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Smog Check Centers Prepare for New Tests, New Equipment; Test Procedures Go Into Effect in Fall

Consumers watching New Year’s Day football games or the Rose Parade likely missed that the state Bureau of Automotive Repair’s (BAR) Gold Shield Program for smog tests ended and its new STAR Program began under AB 2289.  The replacement STAR Program implements a faster, less expensive test procedure and establishes higher performance standards for smog testing facilities and technicians and aims to weed out facilities that may have fraudulently passed vehicles that subsequently were found to be polluting the air, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. 
The Air Resources Board and BAR sponsored the legislation after an independent review of the Smog Check program showed that 19 percent of vehicles that had passed station inspections subsequently failed emissions audits conducted by state officials. These changes should help California reach its daily goal of removing 380 tons of smog-forming emissions from the air.
Smog Check facilities have until late summer to install STAR Program equipment.  Then, about Sept. 1, Smog Check technicians will check the vehicle’s emissions by connecting a sensor to its On-Board Diagnostic System (OBD2) computer, a procedure that the Auto Club has advocated since the mid-1990s. The newer test eliminates the need for the current, costlier tailpipe emissions procedure.
Who is affected?

But what does this mean for motorists who need to get their vehicle “smogged” to obtain a green 2013 vehicle registration sticker from the Department of Motor Vehicles?  Beginning in fall, the test will change for 2000 and newer cars only. The test will require visual and OBD2 checks only, without the usual dynamometer test.  The new procedure will result in a faster and less expensive test. Then, two percent of these newer cars will be randomly selected to have tailpipe emission measurements done on the dynamometer as a “check” on the system. The 1999 back to 1976 model year cars will continue to be evaluated based on tailpipe exhaust emissions measurements and OBD checks for cars equipped with an OBD system.   The high error rate is supposed to be eliminated through the STAR performance standards, not the new test procedure, according to the BAR.
Vehicles less than six years old or model years 1975 and older are exempted from the biennial Smog Check.  A Smog Check is required by the DMV in most vehicle title transfers.
Find Auto Club Test-Only Centers 
Motorists can find STAR stations on the BAR web page and the Auto Club’s Approved Auto Repair (AAR) Network has facilities that perform the test as well.  To find the Auto Club’s Test-Only centers in Los Angeles and Costa Mesa, or to locate a repair facility in the AAR Network in Southern California, go to www.AAAcom.  Stations will also have new required STAR signs.  Auto Club branches can issue vehicle registration stickers once your vehicle has passed the Smog Check.
Under the Federal Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes health-based air quality standards that all states must meet. The California Clean Air Act also establishes requirements for cities and counties to meet. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) develops plans and regulations designed to achieve these public health standards by reducing emissions from business and industry while the California Air Resources Board watches over “mobile” emitters like cars and trucks.
10 Tips to Help Pass Smog Check
The Auto Club recommends maintaining your car or truck to ensure your vehicle is operating cleanly to pass the state-mandated Smog Check.  
“These tips are intended to ensure that vehicles that should pass the Smog Check test do so, and are not intended to “fool” the test equipment,” said Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center Manager Steve Mazor. “This information is especially important for teens, college students, retirees, telecommuters and others who are ‘short trip’ drivers and do not put a lot of miles on their vehicles.  If after following these tips your vehicle fails, then your vehicle needs a professional assessment of its emissions-related systems.”
Mazor recommends that motorists prepare for the smog test by following these 10 simple tips:
  1. Make sure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated. 
  2.  Make sure the “check engine” light or any other dash board warning lights are NOT on
  3. Make sure that your vehicle has no fluid leaks and no safety issues.  Remember, your vehicle will be strapped down on a dynamometer and required to perform flawlessly under stressful conditions.       
  4. Don’t change the size of the tires from the original specifications.  The dynamometer test equipment is calibrated to the “stock” tire size.  Over-or under-sized tires will alter the speed calculations performed by the test equipment and may prevent your vehicle from going through the test since the machine won’t sense the correct speed for your vehicles’ tire size.
  5. Make sure your vehicle has a clean air filter and fresh engine oil and do not disconnect the battering at least two weeks preceding the smog check. 
  6. Make sure your vehicle’s gasoline cap fits your vehicle, isn’t damaged and is turned tightly in place.  A vehicle without a gas cap is an automatic Smog Check test failure.
  7. The week of the Smog Check test, take the vehicle out for an extended drive, preferably on the freeway and especially if you’re regularly a ‘short trip’ driver.  Drive approximately 30 minutes or longer at varying speeds on freeways, surface streets and up hills.
  8. Fill the gas tank of your vehicle with the grade of fuel stated in the owner’s manual.
  9. Make sure all fluids are topped off and that all non-essential items are removed from the trunk or the rear of the vehicle.  The dynamometer weighs your vehicle before the test, and if the vehicle is heavier than it should be, the weight will make it harder to pass. 
  10. Drive at least 30 minutes before arriving at the Smog Check test facility to ensure the car or truck has reached full operating temperature.  Ask the repair facility, if they can perform the test within 15 minutes of your arrival.  This will let the vehicle return to normal operating temperature quickly.   
Remember to bring the DMV renewal notice with you to the facility.  The paperwork has a bar code on it that needs to be scanned for the Smog Check test.  If you don’t have the paperwork, the repair facility may charge you for the extra time it takes to input the vehicle identification number that they could pick up from the bar code.
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.