Knowledge — 9 months ago

Smog Test: What is a Smog Check and How to Prepare Your Car for a Smog Check

by Toni S.

Smog Test, Car Smoke Test

Everything You Need to Know about Car Smog Checks

Most of us are well familiar with this scenario; we're driving along, minding our business when the vehicle in front of us suddenly emits a dark smoke. Aside from the unpleasant surprise, car smoke harms the environment and lowers air quality. To improve the situation and keep car smoke emissions under control, there are now state laws that require motor vehicles to undergo an annual or periodic smog check.

What is a smog test?

A smog check is intended to identify vehicles that release excessive emissions, so they can be repaired according to state laws and local regulations. Smog tests and emissions laws are different from state to state, and in certain places in the country, all vehicles (mainly cars) are required to pass a periodic emissions test. Other states have a similar mandatory requirement for large vehicles, like trucks. On the contrast, there are some U.S. states that do not require smog testing whatsoever. THESE 31 states (and the District of Columbia) make smoke emissions tests mandatory.

If a vehicle does not pass a smog check, it cannot be registered and driving it will be illegal. To get the vehicle back on the road, the owner will receive a list of repairs the vehicle must undergo. A mechanic or inspection attendant will perform further testing and repairs that will allow the vehicle owner to get his/her car back on the roads. Most of the vehicles that fail smog checks are old vehicles that have emission problems, so if you drive an old car, it's advised you take it for this check.

Smog Test

How to pass a smog check?

The first warning sign that there might be something wrong with your vehicle is when the check engine light flashes. If this happens, you need to take your car to a certified mechanic who will be able to find out what's wrong with your car and how to fix the problem. The light going off could mean that there is a small leak in your car, that your car has a gas cap, etc.

When it comes to new cars, mechanics will access the car's onboard computer system. Older cars will likely undergo an onboard diagnostic test and a tailpipe probe to find the source of the problem. If the mechanic finds problems in the vehicle, he is required to list the problems and recommend the necessary repairs. Fixing emission systems requires replacing or repairing parts in the exhaust system, and it could be pretty pricy to fix these parts.

Aside from the exhaust system, there are other parts of the car that could cause emission problems; a weak battery could cause your vehicle to fail the smog check. If you have battery problems, you can still pass the emission tests by using quality gas, changing the oil in the engine, and changing the battery to a new and high-quality battery can all have a positive impact on your vehicle, and they can help it pass the inspection.

Car Smoke Test

How much does a smog check cost?

As mentioned above, emissions test laws and requirements vary between states, and so do smog tests. The cost of such a test depends on where you live, so you need to find out how much mechanics charge in your area. To find out the prices of getting a smog test, type into Google "smog test near me", and check which mechanics perform the test near you.

There are some states that provide free emissions tests, but there could be exceptions even in these states. So, you still need to make sure how much a smog test will cost you. Non-state testers, meaning private mechanics, will charge you about $30-$90 on the test.  

If your car passes the test, you will get a state-issued sticker you will need to stick on your vehicle. If drivers do not perform smog tests on their vehicles, they can get tickets from traffic police.

If the car passes, he’ll provide a state-issued sticker that goes on the car to show it has passed the emissions test. Police can ticket drivers who haven't kept up to date on their car's emissions testing.

smog test near me

If your car did not pass the test and fixing it is expensive, you might be able to get discounts from the state. There are even certain states that pay drivers to get their cars off the road if they failed the smog test. So, if your vehicle did not pass the inspection, check if the state you live in offers discounts or vehicle retirement payments.

"smoking cars" can harm their drivers and other passengers on the roads. Even if it means failing, you have to take your car to a periodic smog check. It will help you detect problems in your vehicle so you can fix them and stay safe on the road.


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