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About the Truckee California Smog Check - How Quality Automotive Helps Pass the Test

Quality Automotive Helps Pass the Smog Check Test

Like it or not, one of the responsibilities of owning a vehicle includes keeping it emissions clean and not becoming a contributor to poor Truckee air quality. With 32 million registered vehicles on the road in California, it is no wonder that our state has the strictest vehicle emissions standards in the country.

  • A regularly maintained vehicle that is running efficiently should have no problems passing a smog test.
  • DMV reminds drivers on the annual registration renewal notice.  Bring this paperwork with you when you get your smog check.
  • For most vehicles six years or older, this is a mandatory test every two years.
  • Diesel vehicles are now tested every year.
  • A vehicle brought in from out of sate is required to pass a smog test in order to be registered in California. 



  • Our Truckee technician is certified and continually monitored by the Bureau of Automotive Repair to be sure the tests are performed properly and legally.
  • Smog testing equipment is calibrated and instantly downloads all the data to the State of California.
  • There are three tests/inspections: emission test, visual inspection, and functional test. The vehicle must pass all three tests to be smog certified.

The Emissions Test - Measures the vehicle's Hydrocarbons (HC), Carbon Monoxides (CO) and Nitrides of Oxygen Oxides, the three undesired chemicals responsible for smog. Emissions must fall within the allowable limits set by the California Air Resources Board. A properly maintained engine should not have any trouble passing the emissions test.

Visual Inspection - The smog technician verifies that all emissions components on the vehicle are present and properly connected. The smog technician is also looking for any defective or disconnected electrical connections, vacuum hoses and/or any modification which would effect engine performance and ultimately increase harmful smog emissions. There is also an inspection for visible black or white smoke from the tailpipe.

Functional Inspection - Examines the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) system. This test includes inspection for any fault codes in the vehicle’s computer. The test also requires that engine timing and idle speed fall within the manufacturer's guidelines. During this inspection if the check engine light is on or comes on, even briefly, the vehicle will fail. Also, it is important to know that if the check engine light has recently been turned off or if the battery has been disconnected, it will be necessary to drive the vehicle a few days before attempting a smog test.

When you visit, bring your registration renewal notice with you. The technician will scan your information and test results will be sent to the DMV. Once registration fees are paid, a new sticker will be mailed to the vehicle owner.

Failed Truckee California Smog Test

If your vehicle has failed the smog check, typically this means that some system on the vehicle is not functioning efficiently and does not meet the requirements set by the State of California Air Resources Board. A failure will have occurred in one or more of the three areas tested: the visual inspection, the functional test or the emissions test.

A diagnosis may be needed to determine cause of failure.

In some cases of failed smog, a diagnostic service is necessary in order to pinpoint the problem. This diagnosis is not included in the Smog Check fee. Although this can be a frustrating situation, know that the diagnostic service includes more than retrieving the code that caused the failure. The code only indicates the system where the problem is occurring; it takes an experienced Quality Automotive and Smog technician to diagnose where in the system the problem or problems are occurring and how to fix it.

If the check engine light is on or was recently on, the computer will fail the vehicle.

A diagnostic service will also be needed if your check engine light is on since this is an automatic fail for the California Smog test. Diagnosing and fixing any problem will not only help you pass the smog test, it will keep your vehicle running clean and fuel efficient.

It is also important to know that if your Check Engine light, also called the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MLF), was recently on but now cleared, the vehicle will need to be driven in order to allow the vehicle monitor to run the self tests. This also includes if the battery was disconnected or failed. Driving the vehicle allows the computer to collect and store current information from the monitors which the smog technician uses during the test. How far the vehicle needs to be driven will vary, 100 miles is likely sufficient.

Gross Polluter Designation

When a vehicle is Smog checked and the levels are extremely high, it becomes identified by the State of California as a Gross Polluter. A Gross Polluter is a vehicle that emits much more than the allowable limit. This designation requires the vehicle owner to have the vehicle fixed and retested at a Star Station. A Star Station designation also requires the vehicle to be test yearly as opposed to every other year. Quality Automotive and Smog is a designated Star Station.

California's Consumer Assistance Program

If you have failed a smog test and substantial repairs are needed on the vehicle you may be eligible for California’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). Eligibility requirements are available on BAR’s website With qualification, up to $500 in emissions-related repairs are paid for after a $100 co-pay. Vehicle owners may also retire a vehicle and receive $1,000 or $1,500 if all requirements are met.

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