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What is a Test-Only Smog Station?
According to the State of California, Test-Only Stations are privately-owned Smog Check stations licensed by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) to inspect and certify most vehicles, including Gross Polluters. While they can perform oil changes and lubrication services, they are prohibited from providing any repair services.

What is a Test-Only Smog Stations' role?
Test-Only Smog Stations provided non-biased Smog Checks for most vehicles.  Since Test-Only Stations are not allowed to conduct emission repairs, there is no incentive to fail vehicles for the purpose of offering fraudulent repairs.  The addition of Test-Only Stations to the Smog Check program augments a service previously provided on a temporary basis by state-contracted Referee Centers. Now, owners of gross-polluting vehicles must have their vehicles tested and certified at either a Test-Only Station or a Gold Shield Gross Polluter Certification Pilot station.

About 15% of vehicles in Enhanced Areas will be directed to Test-Only Stations for their initial inspections at the time of their biennial Smog Check. These vehicles represent the 13% of vehicles most likely to fail as well as a 2% random sample.

Why did my car get sent to a TEST ONLY stations for my DMV registration renewal?
Your vehicles make, year and model could be High Emitter Profile (HEP) vehicle.  

Your car was most likely picked up in the High Emitter Profile. A HEP is a statistical model used to identify vehicles most likely to fail a Smog Check inspection.  Even though it may never have failed before, it has been identified through a computer-based selection process as a vehicle which is likely to be emitting unhealthy levels of harmful pollutants. The model year is significant weighing factor in identifying HEP vehicle.

About 15% of vehicles in Enhanced Areas will be directed to Test-Only Stations for their initial inspections at the time of their biennial Smog Check. These vehicles represent the 13% of HEP vehicles most likely to fail.  

Or, it could be part of the 2 % Random Selection Program, which is required by state law.  Even though your particular vehicle may not be a HEP or your car may have never failed a previous Smog Check, it could have been randomly sampled for the BAR.

What is a Test and Repair Smog Station?
Test-and-Repair Stations are licensed to test, inspect, repair, diagnose, adjust and repair failed vehicles.  Vehicles directed to a Test-Only Station may not be tested for certification at a Test-and-Repair Station.

Who manages smog tests in the State of California?
The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. BAR registers and regulates approximately 34,000 California automotive repair facilities, and licenses smog check, lamp and brake inspection stations.

What do I do if my car fails?
You have a few options if your vehicle fails a Smog Check.

    You may have your vehicle repaired a State licensed Test-and-Repair Smog Station and we can RE-TEST your vehicle at a Test-Only Station once the appropriate repairs have been conducted.
    If your vehicle was identified as Gross Polluter, you are required under current law to have their vehicles repaired at Gold Shield Station and certified at a Test-Only station or authorized Gold Shield Stations.
    For motorists who cannot afford to make repairs, there are three options under the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) that offer some temporary financial relief.

Bottom line - a Smog Check inspection/certification is required in all areas when affected vehicle changes ownership or is registered in California for the first time.  Additionally, Basic and Enhanced Area requires inspection/certification every other registration renewal (biennally).

What is a Gross Polluter?
The Smog Check program has identified Gross Polluter (GP) vehicles as a significant source of smog emissions. Gross Polluter vehicles are chosen through these strategies:

  • Vehicles tested at licensed stations which exceed at least one of the gross polluter standards (twice the maximum emission limits).

  • Vehicles selected from the High Emitter Profile (HEP) database which have a high probability of failing the Smog Check inspection.

Once a vehicle is classified as a Gross Pollutter it has to initially be tested at a "Test-Only" inspection station. If the vehicle fails this inspection it must undergo repairs and return to a Test-only, Referee or CAP (Consumer Assistance Repair) station for certification.

Vehicles, which are not classified, as gross polluters, do not have to seek a Test-Only inspection and can visit any local smog station. Once again, your DMV documents will state which type of test your vehicle requires.

Does my vehicle have to get a Smog Check?
Not all vehicles must get a Smog Check. Additionally, some vehicles only need a Smog Check when they are being sold or being registered in California after previously being registered in another state. Whether or not a vehicle needs a Smog Check depends on the type of vehicle, the model year, and the area in which the vehicle is registered.

    Some vehicles are completely exempt
    All 1975 and older model year vehicles are exempt from all aspects of the Smog Check program, but owners of these vehicles are required by law to keep their emissions systems intact. Vehicles built in 1975 for the 1976 model year are 1976 vehicles and must be tested accordingly.
Additionally, vehicles with diesel engines, vehicles with two-cycle engines, vehicles with engines smaller than 50 cubic inches of displacement, electric vehicles, and motorcycles are exempt from the Smog Check program.

    New vehicles exempt until their seventh year
    Vehicles six model years old and newer are not required to have a biennial Smog Check performed until their seventh year. However, these vehicles must have a Smog Check performed if the vehicle is sold or being registered in California for the first time during that time.

    Change of Ownership areas vs. Basic and Enhanced areas
    Most areas of the state require vehicles to have a Smog Check performed every two years, when being sold, and when being initially registered in California. These areas are referred to as the state's Basic and Enhanced Areas. However, Change of Ownership Areas only require a Smog Check when the vehicle is being sold or initially registered in California. You can determine the Smog Check area you are in by calling the Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair toll-free at 1-800-952-5210.

    No Smog Check required on sales within immediate family
    Section 4000.1 (d)(2) of the California Vehicle code exempts transfers from parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, or spouses from the smog inspection requirement.

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