drive It Before the Test – Take your car for at least a 20 minute drive before the smog test to warm up your engine. Your engine runs better and more efficiently when it is properly warmed.

  3. Pump Up the Tires – Part of the smog test usually requires driving your vehicle on a dynamometer, especially if the model year is before 1999. Equal pressure in the tires will improve the stability of the vehicle, which leads to improvement in the emissions output of your vehicle. In addition, try to avoid taking your vehicle in for the smog test on a rainy day. Although the smog machine can dry your tires before the test, any moisture that remains on the tires can reduce the stability of the vehicle on the dynamometer and affect the results. If you have a vehicle that might not pass, it may be best to reschedule for a sunny day.

  4. Get an Oil Change – Cleaner oil in your car could help reduce emissions. Change the oil before a smog test to get rid of contaminated oil. It will help you pass the test and avoid premature engine wear.

  5. Use Fuel Additives – Fuel additives can be poured into a vehicle’s gas tank when refueling. The additive cleans carbon deposits, allowing for free fuel and air flow. This improves combustion and leads to lower emissions.

Don’t leave your smog test to the last minute. Find a reputable station to perform your smog check and take your vehicle in well in advance of your registration deadline. If you prepare properly for the inspection and take good care of your engine, you should have nothing to worry about.

For more information, contact West Coast Smog or a similar company.

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