Smog Inspections

Smog Inspections

Smog Inspections: Soon A Thing Of The Past?



The California Smog Inspection Program requires all vehicles to undergo a smog inspection every two years.  You must have evidence of this inspection (and a pass certificate) submitted to the DMV as part of your vehicle registration process.  


The reason for the ruling is to reduce the air pollution from vehicles by ensuring that cars with excessive emissions are repaired in accordance with federal and state guidelines.

The good news is because of this program, 400 tons of smog-forming pollutants were removed from California’s air everyday. Isn’t that something to be thankful for? But for some people, smog inspection and it’s process is a burden especially if your car fails the test.



What does it take to pass the test? A smog inspection consists of a visual test and a machine test. A visual test is when the inspector checks for any blue or black smoke coming out from the tailpipe. As long as your car doesn’t have blue or black smoke, and you have a California-certified catalytic converter, you pretty much will pass this visual test.


But hey, don’t forget the machine test. A machine test is when the inspector attaches some car components to a smog check machine and runs the test for certain codes. If your car components pass those codes, you can be happy because you pass this test! But there’s more to that because you need to pass both visual and machine tests. So instead of making a guess if your car will pass the smog inspection or not, try to read more below! But if you already failed the test, then this is for you too!




1.Before you take your car in for a smog inspection, make sure it is running well. This is the most important thing to consider. Actually it should be on the top of your list! If you think your car is not running well, have it looked at by a mechanic.


2.If your check engine light is on, you definitely will not pass your smog test. The most common reason for this problem is a faulty oxygen sensor. But, before you fall into the depths of despair, also be aware that the cause for a check engine light can be as simple as a faulty gas cap. If your check engine light is on - step one- tighten your gas cap, step 2 - for less than $5, replace your gas cap. The solution might be as simple as this!  Step 3- come see us.


3.Whenever the mechanic changes your oil, ask him to check the car engine to see if any hoses are cracked or disconnected. At American Auto Care, we automatically do this as part of our free 22-point inspection. Also change the oil if needed before a smog check, because dirty oil releases air pollutants which could be the cause of why you don’t pass the test.  


4. Use fuel additives when you refuel your car. The additives are made to help clean the carbon deposits in your engine and can decrease the emissions.


5. Make sure that the tires are properly inflated because the technician will also do a dynamometer test. In this test, your car is in park while the car tires are positioned on rollers that allow the engine to run at high speed. If the tires are under-inflated, your car’s engine must work harder to achieve the required test levels.


6.Lastly, don’t be too rushed to just drive straight in for a smog inspection. Just as before you do your gym exercise you need a warm up, your car needs it too. You should drive your car consistently two weeks before the inspection. This will help make the catalytic converter hot enough to burn out any oil and gas residues.

Smog test a thing of the past, smog inspection

The best news of all is that all of the new cars out today have pretty sophisticated computers in them. And these computers can be set to detect when your emissions rise and what the probable cause is without the need for an “official” required smog test every two years.  So, in the not too distant future, your car will self-detect when there is a problem, long before you are aware of it. Way more convenient because you can schedule a service when it is most convenient for you, not when the state says you are required to have one.


And then when you bring the car in for service, we will simply check the computer to see what needs to be done. But what will the state do without the revenue they get now from every smog test? Oh - I guess I won't worry about that.  California will think of something, I am sure.


And always remember that a well-maintained car with all it’s systems working properly will ensure that you get to your destination without unforeseen problems (at least with your car). For more information on smog checks, click here to go to our smog page.


Tags: smog inspection, emissions testing, check engine light, oil change