There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the smog test process.  The following is a clarification on the majority of questions we encounter. Note: We only perform the 2000 and newer test stated below.  This test is called the Bar-OIS test.

1) There are technically 2 different types of tests in California.  A few small areas have no smog inspection because of the higher air quality in those areas.  In the bigger city areas, where air quality is at its worst and for vehicles 1999 and older there is the Enhanced Smog Inspection, which tests five gases (oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide) and runs the test on a chassis dynamometer. 

In vehicles 2000 and newer will no longer have their tailpipe emissions tested on treadmill-like machines known as dynamometers. Instead, technicians will plug into the vehicles’ on-board computers to find out how well the cars perform when they’re actually on the road. 

This is known as the Bar-OIS test and the only test we do at Placentia Super Service

2) When selling a vehicle, it is the SELLER’s responsibility to have a vehicle smog checked on or before transfer of ownership.  Even if a seller and buyer make a deal that the buyer is going to smog it, any problems smogging the vehicle can legally go back on the seller. 

3) A smog certificate is only good for 90 days.  If you smog your vehicle and fail to complete your registration with the DMV, and 91 or more days elapse, you WILL have to smog it again. 

4) There are three reasons to smog a vehicle: Biennial (every other year for your DMV renewal of registration, which starts when a vehicle turns 6 or 7 years old); Change of Ownership (unless it’s a blood-relative transfer with the same last name, a vehicle must be smogged to change ownership; note: this does NOT alter the preset Biennial smog schedule for the vehicle; so if you buy a vehicle and six months later it comes due for it’s Biennial test, it will have to be smogged again even though it was just smogged six months prior for the transfer); Initial Inspection (bringing a vehicle into California requires an additional smog inspection; again, this will not alter its Biennial smog schedule). 

5) There are 2 components to the smog inspection (note: we are focusing on the Bar-OIS program that Placentia Super Service performs for vehicles 2000 and newer).  First, there is the visual inspection: determine that all required smog devices are in place, and any aftermarket modifications are legal (note: any aftermarket modifications, such as an air cleaner, catalyst, headers, etc. MUST be tagged with an Executive Order label indicating that the part is a legal replacement unit for California; if not, it WILL fail the smog test on that technicality).  Second, there is the functional test, which checks to make sure all required smog devices are functioning as designed.  This test includes a quicker, computer-based test that uses the diagnostic capabilities of the vehicle's computer system instead of the traditional tailpipe probe to measure the vehicle's emissions. This On-Board Diagnostic system gathers information and determines if the vehicle's emission control systems are operating properly. 

6) Whether a vehicle passes or fails the smog inspection, the test results ARE reported to the State.  There is no way around this.  We’ve had people request that a smog test be run but not have the results reported — this is not only impossible by the programming of the smog machine, it’s also not permitted.  Also, whether a vehicle passes or fails, you should always be given a paper copy of the smog inspection test results. Keep this paper copy in your records.  The test results are transmitted electronically to the State (smog check stations are required to have a dedicated phone line just for the smog machine for this purpose) but every once in a while, as with any technology, there can be transmission errors.  Keeping the paper copy in your records (or particularly in your car, at least until you receive your registration tags) is a good backup in case the test results don’t transmit or get lost in DMV’s system.  Again, this is rare, but it does happen.

7) If your Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light is on, your vehicle WILL fail the smog test.  Also, on 1996 and newer models, disconnecting the battery or clearing codes immediately before a smog inspection will be a cause for failure because the computer of the car will be in a “Not Ready” state.   

8) Smog check labor charges vary by shop (Placentia Super Service charges $39.95).  However, the smog certificate fee (currently $8.25) is set by the State and cannot be charged otherwise.  If you do not pass the smog test, there should be no certificate fee — you’ll only pay for the technician’s labor time for a failed test.  There is also a transmittal fee of $1.80 for every test, again set by the state.

9) If you’re going to call around to various smog check shops to compare prices, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.  Some shops will advertise “Just $39.75 for a smog inspection!” but in the fine print it says “Plus Certificate”.  Other shops will clearly advertise “$45 for a smog inspection, including certificate”.  So if you hear $39.75 at one shop and $45 at another, but neither specifies whether the certificate is included or not, make sure you ask so you don’t walk into the shop that sounds cheaper and then get hit with a surprise of a larger bill once the certificate fee is added in.

 10) If a vehicle fails smog, it will likely require some form of diagnostic to determine what repairs are needed.  Please note that, by law, smog-related repairs must be conducted by a licensed smog technician. We can fix most problems related to smog failures at Placentia Super Service.