Of Smoke and Smolder: Types of Smog Checks

California has long suffered from smog problems ever since the influx of automobiles in the state as well as the presence of refineries and factories in the Southland. The Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley areas, in particular, are the most affected portions of the state due to their surrounding mountains trapping the pollutant. Smog causes a variety of harmful health effects, such as birth defects and respiratory diseases, and can aggravate the effects of existing medical conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. The state has stepped up over the past decades in its effort to manage the smog problem that affects residents’ overall health and wellbeing.
Those planning to have their cars registered (or reregistered) under California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) should know that they will have to accomplish one of two types of smog checks in order to meet the state’s requirements. The type needed is determined by the vehicle’s smog check history, among other things. This prerequisite is an effort by the federal government to curb its car-induced smog problem and to help motorists stay on top of their vehicles’ condition. The two types are:

Regular Smog Tests

Motorists who receive their DMV registration documents with the requirement “Smog Certification Required” means that they only have to take the “regular” smog check. These checks are often issued to newer models. Cars being registered for the first time with the DMV automatically require only regular smog tests, because they do not have any prior smog test results. Additionally, automobiles being resold three months prior to the expiration of their registration date may opt for a regular smog check over the other type.

STAR Tests

Drivers whose DMV paperwork states “Smog Certification Required at a STAR Station” need to do exactly that: have their cars checked by a STAR-certified test center. Test centers with the STAR certification are no different from non-STAR centers, but they have the distinction of being closely monitored by the Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR). The BAR sets high standards for the smog checks STAR-certified stations administer to ensure that only the most efficient cars pass. Cars that have failed a prior smog inspection and vehicle types known for their high smog emission ratings are usually asked to undergo STAR tests. Some vehicles, even relatively faultless ones, are randomly selected to undergo STAR checks as well.

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