What is a STAR station?

The new STAR Program begins January 1, 2013, and will replace the Gold Shield and Test Only program. If your DMV registration renewal notice states your vehicle requires a smog check at a STAR station, you may still take your vehicle to a Gold Shield or Test Only station before the new program begins.  If your vehicle registration states your vehicle requires a smog check at a Gold Shield or Test Only station, you must take your vehicle to a STAR station after December 31, 2012.

For more information on the STAR program, visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.

Does my vehicle qualify for a smog exemption?

Smog inspections are required unless your vehicle is:

  • Hybrid
  • Gasoline powered 1975 year model or older
  • Diesel powered 1997 year model and older or with a Gross Vehicle Weight rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 lbs
  • Electric
  • Natural gas powered with a GVWR rating of more than 14,000 lbs.
  • Motorcycle
  • Trailer
If you own a vehicle that is smog exempt, but your DMV renewal notice indicates that a smog inspection is required, it is most likely because the DMV record has the wrong information on your vehicle. To have the vehicle information updated on your DMV record corrected, take your vehicle to your local DMV Field Office.

When a car is sold, who is responsible for the inspection?

The seller is required to provide the buyer with a valid smog inspection certification at the time of the sale or transfer. Smog certifications are good for 90 days from the date of issuance.

The inspection is not required on a transfer if a biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date (a vehicle inspection report may be required for proof of certification).

NOTE: Smog certifications are not required for transfers that occur for a gasoline powered motor vehicle that is four or less model years old. (Determine the oldest-qualifying year model by subtracting three from the current year) the four or less model years old rule does not apply to diesel powered vehicles. A smog transfer feewill be collected from the new owner.

My car is new. Am I still required to get the biennial smog inspection?

Vehicles registered in areas subject to the biennial smog certification program are required to submit evidence of a smog certification every other renewal period. Starting January 1, 2005, owners of vehicles six or less model years old will pay an annual smog abatement fee for the first six registration years instead of being required to provide a biennial smog certification. The registration renewal notice mailed to you by the department will indicate if a smog certification is required. If a smog certification is required and you have not had a smog inspection, you may still pay your registration fees to avoid any late fees. However, you will not receive your new registration or year sticker until the smog information has been received by DMV.

NOTE: Upon initial registration, nonresident, diesel powered vehicles 1998 model year and newer with a Gross Vehicle Weight rating (GVWR) of no more than 14,000 lbs, and specially constructed vehicles 1976 and newer require smog certification. The six or less model years old rule does not apply to these vehicles

A family member gave me a car. Is a smog inspection required?

If you acquire a vehicle that is currently registered in California from a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild, you are entitled to an exemption from the smog inspection. Other family members or relations are not exempt and are required to obtain a smog inspection certification.

For more information read "Transfer a Vehicle Between Family Members."

My car failed a smog inspection. What are my options?

Unfortunately, about 15-20% of vehicles fail their smog inspections.   However, it is not the end of the world.  Here are a few options.

1. At SFC Motors, we offer a free retest with each of our inspections.   The most common solution is to  fix your car and bring it back for a free retest.

You will receive a report of the inspection findings.  Please note that we do not diagnosis smog failures.  The law prohibits us (Test Only Stations) from doing so.  Secondly, the 15-30 minutes we spend on your vehicle might not be enough to properly diagnose the cause of your smog failure.  You will have to bring your vehicle to a smog repair station to address the cause of your smog failure.  We will be happy to assist in the process.  Your mechanic is more than welcome to call us to discuss the smog inspection results.

2. The State of California offers a vehicle buy back program called the "Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement" program. They currently offer $1000 to $1500 for retirement of your failed vehicles.  Additional information can be found at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/avrp/avrp.htm

3. Sell it to us.  At SFC Motors, we also purchase vehicles to either recondition or sell for parts.  The process can be completed within the same day.  All you need is the title (pink slip) of your vehicle.  Just ask one of our friendly technicians for more information on this.  

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 are the environmental benefits of Smog Check?

The Smog Check program has greatly reduced air pollution created by California's 30 million cars. According to the California Air Resources Board, the program removes more than 360 tons of smog-forming pollutants from the air every day.

How long will a Smog Check take?

The average test time is about 30 minutes.  Newer, smaller vehicles are easier to smog.  From our experience, these inspections can be completed within 15 minutes.  Older, larger, and exotic vehicles are more complicated.  As such, more time is required to properly inspect.  

How long is a Smog Check certificate valid?

Section 44015 (e) of the California Health and Safety Code states that a Smog Check certificate of compliance or non-compliance is valid for 90 days.

I just purchased a vehicle and the seller did not provide a Smog Check certificate. The vehicle needs repairs in order to pass. What should I do?

Go back to the seller, inform them about Vehicle Code section 24007 (b)(2), and try to work things out amicably. If that fails, you have the option to pay for the repairs and the Smog Check yourself, and then take the seller to court to recover your costs. Although the law clearly supports the buyer, collecting on a court judgment can be difficult. The amicable solution is usually best. If the seller is a state-licensed auto dealer, buyers have the additional option of filing a complaint with the DMV, which regulates new- and used-car dealers.

Why am I being sent to a STAR Station? My car has never failed Smog Check.

Your car was most likely selected by the High Emitter Profile. This means that even though it may never have failed before, it has been identified through a computer-based selection process as a vehicle which is more likely than others to be emitting unhealthy levels of harmful pollutants. Another possibility is that it was selected via a 2 % random selection for program evaluation purposes. In either case, your vehicle has been designated as a Directed Vehicle.

What are the elements of a Smog Check?

A: In order for your vehicle to receive a Smog Check certificate, it must pass all the following elements of a Smog Check inspection:

  • visual inspection, in which required emissions control components and systems are identified, and must appear connected and functional.
  • functional inspection which includes, as applicable, checking the functionality and/or integrity of the emissions control malfunction indicator light ("Check Engine", etc), the ignition timing, the gas cap, and the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system, if the vehicle is so equipped and a Two-Speed Idle (TSI) test is being performed. A Low Pressure Fuel Evaporative Test (LPFET) is performed on all 1995 and older vehicles. A functional check of a vehicle's On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system is also performed on 1996 and newer vehicles. Diagnostic information stored in the vehicle's computer is reported on the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) that the motorist receives at the end of the Smog Check inspection. OBD information can save time and money when repairs are required.
  • tailpipe emissions test, which measures exhaust emissions using a probe inserted into the vehicle's tailpipe during testing. Vehicles pass or fail this part of the Smog Check inspection based on established emission standards, sometimes called cutpoints.

 I am not sure that my smog test was done properly. Who do I call ?

Call the Referee Scheduling Center at 1-800-622-7733 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to make an appointment. The Referee system assists consumers with concerns about smog test procedures and vehicle emission equipment requirements. In addition, Referees can issue limited parts exemptions and repair cost waivers, inspect vehicles incompatible with testing at smog stations and perform inspections for some Vehicle Code Violations.

What if I can't afford to repair my vehicle?

Look into your options under: Consumer Assistance Program