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Smog Test Questions

First, always feel free to call us at (925) 356-6858 anytime if you have any questions.  But hopefully we can answer some of your  smog test frequently asked questions here:

Q: Is my vehicle required to get a Smog Test?
A: It depends on your situation:

  • Registration Renewals – Your vehicle needs a Smog Check if it is more than six model years old, but newer than 1976 (i.e., in 2009, model years 1976 – 2003 must be smogged).  This does not include motorcycles, some hybrid models, and two-cylinder engine vehicles.
  • Buying/Selling – If you are buying or selling a vehicle, a Smog Check is needed if it is more than four model years old. 
  • Out of State Vehicles – Out of state vehicles being registered in California requires a Smog Check regardless of model year.

Q: What is an “EVAP” Test?
The Low-Pressure Evaporation test checks for leaks between your engine and the gas tank.  Started in December 2007, it is required by the State of California for vehicles 1995 and prior (some models are exempt).  For the official FAQ provided by the State’s Bureau of Automotive Repair, click here.

Q: How about Diesel vehicles?
A: Starting on January 1, 2010, diesel vehicles 1998 and newer, and weighing under 14,500 GVW will need a smog check.  The procedures will be different, but we have been trained to perform diesel smog checks.

Q: What are the environmental benefits of the Smog Check Program?
The Smog Check Program has greatly reduced air pollution created by millions of cars in California. According to the California Air Resources Board, the program removes about 400 tons of smog-forming pollutants from California’s air every day.

Q: How often does my vehicle have to be tested?
In most cases, your vehicle must be tested every other year. A Smog Check is also required if you sell your vehicle and it is more than four model years old.

Q: What changed under the new program?
The new program uses newer equipment to test for more pollutants and newer test procedures to help identify vehicles that need repair. 

Q: What is a STAR or Test-Only station?
STAR or Test-Only stations are licensed Smog Check stations that are only allowed to test cars. State law prohibits them from making repairs.

Q: How will I know if I need to take my car to a STAR or Test-Only station?
You will be notified on the registration renewal notice sent by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if your vehicle must be inspected at a STAR or Test-Only station.

Q: How can I help my vehicle pass a Smog Check?
Performing proper and regular vehicle maintenance according to your owner’s manual, and not tampering with the emissions control equipment are keys to passing Smog Check.

Q: What is CAP and how do I qualify?
The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) provides financial assistance to repair or retire a vehicle that fails a Smog Check.

  • Repair AssistanceIf your DMV renewal notice requires a Smog Check at a STAR or Test-Only station, you may qualify for up to $500 in repair assistance once you pay the first $100 in repair costs. You may also qualify if your income is within certain levels, regardless of where you got your Smog Check. If you qualify based on income, a $20 co-pay is all that you need.
  • Vehicle retirement If you feel your car is not worth repairing, the State may buy the car from you for $1,000 and have it scrapped at a local dismantler.

You can download the CAP application (English), Programa de Assistencia al Consumidor (Spanish), or call (800) 952-5210.


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