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Cheating the California Smog Check

This is a serious offense, both for the vehicle owner and the cheating smog station.

Not to mention, the act of obtaining a fraudulent smog inspection or smog check hurts our environment, and pollutes our air.

The risks far outweigh the benefit of passing the smog test without repairs. The money it costs to cheat the smog test should be used to repair the failing vehicle. This will ensure passing smog checks for years to come and be beneficially to you on the long run.

California requires smog checks every two years. Cheating is not the answer. Getting your vehicle properly repaired is.

Examples of Smog Check Fraud:

  • Clean Plugging - The illegal practice of obtaining engine computer data (OBD II Data) from a passing vehicle as a substitute for the actual vehicle being tested.

  • Clean Piping - The illegal practice of obtaining an emissions sample (tailpipe exhaust) from a passing vehicle as a substitute for the actual vehicle being tested.

  • Tach Simulator - The illegal practice of using an ignition pulse simulator to trick the smog machine into believing a vehicle is operating at the proper and passing RPM.

  • Manipulating Tests - Testing a vehicle improperly. i.e. overheated, underheated, over or under required dyno speeds, and fluctuating drive speeds during the smog test.

  • Use of Ethanol - The illegal mixing of gasoline with ethanol or methanol to ensure cooler combustion. These additives used regularly will damage rubber components within the engine. Using additives to keep your engine clean is not illegal. Using them to manipulate the smog test is.

Fines and Penalties Associated with Smog Check Fraud

Which Type Should I Choose?


For the consumer - A civil penalty of at least $150, but no more than $1,000, may be assessed to anyone who attempts to fraudulently obtain a smog check or inspection. This also applies to anyone who attempts to fraudulently obtain a vehicle repair or hardship waiver, or CAP assistance.

For the station owner - Fines and penalties for station owners can range between $5,000 to $250,000 depending on the amount of investigation time required by the Bureau of Automotive Repairs in order to bring up charges. Fines are almost always accompanied by the loss of the smog station's and smog technician's licenses. For less serious offenses, usually due to negligence or improper training, the first fine is $1000.00. Subsequent offenses double to $2000 and triple to $3000; and the requirement to attend training classes apply in each case.

In order for the Bureau of Automotive Repairs to ensure the best interest of the public, several times through out the year smog check stations are visited by undercover BAR agents.

If you are aware or suspect a smog station is conducting illegal smog checks or smog check fraud contact the BAR and report it.

To request a BAR Inspector to investigate your claim call the Bureau of Automotive Repair at 1.800.952-5210.