California Smog Law: The Basics

Smog testing in San Diego by Speedy Smog

Speedy Smog, a test-only smog testing station, offers the lowest discounted prices for smog check services on vehicles of any type, including diesel and gross polluters. Serving La Mesa, El Cajon, and San Diego counties, we can also transfer any vehicle title and register any vehicle.

At Speedy Smog, we can:

  • Smog test any vehicle, and if it fails, we will re-test it for free.
  • Smog test vehicles of any gas type, including diesel.
  • Register any vehicle that requires registration.
  • Transfer titles from any vehicle.

California Smog Law Basics

The California Smog Check Program requires vehicles manufactured in 1976 or later to get a smog check every two years. With only a few exceptions, gas-powered cars, hybrid cars, and alternative-fuel vehicles that are eight model-years old or newer are not required to participate.

If you are selling a vehicle over four years old in California, you must have a smog check performed. It’s the responsibility of the seller to get the smog certificate before the sale. If the vehicle is registered in California and was acquired from a family member (specifically a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild), it is exempt.

Smog checks are not required for electric, diesel-powered, or vehicles manufactured before 1998 or weighing over 14,000 pounds, trailers, motorcycles, or gasoline-powered vehicles 1975 or older.

Selling Vehicles and Smog Checks

It’s unlawful and dangerous to try and sell a vehicle without a smog certificate. Should you try and sell without a smog certification, the Department of Motor Vehicles will inform the buyer that the registration is not valid and needs a smog certificate. If the vehicle fails smog certification, the buyer will either ask you to repair it to pass smog tests or ask you to take the vehicle back. Buyers have every right to pursue litigation if they are sold a vehicle without a valid smog check.

If you are selling a vehicle, it is easier to go ahead and get the smog certification before trying to sell.

What if My Vehicle Fails?

It’s important to understand that you cannot complete your car registration process without passing a smog certification. Before you rush to make necessary repairs, find out if you are eligible for the Consumer Assistance Program.

If there’s a dispute about your failed check, or if you’d like a second opinion, contact the Referee Call Center at 800-622-7733 to schedule an appointment. If you meet low-income eligibility requirements, you may receive $1500 toward necessary repairs. Also, Consumer Assistance provides qualified consumers who own a vehicle but cannot pass its Smog Check inspection up to $500 in financial aid for emissions repair.

The Consumer Assistance Program, administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair, is designed to improve California’s air quality.

In March of 2015, a new California rule was passed that states if a car has a mismatched catalytic converter, it cannot pass smog checks. Even if the vehicle is working correctly, and the same vehicle has passed smog checks successfully in the past, it will not pass now with mismatched catalytic converters. Be sure to check to ensure the converter installed is the original.

If your vehicle fails the smog check, don’t panic! Take our failed inspection report to the DMV or AAA. Pay the registration fees and receive an extension so you can legally drive the vehicle while you get the necessary repairs completed.

Tips for Preventing Smog Check Failure

It’s always easier to have your vehicle checked out before you fail a smog check. There are several precautions you can take on your own to be sure you’re in good shape for the test. A trusted mechanic should be able to give you some confidence before you come for the test.

  • Check your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule provided. Regular oil changes, air, oil, and fuel filter changes are an essential part of upkeep.
  • If your check engine light comes on, that’s a symptom of a problem. If your check engine light is on when you come in for the smog check, your vehicle will fail. If your vehicle is a 1996 model or older, there is a high probability the Smog Check will let you know what’s causing the problem.
  • In order to prevent gasoline vapors from escaping, the gas cap must be sealed tightly. If the gas cap is leaking, it will cause a smog test failure. The smog test has to be repeated even if the vehicle passes all other parts of the test. Check your gas cap before you come in to take the test. If the gas cap is cracked or damaged, replace your cap before you come in for testing.
  • If you have installed aftermarket parts, they must have a California EO (executive order) sticker. The sticker ensures that part has been approved for that particular year, make, and model vehicle. If you don’t have a sticker, and it’s not permanently attached somewhere on your vehicle, your vehicle will fail the visual portion of the test.
  • Do not replace your PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) hoses with heater hose material. Heater hose material crimps easily and is not suitable for long periods. The only acceptable substitute for an original equipment PCV hose is a fuel line.
  • Be sure to perform a monitor reset on your vehicle if you’ve had work performed on the vehicle that involved disconnecting the battery. Driving the car 60-80 miles will reset the on-board computer. If you’re not sure, ask us to check your monitors before we test.

Don’t lose time in long testing lines, with your tension and frustration mounting while you wait. There’s a reason we’re named Speedy Smog! We know your time is valuable. We won’t waste it!

If you have questions, our experienced technicians can help. Get that “to-do” checked off your list today, and come see us at Speedy Smog on El Cajon Boulevard in La Mesa.