What is "smog check" and why is it needed? 

Even though in Bay Area we have fresh ocean breezes and clean air, we also have a lot of cars that produce a lot of harmful emissions consiting mainly of NOx, HC and CO. NOx is proven to be one of the main causes of ozone. 

Emission testing is also enforced by US EPA which requires individual states to implement their inspection maintenance (I/M) programs which is in California is also known as simply "smog check". Most other states and countries also have such programs for example in UK it's called MOT and Germany ASU.
There are some exceptions and additional requirements to getting a "smog check" which are below:
- If you buy a new car first 6 years you're exempt from biennial and first 4 from change of ownership smog testing.
- If a vehicle is imported from another state you need to get a smog check for it to register it in California not depending on the year.
- All hybrid vehicles are currently exempt from smog testing. Diesel vehicles and motorcycles were also exempt until recently and they will start going through smog testing starting year 2010.

- Also if your car or truck is model year 1976 or older, you're also exempt.
What is "test only center"?

If your vehicle is required to be inspected at a test only station the most likely reason is that your vehicle statistically is more likely to fail (older cars mostly and certain make and models) or it's randomly selected for statistical purposes which contitues about less than 1% of all cars.

I have passed my "smog check", what do I do next? 

 VIR also has a print out of with emission readings so you can compare yourself to other passing cars and standards and also reference numbers for DMV which you can keep as a proof.

 You can also complete your registration at one of DMV offices or another option would be visiting DMV online registration renewal website here or below links section or calling them at 1-800-777-0133 to pay over the phone.

How often am I required to get a "smog check"? 

 It's every two years plus every time you do a "change of ownership" Your smog check certificate if valid for registration or transfer within 90 days of inspection date.

What do I do if I fail?

More than 80% of the all cars pass their smog testthe first time. If your vehicle well maintained the chances are you will pass without any problems. Some vehicles fail, mostly ones very high mileage where some parts are worn out and not properly functioning or has faulty parts.

Our computers print out the list of failures and will explain why it failed and give you a copy of the inspection report which is basically the print out of your results. 

If you're mechanically inclined and know what you're doing you can repair it yourself or take it to a smog mechanic. Most smog failures are not complicated at all and it's usually not hard to pinpoint to the problem but some complications could also happen.

If you cannot afford the repairs State of California has a Consumer Assistance Program you may qualify for which pays for the repairs. More information on that is here.

Or if you don't want to repair it, there is a program where the State agency will buy it from you for about $1000 and recycle it. 

You can download the application package as a PDF file here (To download, right click and select "Save Target As..") or as an attachment below.

I'm selling my car do I need a "smog check"?

Also if transfer of ownership is between immediate family members, like father and son, or siblings there is no need for a smog check to complete the transfer. Some DMV offices aren't aware of this, so you might have to remind them.
Station Manager,
Jan 29, 2010, 8:32 PM