So You Received a Test-Only Smog Check Directive

So you got your renewal notice from the DMV, and you notice something that says, “Smog Certification Required at a Test-Only or Gold Shield station.” What is this and why is this required?

By California law, two percent of all vehicles in an Enhanced area must go to Test-Only stations for their Smog Checks. The Bureau of Automotive Repair refers to these vehicles as Directed Vehicles. If you are in that two percent, you have been randomly selected as part of the evaluation process for the Smog Check Program to determine how effective its program is. (An Enhanced area is just an area that has serious problems with ozone and smog.)

Test-Only stations are just what the name implies – they are stations that can only do Smog Check inspections and sell gas caps. Test-Only Stations are separated from repair stations. One benefit of test-only stations is that consumers can be assured that the station has no reason to encourage excessive repairs, because they are not allowed to do repairs. Test-Only Stations are also licensed to certify Gross Polluting vehicles.

There are other cars that are directed to go to Test-Only Stations – these cars are referred to as High Emitter Profiles or HEP. HEP vehicles are those that are very likely to fail a Smog Check. Cars with a certain amount of mileage and that are a certain model year and make are more likely than others to fail the check. Computer profiles for Gross Polluters exist at the Bureau of Automotive Repair, and your car may match some of the criteria for a probable Gross Polluter or HEP. It is impossible for the state to meet its air quality standards if so many vehicles are allowed on the road that emit dangerous levels of air pollutants, so cars that are the most likely to emit twice the allowable amount of pollutants are ferreted out by the computer.

While Gross Polluter is a bit of an embarrassing term, it is really meant simply to classify vehicles that are likely to contribute to the serious smog problem in parts of California. The State of California wants to address the problem of Gross Polluters through repairs or retirement of the Gross Polluting vehicles. There is substantial pressure on the government to reduce smog levels, as more studies are clearly linking childhood asthma to smog and car pollution. Because the health benefits of fixing Gross Polluters are not incentive enough for some motorists, California offers financial incentives too, through the Consumer Assistance Program. Visit for more information about the program and its incentives.