Emissions testing—what exactly is it and why, in California, do we need to have our emissions checked every two years? For many, an emissions test is an inconvenient hour out of their day that involves waiting in a line of cars for a test that typically takes less than 20 minutes. When you choose to have your emissions tested at G&M Auto Care in Orange, our friendly team will greet you and explain the testing process. We will work quickly and with great attention to detail to ensure you don’t have to spend any of your precious time waiting in line. As your Top Rated Local® auto repair shop in Orange, we promise to provide superior products and services at a fair price.

Below, we will outline the specifics of an emissions test including when you should have one and why they are so important. If you are ready to schedule your emissions test now, get in contact with our team, and we will happily schedule your appointment whenever is most convenient for you!

What is an emissions test?

An emissions test, also called a smog check, determines the level of air pollutants that are being emitted from the exhaust of your vehicle. The California smog test program is California’s efforts to improve air quality and detects levels of nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and emissions from evaporation. In a nutshell, smog checks ensure minimal levels of air pollution from vehicles.

Emissions testing started in California in 1966 and has been adopted by 32 states since then. Testing requirements vary from state to state—emissions standards, costs, testing policies, fees, penalties and testing locations all depend on what state you live in. Some states require annual testing while others require an emissions test every other year. Some states require all vehicles to have a smog check while others only require vehicles in a specific county or zip code.

Factors that influence emissions testing requirements include:

  • The age of your vehicle
  • Where you live
  • The weight of your vehicle
  • The type of fuel your vehicle uses
  • What you use your vehicle for (business, recreation, etc.)
  • Where your car is registered

Why is an emissions test important?

The short answer is: to be sure your vehicle is not producing excess pollution. The immediate and significant effects of car pollutants on the environment include global warming, acid rain, death of forests, photochemical smog and human health problems. Without delving deeper into how we all have a responsibility to protect and preserve this planet, understand that getting an emissions test is beneficial to not only you, but to everyone around you, too. The production of excess pollution by your vehicle can be caused by a number of complications including problems with your engine, a deteriorating exhaust system, bad fuel metering and more.

How frequently do I need to get an emissions test?

In the state of California, emissions smog tests are required every two years. If you own a vehicle that is older than four years and you are planning on selling it, an emissions test will be required to complete the sale. If you just moved to California, you will need to schedule and pass an emissions test within 20 days of moving to the state before you can register your vehicle. Also, remember that out-of-state smog testing stickers are not honored in California.

If your vehicle is six years or younger, you do not have to pass an emissions test every two years, in California. You will, however, have to pay a $20 smog check abatement fee for the six years you have owned the vehicle. The following vehicles will still need to have an emissions test every two years as they do not qualify for smog abatement:

  • Specially constructed vehicles made in 1976 or later
  • Diesel-fueled vehicles that were made in 1998 and weigh less than 14,000 lbs
  • Vehicles owned by nonresidents

If you fail to have your emissions test after the state notifies you it’s time, you will not be able to renew your registration and you will begin to accrue a number of penalty fees. Take care of your smog check as soon as you receive the notice in the mail.

How much does an emissions test cost?

Just as emissions testing requirements vary from state to state, so does the cost of an emissions test. Usually, the cost of a test is somewhere between $15 and $30. States that require annual testing usually offer smog checks at a lower price compared to other states that require testing every two years, etc.

If the cost of an emissions test is out of your budget, the state of California offers financial assistance to drivers who qualify. If approved, the assistance can be used for the smog check as well as any emissions repairs. If you are interested in learning more or you would like to fill out a waiver application, visit the Bureau of Automotive Repair website.

Are there any emissions testing exemptions in California?

As we previously discussed, some states require all vehicles to have a smog check while others only require vehicles in a specific county or zip code. If your vehicle is not exempt and you need to schedule an emissions test, the state will send you a convenient notice in the mail. In California, the following types of vehicles exempt from emissions testing:

  • Electric vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Natural gas-powered vehicles that weigh more than 14,000 lbs
  • Gas-powered vehicles made after 1975
  • Diesel vehicles that were made before 1997 or that weigh more than 14,000 lbs

In some southern California counties, emissions tests are only required of people who live in specific zip codes. If you are unsure whether you are exempt, remember the state will send you a notice when your vehicle needs testing, or you can contact the DMV for more information. These counties include:

  • Placer
  • Sonoma
  • El Dorado
  • San Bernardino
  • Riverside
  • San Diego

What happens if my car fails an emissions test?

If your car fails a smog check, you will be required to have the issue repaired and then you will need to have your car re-tested. If you want to dispute the results of your emissions test, the DMV suggests calling the Bureau of Automotive Repair Referee Program with questions and for more information. To schedule your emissions test or to have your emissions issues resolved, call the team at G&M Auto Care today.

The most common reasons people fail an emissions test include:

Faulty air injection system: Your air injection system helps lessen the emission of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons by pumping fresh air into the engine’s exhaust. When your air injection system malfunctions, your car’s engine is unable to control the levels of hydrocarbons it releases.

Rich fuel mixture: Elevated carbon dioxide levels are often caused by high levels of carbon monoxide caused by a faulty ignition or rich fuel mixture (too much fuel, not enough air). A leaking injector, contaminated oxygen sensor or excessive fuel pressure can cause a rich fuel mixture.

Malfunctioning ignition system: A malfunctioning ignition system can be caused by things like defective spark plug wires, old spark plugs or a worn out distributor cap. During an emissions check, the analyzer will detect high levels of hydrocarbons if something is wrong with your ignition system.

Bad fuel metering: A fuel meter that isn’t working properly can be caused by a malfunctioning computerized engine control, fuel injection unit or carburetor. If you have a faulty fuel meter, you will likely fail your emissions test and need to have the issue resolved before it is tested again.

Faulty EVAP: EVAP stands for Evaporative Emission Control System and is the system that prevents gas vapors from being released into the atmosphere out of your fuel tank. Leaks in your vehicle’s vacuum hoses and vents, defective purge valves and faulty gas caps can all cause EVAP system.

Where do I go for the best emissions repairs in Orange?

Well, G&M Auto Care, of course! If you had your emissions tested elsewhere and your vehicle failed the test, our team is ready to help you with any repairs you may need. If, on the other hand, you prefer a one-stop-shop solution, then schedule your emissions test with us! If we notice any issues or your vehicle does not pass the smog check, we can take care of all repairs in a professional and timely manner.

The quality auto repair services we offer extend far beyond emissions testing and repairs. From brake services to belt and hose inspection to tire rotation and more, we do it all! See our full list of services here and get in touch with our team if you are ready to book an appointment. We look forward to working with you soon, and we appreciate your business!