Government programs and services
Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)
What is Smog?
Smog is a kind of air pollution produced when sunlight interacts with hydrocarbons, nitrogen compounds, and other gases in automobile exhaust. Ozone is a toxic gas and is one of the main pollutants that create photochemical smog.
Photochemical smog is unhealthy to the human lungs. It irritates the lungs and may cause cancer.
The California Smog Check Program:
Any vehicle made in 1976 and later needs to participate in the biennial (every two years) smog check program. The smog check program tests vehicles and makes sure that any vehicle that fails gets repaired at a smog test and repair station. Any vehicle that is not required to get a smog check will instead pay a smog abatement fee. There is a six year exception which doesn't apply to nonresident (previously registered out-of-state) vehicles that are being registered in California for the first time. 1998 and newer diesel vehicles will need to participate in the smog check program as well. A Smog Check is not required for electric, hybrid, diesel powered manufactured before 1998 or weighing over 14,000 lbs, motorcycles, trailers or gasoline powered vehicles 1975 or older.
Counties that require vehicles to get a smog check are:
Alameda, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo, Yuba
What is a Smog Test Only station?
Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair directs a portion of the vehicles in the state of California to Test only or Gold Shield stations.
These vehicles are called Directed Vehicles. Enhanced Areas smog check programs are those parts of the state with "serious", "severe", or "extreme" ozone pollution problems.
A test only facility is a smog station that only tests vehicles. They are prohibited from doing any smog repairs.
California directs two percent of its vehicles to test only facilities.
Most of the 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.
What is the Star Smog Check Program?
Starting Jan, 2013 all the directed vehicles will have to be certified by either a Star Smog Test Only or a Star Smog Test And Repair station. Instead of testing a vehicle's tailpipe for emissions, technicians will only have to connect their smog machine to the OBD connector located in the vehicle. The vehicle will pass as long as there are no Diagnostic Trouble Codes, monitors are ready, and the vehicle passes the visual part of the smog check. Vehicles with model years 2000 or newer will be tested in the new way. Older vehicles and those that have higher emissions will still undergo tailpipe inspections, but the state will allow only the highest-performing stations to perform the tests.
The Department of Motor Vehicles will refer drivers to STAR-certified stations when they renew their vehicle registration. Consumers can go to the BAR website to find star approved smog stations. The Gold Shield Program will no longer exist and star test and repair stations will be able to repair and test directed vehicles.
What is the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP), how to qualify and apply for it?
The Consumer Assistance program is run by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) and is made to better California air quality. By CAP, a person may retire their vehicle and get up to a $1,000 Dollars or $1,500 Dollars if he or she meets certain income and eligibility guidelines. CAP helps qualified people who own a vehicle that has failed a biennial smog check up to $500 dollars in emission related repairs. Not everyone can qualify for the emission related repairs assistance. You have to own your vehicle for at least a year and meet income eligibility requirements.
Visit the bar website at smogcheck.ca.gov or 800-952-5210 for a CAP application. Applications take 30 days to process and the applicant will receive a letter when approved.