Some Things You Should Know About Smog Check in California

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What is Smog Check?
The Smog Check Program is an important part of the State’s efforts to improve the air we breathe. Smog Check inspections are designed to identify vehicles with excess emissions so they can be properly repaired. The Program has greatly reduced air pollution created by millions of cars in California.

Who oversees the Smog Check Program?
The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) administers the Smog Check Program. Vehicles are inspected each year by more than 7,000 State-licensed and independently owned stations located throughout the State.

Is my vehicle subject to a Smog Check?
Gasoline-powered vehicles, hybrid vehicles, and alternative-fuel vehicles that are model year 1976 and newer require a Smog Check, with the following exceptions:

Six model-years and newer do not need a biennial (every other year) inspection.

Four model-years and newer do not need a change-of-ownership inspection.
To determine the first year a vehicle is subject to a biennial or change-of-ownership Smog Check, add six or four, respectively, to the model year of a vehicle. For example, a 2010 model-year vehicle will first be subject to a biennial Smog Check in 2016 (2010+6=2016) and a change-of-ownership Smog Check in 2014 (2010+4=2014).

Diesel-powered vehicles 1998 and newer with a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,000 pounds and less require a Smog Check.

Motorcycles and electric-powered vehicles are currently exempt from the Smog Check Program.

When is my vehicle required to have a Smog Check?
If your vehicle is subject to a Smog Check, your DMV registration renewal notice will indicate every other year that a Smog Check is required. A Smog Check inspection is also required when a vehicle is sold or when registering a vehicle for the first time in California.

Do I need to take anything with me to my Smog Check?
If your DMV registration renewal notice requires a Smog Check, remember to take the notice with you. This will help ensure that the correct vehicle information and test results are electronically sent to DMV.

What is a STAR station?
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 is licensed to perform.

How will I know if my vehicle needs a test at a STAR station?
Your DMV registration renewal form will indicate whether your vehicle requires a Smog Check at a STAR station.

How much does a Smog Check cost?
BAR does not regulate inspection prices, but recommends that you shop around and compare prices of several different stations before taking your vehicle in for its Smog Check.

How can I help my vehicle pass Smog Check?
Performing regular and proper maintenance according to your owner’s manual and not tampering with the emission-control equipment will help improve your vehicle’s chances of passing a Smog Check. If the “Check Engine” light comes on, get your vehicle repaired as soon as possible – do not wait for the vehicle’s next scheduled Smog Check. A blinking or flashing light indicates a malfunction that should be addressed immediately to avoid serious damage to the vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for repairs that may be covered under your vehicle manufacturer’s emissions warranty.

What if my vehicle fails Smog Check?
Ask the inspector to explain the reason for the failure and seek a repair technician to correct the problem. Many inspectors are also licensed to perform repairs.

If you have a dispute about the results of your Smog Check, you can file a complaint with BAR. Or, if you would like a second opinion about the inspection, schedule an appointment with a State-authorized Referee by calling (800) 622-7733 or by visiting

Are programs available to help if my vehicle fails?
Yes. The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) offers both repair assistance and vehicle retirement options to consumers whose vehicles fail a Smog Check.

What is repair assistance?
Up to $500 in emission-related repairs is available to income-eligible consumers whose vehicles fail a biennial (every other year) Smog Check. The repairs must be performed at a Smog Check station under contract with the State to perform this service.

What is vehicle retirement?
Up to $1,500 is available to consumers who choose to retire a vehicle from operation rather than repair it. The vehicle must be retired at a State-approved dismantler.

Where can I get a CAP application?
To obtain a CAP application for either repair assistance or vehicle retirement, click here or call (800) 952-5210.

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