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Print Posted 05/21/2016 in Category 1

Smog Check History - CA Smog History

Smog Check History - CA Smog History

A Brief History Of California's Smog Check Evolution

California has a long, and deservedly proud history of leading the rest of the United States in environmental concerns. One of the widest nationally recognized initiatives on the state’s part is its smog check requirements, which initially required vehicles manufactured after a certain year to comply with regulations regarding their exhaust systems, and eventually grew to require testing of certain vehicles emissions, to ensure they were in compliance with state regulations.


Smog Check History Started

Oddly enough, and contrary to popularly held beliefs, California was not the first state to adopt a vehicle inspection program it was actually the 20th, first passing legislation creating legal entities for smog and vehicle maintenance enforcement in 1982.


1982, however was not the first year that the state conducted smog tests or checks. That actually occurred in 1972, 10 years earlier. In this article, California’s smog check history will be examined, and hopefully explained.


The first steps the legislation and regulations that are in place took place in 1972, when the state of California created the Bureau of Automotive Repair. The Bureau is placed in charge of licensing, regulation and general oversight of all dealers, shops and other businesses providing automotive repairs to public and private vehicle owners. That same year, the Motor Vehicle Inspection Program was initiated by the state which began to collect emissions results from vehicles during randomly conducted roadside inspections.


It wasn’t until 1974 that any of this data was put into actual use, in the form of Notices of Correction that were issued to any operator of a vehicle that was determined to exceed allowable pollution standards via their vehicle’s emissions. These notices were sent to the registered address of the operator, informing them of their vehicles emissions problems. At the time, the only corrective measure that could be applied was to take the vehicle in for repair, and to have the car inspected at a future date.


From 1974-1978 California began to conduct tests to change the way that they collected emissions data. In Riverside, for example loaded-mode tests began. It had been determined that a wide range of variables were coming into play regarding emissions, and that vehicles with the engine idling were often showing inaccurate results to the roadside tests. Loaded-mode tests were then designed, and tested to improve the accuracy of these results.


A loaded-mode test is precisely what its name implies. Rather than testing emissions from a vehicle that is running at idle, the loaded-mode test simulated the engine under a load, as it would be during normal driving conditions. Special dynometers were built to be able to recreate truer conditions, and testing in Riverside was conducted in specially designated facilities, rather than side of the road testing, as was being conducted in the rest of the state.


CA Smog History Began

It wasn’t until 1977 that amendments to the federal Clean Air Act were enacted, requiring states to adhere to federal emissions standards under specific conditions and the state of California began creating a emissions and inspections regulations program.


Smog Check History in CA

In the years from 1979 to 1984, California administered an inspection network in the South Coast Air Basin, allowing contractors overseen by the state to conduct millions of emissions and safety inspections on vehicles that were being bought or sold, or otherwise going through a change of ownership. At this time, the only time a vehicle had to be inspected was during a change of ownership, or if the vehicle was being brought into and registered in California for the first time. Vehicles didn’t yet need annual inspections to remain deemed road worthy.


As we said before, in 1982 California adopted the vehicle inspection and smog check program, becoming the 20th state to do so. It wasn’t until 1984 that the smog check initiatives were formally begun, when California began administering a statewide Smog Check Program.


In 1990, the amendments to the federal Clean Air Act required the state to further modify its smog check and vehicle inspection programs, moving from contractor run inspections to a state run program. The state was a national leader in an effort to allow flexibility throughout the nation for other states to design and build their own inspection and emissions control programs.


It wasn’t until 1995 that California initiated a cost limit to the repairs that would be required in order for a vehicle to pass an emissions check. This cost limit is based on a sliding scale, and requires vehicle operators to spend a minimum of $450.00 in order to attempt repairs to the emissions system of any vehicle. Once the amount specified by the sliding scale has been spent, vehicles are granted an exclusion for the smog inspections for that year.


In 1996, the state once again led the nation in the form of electronic reporting. Vehicle inspectors would automatically transmit the results of all smog and vehicle inspections to a centralized database run by the state. California, at this point began to keep records of vehicles performance, year after year on smog checks and vehicle inspections.


In 1998, it was determined that vehicles that were 4 model years old and newer would be exempted from the smog check requirement.


Development of California’s smog check requirements are continuing to evolve to this day, becoming stricter and stricter, while at the same time allowing vehicle owners the opportunity to repair failoing vehicles more freely than ever before. Today’s vehicles do not require the traditional “sniffer up the tailpipe” that was required in years past, with OBD (On Board Diagnostics) ports being available in most newer vehicles, all the inspector has to do is hook a scanner up to the port, and the inspector, and the owner will instantly know if the vehicle has passed a smog check or not.

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