Image source does not exist News Release: 2012-10-18 Quick and easy smog checks coming to California

Release #:12-48

ARB PIO: (916) 322-2990

John Swanton

Quick and easy smog checks coming to California

Program improvements to offer simpler inspections that lower costs and increase accuracy

SACRAMENTO - The Air Resources Board today reviewed plans for implementing a new Smog Check program that eliminates tailpipe testing for 2000 model-year and newer vehicles and improves the quality of inspections for older vehicles. Authorized by AB 2289 (Eng, 2010), the new test takes advantage of the advanced monitoring On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) systems that are standard equipment on all newer vehicles.

Instead of measuring tailpipe emissions while simulating driving conditions in a shop, the new test will review OBD data collected during actual operation to identify vehicles with high emissions.

 “By utilizing the On-Board Diagnostic system already built into all newer cars, owners can be assured that they are getting the most accurate measure of their vehicles condition at the lowest possible cost,” said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. “The move away from tailpipe testing and the expensive equipment required by shops will benefit consumers, service providers and the environment.”

Older vehicles will continue to be inspected using tailpipe emissions but stations will be subject to new performance and evaluation standards.  Only stations meeting the tough new standards will be rated as “STAR Certified” and permitted to inspect 1999 and older vehicles.
The changeover to the new testing requirements will take place over the next year:

Starting January 1, 2013:  
• All 1999 model-year and older vehicles (the model years most likely to have high emissions) will be directed to new STAR inspection stations.

September 1, 2013:
• All 2000 model-year and newer vehicles will be inspected using the OBD-based test.

As part of the report on the new Smog Check program, the Board also reviewed the effectiveness of the state’s voluntary vehicle retirement programs. These programs, administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repairs and local air pollution control districts, provide financial incentives to scrap older vehicles and vehicles that require costly repairs. Over the past two fiscal years, these programs have resulted in the retirement of over 82,000 high emitting vehicles. Retiring older vehicles is an important tool in California’s air quality efforts as vehicles that are over 20 years old account for only 6% of all miles traveled but are responsible for over 40% of daily smog forming emissions. Board staff found that the significant air quality benefits can be achieved by increased retirements and program improvements.

For more information regarding vehicle retirement and other Smog Check  news, please visit the California Bureau of Automotive Repair online at

ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.