As California has the worst air quality in the nation, the state requires a smog check on most vehicles older than six model years once every two years, or once a year if your vehicle is tagged as a high-polluting vehicle. If you do not abide by this law, you cannot legally drive your car in California. So, if you rely on your car to get around, passing the smog check is serious!
Here are some smog inspection tips to help your vehicle pass inspection:
- Get regular tune-ups.
Simple regular maintenance to your vehicle including an oil change, air and fuel filter replacement and evaluation of the condition of spark plugs, gas caps, etc. is recommended for many reasons: your vehicle will run a lot smoother than before, you'll get more gas mileage (saving you money at the gas pump), you reduce the risk of future costly repairs, and your chances of passing the smog test are increased. Check your vehicle’s warranty for maintenance schedule recommendations, but if your engine shakes or has a misfire, don’t delay in getting a tune-up as it may fail the smog check and may be an indication of a larger problem. If you have a bad misfire, this could cause your check engine light to come on as well, meaning you will automatically fail the functional portion of the smog inspection.
- Confirm required emissions components.
Depending on your vehicle, a visual inspection of emission control components and systems may be required. For example, a working catalytic converter must be installed on your vehicle in order to pass its smog test. If your vehicle’s emissions controls have been modified from original equipment manufacturer parts, you can check to confirm if the emission-related parts are approved for use at the State of California’s Air Resources Board website (http://www.arb.ca.gov).
- Make sure your check engine light works.
Most vehicles are equipped with a check engine light. If your vehicle comes equipped with a check engine light but it does not work, it either went out or someone tampered with it. According to the rules set by the State of California, your car will automatically fail inspection, regardless of whether or not your vehicle meets other requirements.
- Use fuel cleaners.
Using a fuel cleaner regularly will help remove gunk stuck to your engine’s valves and head to help it run more efficiently. Just don't put it in right before you take your car to get smog checked, as the fuel cleaner will need time to work all of the junk from your vehicle’s systems.
- Use all your senses.
Keeping your eyes, nose and ears open for potential problems can help you catch an issue before it turns into a smog test failure or costly repair.
- Pay attention to your “check engine” and other indicator lights, as if the “Check Engine” light is lit, it is an automatic failure.
- Watch for fluid leaks where you park your car, as low fluid levels can affect the efficiency of your vehicle.
- Inspect your gas cap to avoid excess evaporative emissions from your tank.
- Jerking and jumping, sudden drop in fuel efficiency, difficulty in starting or staying running, or a foul smell can all be signs of a faulty catalytic converter (which is a very common cause for smog test failure).
- If you need to replace a catalytic converter before its normal life, rather than replace it again, there may be a deeper underlying issue in the emissions control system that should be diagnosed by a certified repair facility.
Your vehicle’s smog history stays with your car forever, so make sure not to do anything that could ruin it! Follow these 5 key tips to improve your chances of a clean record while you keep the air we breathe cleaner!
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