Smog Checks and Diesel Vehicles

Starting in January 2010, some diesel powered vehicles will be required to have inspections at Smog Check stations every other year. Nearly one-half of a million cars will be tested under this new rule during the first year. Tests will be done on diesel vehicles that are model year 1998 or newer, and weigh up to 14,000 pounds. Diesel vehicles that change owners must have Smog Checks, as well as checks on out-of-state diesels.

To get an idea as to why this program now includes diesel vehicles, a little background information about diesel emissions may be helpful. The particulate matter that comes out of diesel emissions is a toxic pollutant, which in turn causes damage to human health. Asthma, cancer, and respiratory issues are just a few of the problems that arise from such contaminants. Oxides of nitrogen and reactive organic gases from diesel powered vehicles add to the creation of ozone.

As always, the DMV will give notice to vehicle owners when it is time for a Smog Check. The smog check will take about 15 minutes, and the inspection will include a visual check of the emission control equipment, a test for visible smoke, and a check of the on-board diagnostic system. Dynamometer testing will not be performed on diesel vehicles at the time of the smog check, and fuel samples will not be collected or tested for alternative fuels.

Diesel vehicles that weigh over 14,000 pounds do not need a Smog Check. There are only a few small motor homes that weigh less than 14,000 pounds, so there won’t be many diesel recreational vehicles that need a check. Currently, several other states across the country require emission tests for diesel powered vehicles, such as Nevada, Colorado, and New York.

Any diesel vehicle that has a tampered emission control system will fail the test. Approved aftermarket emission control equipment always has an ARB Executive Order number on it, and the ARB website provides technicians with more information about identifying illegal emission control devices.

Owners must get their failed vehicles repaired so that they can pass the Smog Check. The Consumer Assistance Program or CAP may be helpful for those motorists who have trouble paying for the necessary repairs; for example, $500 in financial assistance may be available to help owners bring their car up to code. Conversely, qualified owners may receive up to $1000 to retire their high polluting vehicle altogether.