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California Emissions Laws - Welcome To California... Now Pop Your Hood.

Scott Tsuneishi
Sep 26, 2012
Impp 1208 01 o+welcome to california+plate Photo 1/2   |   IMPP-120800-SCOTT-012-

Because California has the most stringent rules regarding smog emissions, vehicles that passed smog inspections in other states might not meet California’s standards. Heed our warning when we say if your vehicle is flagged as a gross polluter or modified to the hilt, stay as far away from the Cali borders as possible.

But before you Californians decide our smog laws are too overwhelming to bear and take a knife to your wrist, there’s a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Set to begin January 1, 2013, 2000-and-newer model vehicles will no longer require the tailpipe emissions test portion of the smog check process. You read that right: The sniffer check is caput, history, gone!

Ordinance AB 2289 will require late-model vehicles be administered the smog check’s visual and functional tests as a means to reduce the time and cost of the smog check. The program will now rely on the vehicle’s OBD-II emissions monitoring system to compare the emissions output readings (i.e. O2 sensors) to ensure the proper operation of various emission components as opposed to using a smog machine to sample the vehicle’s emissions output from the tailpipe. Surprisingly enough, the soon-to-be-implemented procedure is already in place in 22 other states so it’s nothing new, but is considered a surprise/relief for our state—known to have the strictest emissions testing.

Impp 1208 02 o+welcome to california+smog check Photo 2/2   |   California Emissions Laws - Welcome To California... Now Pop Your Hood.

Will that custom ECU tune that manipulates the check engine light not to come on due to a higher-flowing exhaust/catalytic converter or modified TGVs for Subarus show up on this new “test”? That remains to be seen. The biggest question among the tuner community is how this new smog procedure will obscure or perhaps open possibilities for vehicles to run aftermarket camshafts and/or custom components, assuming it passes the visual inspection? We say most likely if it doesn’t trigger a CEL when scanning your vehicle’s OBD-II, you’re good to go.

Keep in mind before you decide on bolting on an aftermarket turbo kit or GT35 turbo, the visual smog check portion will now become even more critical/stringent for smog technicians who will be more bitter as many are forced to lower the price of a smog check or “test only” since the older machines won’t be used. Fortunately, a majority of testers don’t know what to look underhood for unless they are car enthusiasts and can remember what emissions came with what and what a stock part looks like, that is, unless they are BAR referees, which in many cases you’re SOL.

As long as the emissions parts are CARB legal and in working order and emissions outputs from various sensors throughout the system are within specs, this new testing procedure will be easy for most. That’s assuming you don’t pull into the smog shop with check engine warnings lighting up your dash like early Christmas. If you’re due for smog next year, 2013 can’t come any sooner.

By Scott Tsuneishi
247 Articles

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