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Does My Car Need a Smog Check?

Smog inspections are generally required during a vehicle's initial registration in California and once, every two years, thereafter. This inspection cycle will continue for as long as the vehicle is registered in this State.

The Smog Check Program applies to 1976 and newer passenger vehicles and trucks powered singly or in combination by:

  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Diesel
  • Methanol / Ethanol fuels

Smog Inspections are also required anytime a vehicle is sold or bought in California. During a title transfer the Department of Motor Vehicles will not allow a vehicle to be registered unless it is presented with a valid smog certificate. There are special testing procedures for vehicles, which are classified as "Gross Polluters". These include Test Only and State Referee inspections. If your vehicle requires a Test Only or Referee inspection, your DMV paperwork will advise you of it. Prepare your smog check checklist ahead of time. Preparing is the key.

1975 & Older - Effective 04/01/05: Under the old law, 1975 and subsequent model year vehicles became exempt from Smog Check when they turned 30 years old. A 1976 model year vehicle was exempt in 2005, a 1977 in 2006, etc. Under the new law... commenced April 1, 2005, exempt from smog check requirements are any motor vehicle manufactured prior to the 1976 model year. All vehicles 1976 and newer vehicles will be tested according to state emission law. This law repeals the 30-year rolling exemption.

6 Yrs & Newer - Effective 01/01/05: Will expand the model-year smog check exemption to include motor vehicles 6 or less model years old, unless ARB (Air Resource Board) determines that including the 5th and 6th model-year vehicles in the exemption would prohibit the state from meeting the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

Exempt: Still exempt from the State of California Smog Check program are:

  • Hybrid powered motor vehicles
  • 2 wheel motorcycles
  • Diesel cars & trucks (1997 & older)
  • Diesel trucks (over 14,500 GVW)
  • Motor vehicles w/ 1 or 2 cylinders
  • 2-stroke engines(excluding rotary)
  • Engines under 819cc
  • 1975 model year vehicles and older
  • 6 model years old (except for initial registration in California or change of ownership)

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Diesel Smog Check - Effective 01/01/2010: All Diesel vehicles, cars and trucks 1998 and newer, and weighing under 14,500 GVW will need a diesel smog check. The diesel smog test will not include the emissions test portion of the regular inspection. There will be no tailpipe emissions test. Dynamometer testing will not be part of the diesel smog check inspection. Your vehicle will not be driven on the dynamometer during the diesel smog check. Instead the Diesel smog check will focus on a visual inspection of your vehicle's emissions/smog components, a system check of the On Board Diagnostics (OBD II) system, a visual smoke check for excessive black smoke, and an EVAP functional test. Diesel cars and trucks which fail the diesel smog test will have their vehicles repaired at a diesel repair shop.

Hybrid Vehicles (HEVs) Exempt From Smog Test: A hybrid electric vehicle is defined as any passenger vehicle that uses an electric motor as a part of its propulsion system, as well as an internal combustion engine.

Currently Hybrid-Electric vehicles are exempt from only the initial biennial and change-of-ownership smog test inspections. The emissions performance of HEVs cannot be accurately determined by the current emissions test process. California is developing new testing procedures. Once these procedures are developed, Hybrid Electric cars and trucks may be required to get tested. Some HEV models are also built as non-hybrids. For example the Tahoe, Camry, Civic, and Escape. Only the hybrid model of these vehicles are exempt from the smog check process.

The following HEV's are exempt from initial "biennial" and "change of ownership" smog inspections until further notice.

  • Chevy Hybrid Tahoe – all years
  • Honda Insight – all years
  • Honda Civic Hybrid – all years
  • Lexus Hybrid RX, GS, LS – all years
  • Toyota Prius – all years
  • Toyota Hybrid Camry – all years
  • Toyota Hybrid Highlander – all years

Some currently manufactured HEV's are not designed to allow the internal combustion engine to operate in modes which would allow the loaded or idle type of Smog Check testing. These vehicles currently receive an exemption certificate at the Referee. The Referee will not perform a Smog Check inspection on these vehicles, but only verify them as hybrids.

BAR and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) have recently automated the exemption process for all HEVs identified to BAR by the manufacturers. More HEVs will be added to the exemption list as information to identify these vehicles is received by Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).

Some owners of newer model HEVs may receive registration renewal notices from the DMV before information to identify them as hybrids are received by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. They should contact a DMV office at (800)777-0133 to complete their registration without a Smog Check certificate.

  

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