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Smog Check Program

Consumer Assistance Program

The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) offers two options to help California consumers whose vehicles fail their biennial (every other year) smog check.

  • Repair Assistance Qualified motorists can receive up to $500 in emissions-related repairs through CAP’s Repair Assistance Program.
  • Vehicle Retirement The Vehicle Retirement Program is available to motorists who want to voluntarily retire their vehicle rather than repair it. Eligible consumers can receive $1000 in exchange for their vehicle; Income eligible applicants will receive $1500.

Enforcement

BAR's Enforcement team investigates general auto repair complaints and ensures that shops comply with Smog Check statutes. Each year BAR handles more than 14,800 complaints relating to auto repair and/or Smog Check inspections. BAR staff checks out every complaint and negotiates with the shop on the consumer's behalf to achieve a mutual agreeable resolution. The bulk of complaints are resolved by mediation. Each year BAR returns over $6.3 million to California consumers in the form of direct refunds, rework, or adjustments.

Directed Vehicles

In order to comply with state law, the California Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR) directs a portion of the vehicles registered in Enhanced Smog Check Areas to Test-Only or Gold Shield stations. Enhanced Areas are those parts of the state with "serious", "severe", or "extreme" ozone pollution problems. Test-Only facilities are licensed Smog Check stations that, by law, are only allowed sell gas caps or to test cars; they cannot repair them. Directed Vehicles may receive their initial inspections at Gold Shield stations. Any needed repairs must be performed at a Smog Check station designated either as a Test-Repair or Gold Shield station.Directed Vehicles

Fleet Operations

Government Fleets: Federal, State, County, City, and Special District agencies are required to participate in the Smog Check Program. The Federal Clean Air Act and the California Health and Safety Code, Section 44019, mandates that all affected vehicles receive a smog check inspection. These requirements include vehicles classified as emergency equipment. For a description of an affected vehicle see the “Information Sheet” in the Resources column to the right. Smog testing of vehicles owned by the Federal Government are addressed in ET Blast # 10641. For testing vehicles owned by Military Personnel refer to ET Blast # 10661.

This unit deals with other agency requirements. This entails inspecting agencies for compliance with:

  • Vehicle test records retention
  • Vehicle reporting records ( Annual Reporting Transmittal Form 79-21)
  • Self-testing agency station equipment maintenance
  • Technician qualification
  • Informational presentations and workshops

Self-testing Business Fleets: This unit works with policy issues for two types of business fleets.

  • Regular Business Fleets
  • Permanent Fleet Registrants (PFR)
Both of these types of business fleets are licensed through the same process as any Smog Check station. A PFR is licensed to perform tests on their fleet of vehicles under Health and Safety Code section 44020.

OBD II

OBD II is an acronym for On-Board Diagnostics II, the second generation of on-board self-diagnostic equipment requirements for California vehicles. On-board diagnostic capabilities are incorporated into the hardware and software of a vehicle's on-board computer to monitor virtually every component that can affect emission performance. Each component is checked by a diagnostic routine to verify that it is functioning properly. If a problem or malfunction is detected, the OBD II system illuminates a warning light on the vehicle instrument panel to alert the driver. This warning light will typically display the phrase "Check Engine" or "Service Engine Soon". The system will also store important information about the detected malfunction so that a repair technician can accurately find and fix the problem.

STAR Program

Some vehicles require a Smog Check at a STAR station. STAR stations must meet specified performance standards established by BAR. Some STAR stations are licensed to perform only tests, while others are licensed to perform both tests and repairs. The station is required to post a sign on the services it performs.