WHY DOES MY CAR NEED TO GO TO A “STAR” STATION?

Another great question! State law requires testing a percentage of the vehicle fleet at STAR-certified stations. These vehicles are known as “directed” vehicles. Some are simply selected at random, and while the exact selection criteria are not defined, the State offers the following explanation:

Model-year 1999 and older vehicles must have their inspections performed at a STAR station. These vehicles still require a tailpipe inspection of emissions. STAR stations are required to have this equipment. In addition, model-year 2000 and newer vehicles with the greatest likelihood of failing their next inspection are directed to STAR stations. Smog Check history of vehicle groups (e.g., model-year, make, model, body style, engine displacement, and transmission type) is a major factor in this directed vehicle selection process.
The first six model-years do not require biennial inspection, and therefore are not included in the Directed Vehicle Selection Methodology.

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING WITH ME WHEN I HAVE MY CAR TESTED?

If you bring us the car, we can inspect it! Your renewal notice (the one with the large barcode across the top) will expedite your visit, but is not required.

WHAT IS A TEST ONLY STATION?

Test-Only stations are licensed by the state only to perform tests on vehicles. They are prohibited from performing any repair services. Gross Polluters can also be certified at these stations.

WHO REQUIRES A SMOG CHECK?

The Department of Motor Vehicles renewal notice will indicate whether a Smog Check is required to re- register your vehicle. 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.

DO I REALLY NEED A SMOG CHECK?

Not all vehicles must get a Smog Check. Smog Check need depends on the type of vehicle, the model-year, and the area in which the vehicle is registered. 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.

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 solely tests, while others are licensed to perform both tests and repairs. The station is required to post a sign on the services it performs. The STAR sign is bright red and can usually be found hanging directly under or near the station’s Smog Check sign.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REGULAR SMOG STATION AND A STAR SMOG STATION?

STAR smog stations will be able to issue a certificate of compliance to a vehicle passing a smog check when a motorist is referred by the DMV to such a station for vehicle registration renewal. A non “star” station may not issue a certificate to the motorist’s vehicle. They may however, test and issue certificates to vehicles not directed by the DMV to a “STAR” smog check station.

HOW MUCH DOES TEST ONLY SMOG CHECK COST? DOES A TEST ONLY CENTER CHARGE MORE?

Smog test only stations are not allowed to profit or perform any auto repairs, whether smog check related or not. In the past smog test only centers typically charged more for their smog inspection in order to cover their expenses. In today’s market however, with competition being so great, and the fact that there are plenty of test only directed vehicles to go around, the cost of the test only smog check has been dramatically reduced.

HOW CAN I HELP MY VEHICLE PASS SMOG CHECK?

Proper and regular maintenance according to your Owner’s Manual, and not tampering with the emissions control equipment are keys to passing Smog Check and lowering emissions from your vehicle. Also a good 15 minute drive helps to ensure a proper warm-up of all emission related components which help out in the emissions part of the smog check.

WHAT DO I DO IF MY VEHICLE FAILS SMOG CHECK?

First and foremost we’ll help explain to you why you failed and some suggestions as to what to do next. You will also need to get your vehicle repaired so it can pass its Smog Check retest in order to complete your registration.
How can I learn if I need smog check and what are the pre and post procedures?
Please check California Bureau of Automotive Repair website for step by step procedures.
http://www.bar.ca.gov

HOW CAN I FIND MY VEHICLE’S SMOG CHECK HISTORY?

Please refer to California Bureau of Automotive Repair website where you can enter license plate or vehicle identification number (VIN) to check the history.
http://www.bar.ca.gov

WHAT IS A GROSS POLLUTER?

Some vehicles that fail their smog inspections give off such high levels of pollution that a category called “Gross Polluter” was created. BAR identifies these vehicles to encourage their immediate repair. Gross Polluters are some of the worst polluting vehicles on California roadways.

WHAT DOES “NOT READY” MEAN?

As you drive your car, its on-board computer runs a series of up to 11 tests.  These tests, known as “monitors,” check your car’s various components and systems and the results determine whether or not your car’s “check engine” light is turned on.

As the monitors run, their status changes from “not ready” (or “incomplete”) to “ready” (or “complete”). All of the monitors will be set to “not ready” if your battery is disconnected or your computer is reset with a scan tool.

Part of the smog inspection includes checking the “readiness” of the monitors and if more than the allowed number are not complete, your car will not pass, and the test will show “not ready”.

Normally, driving your car for a few days will resolve the problem, but if it does not, other problems may exist that require further diagnosis from a qualified repair shop. It is also possible that your car’s monitors are inherently difficult to set. The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has a published list of these vehicles it has identified, and we are happy to help you determine if any of them apply to your vehicle.

In some circumstances, exemptions apply to readiness requirements, and we will be happy to explain them if you have any questions regarding your vehicle.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CAR DOES NOT PASS?

If your car does not pass, the problem should be diagnosed and repaired, and when you bring it back to us, your retest is free! You only pay the $8.25 certificate fee upon passing.

Here are some suggestions you might find helpful:

  • Assistance is available from the State. Information and application forms are available in our lobby. It is important that you review these options before seeking repairs if you wish to receive assistance.
  • Click herefor a list of certified repair stations in your area. State regulations prohibit us from recommending any particular shop.
  • Give the repair station a copy of the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) you received from us. Let them know that we are happy to answer any questions they have.
  • Explain to them that your car failed its smog inspection, and you want it repaired so that it will pass. Have them write this on your estimate.
  • When you pick up your car after the repair, ask them if it is ready for inspection.