Passing a smog test is an annual tradition for car drivers in most parts of the country. The test ensures we aren’t driving cars that do too much damage to the environment. Fixing the car can cost anywhere from $100 to $3,500 so that it will pass the next exam.
In states like California and Illinois, smog tests or emissions tests are an annual occurrence for many car owners. The law requires cars of certain years to take and pass an emissions test to help cut back on pollution caused by car exhaust.
There are some indications that your vehicle will automatically fail the exam such as an illuminated check engine light. There are also ways to work around the system a bit according to some drivers.
You will want to ensure that your car is working well before you take it to the smog test. If you know the car needs repair, do those projects before taking the car to get tested by the state. If you don’t, you won’t be able to drive your car until it’s fixed.
The failure is recorded in the system.
Most new cars will pass. Unless there is a problem you don’t know about (i.e. there’s no noise, strange exhaust, or check engine light), the car should be one of the most efficient on the road. Older cars, however, are prone to problems, especially ones that cause smog test failure.
This is because the average lifespan of a car is only twelve years. The economy forces some drivers to hold onto their old vehicles, patching them up as they break year after year. If it’s the catalytic converter, that’s a big repair! Getting the car up to snuff can be too expensive.
These types of problems are the ones known to impact smog test results.
These smog tests occur in over 33 states, a response to the Clean Air Act in the 1970s. People realized that the pollution was getting out of hand, and so the government responded with a somewhat inefficient system that monitors the success of our vehicle engines.
If the results aren’t good enough, you have to stop and get the problem fixed so you’re polluting less. It’s a great idea in theory, but an expansive system and millions of drivers makes it hairy sometimes.
Some folks in Los Angeles are happy about the change as smog has been cut back with stricter enforcement.
The problem for most people isn’t the principle behind the matter. It’s the surprise of a smog test failure, the hassle of getting the test, and the fees associated with repairing a vehicle that doesn’t make the grade.
How to Easily Pass a Smog Test
Passing a smog test can take up some time, but it’s worth it. Living in a geography with cleaner air is better for everybody. That being said, when it’s a test, we want to pass. This is because the hassle of failing a smog test is an annoyance.
Check Engine Light
If you see the check engine light on your car’s dashboard, do not run in for the smog test as soon as it’s announced. You will fail. Instead, prepare for the examination.
You can go to an auto parts store or a mechanic to have the check engine light read to give you a clue as to what’s going on. If you are buddy, buddy with a mechanic, you could ask for a favor. They may be able to clear the code for you. By this, we mean that you should do the repairs.
Overriding vehicle codes, when even possible, is never advised.
Getting the repairs done isn’t always expensive! You can get a new oxygen sensor for about $300 on average. Big repairs like catalytic converters can cost thousands, though.
Go for a Ride!
Schedule some time on the highway about two weeks before the test. In 1974, the government required catalytic converters in cars. Since then, they’ve needed to be cleaned by long high speed driving trips.
Call a Garage for a Tune Up
A tune-up is a good idea before a smog test. Do it two weeks prior to give the car some time to reset itself. Sometimes the car will present itself better when the mechanic rests the diagnostic test the car performs on itself.
Get an Oil Change
When’s the last time you got your oil changed? We don’t recommend doing it “just because,” but oil changes clean up the car’s system a bit. Additionally, most oil changes come with an inspection that can help drivers identify if there are repairs to be done before the smog test.
Pump Up the Tires for the Smog Test
Check the tires to ensure they are inflated at the correct levels. Some states do a high-speed stationary test (dynamometer) that runs the wheels. If the tires aren’t correctly inflated, they will throw off the car’s performance under the hood.
Check the Engine Coolant
Checking the car’s coolant level is a good idea even when you don’t have a smog test. Drivers of older vehicles in particular should always keep a close eye on the car’s liquid levels. If they’re off, the engine will work harder, possibly causing a failure.
Fill the Gas Tank before an Emissions Test
Filling up the old vehicle before a smog test can work wonders. If the level is low, it can affect the fuel pump. This causes an emissions test failure!
Should I take a Smog Pretest?
Taking a pretest may be a good idea if it’s offered in your state. You can pay a fee to pretest the vehicle, allowing you to know if the car will fail without a mark on the vehicle’s permanent record.
How NOT to Pass a Smog Test
If you want to know what causes people not to pass a smog test, there are two often-debated tips to keep in mind.
Tip number one: Don’t go to take the smog test when it’s raining. Wet tires are a variable that could throw things off. That being said, it’s also rumored that the higher humidity causes some pollutants to come forward at lower levels.
Tip number two: stop by the auto parts store and grab a bottle of fuel additive. Sometimes this handry trick can clean up fuel injectors. If the car is borderline, it could open things up just enough to pass the smog test with flying colors. Some say it isn’t worth it, though.
What Causes a Failed Smog Test?
Failing a smog test feels like a major setback, however the reasons for failure aren’t surprising.
What makes a car fail a smog test? For some, it's a failure at first sight. A check engine light is to blame. This check engine light tells the examiner that the car has a problem with it’s emission system that’s been documented by the car’s onboard computer systems.
The problem from there could relate to fuel or the catalytic converter. Some repairs are less than $500, but others can run as high as $6,000 (full engine rebuild).
Depending on the age of the car and the problems being diagnosed, it may be time to research local junkyards.
Cars unfortunately are not designed to be on the road forever. In fact, most cars only make it twelve years on the road! When a car isn’t able to pass a smog test, it is polluting the environment. Rather than let that sit on your conscience, call the junkyard.
This goes double if you can’t afford the repairs. The junkyard will come to you, pick up the car, pay cash, and recycle the vehicle. Parts can be sold to other owners or broken down into scrap.
What Happens if I Fail a Smog Test?
Failing a smog test may feel like the end of the world, but it isn’t. You have options.
Pay attention to what the technician at the smog testing place has to say about your car’s performance.
The tech may give you clues as to where to begin. They could tell you what’s wrong with the car, what code was read, or whom to call for further instruction or repair.
If this doesn’t get you off on the right foot, then talk to your garage professional about doing a smoke test. This basically forces smoke into the car’s systems so that leaks from hoses can be identified. The test and repairs run about $140 on average.
Some states have deals with certain garages that can do the work and then again give the car another smog test. Other states have “fix and repair stations” where the technician can repair the vehicle. It eliminates a lot of needless driving.
Ask if your state has assistance for the repairs. Some governments recognize that not everybody has piles of cash sitting around for surprise smog test failure repairs. If there’s a program for which you qualify, you can apply for aid.
Smog Test Preparation Tips from reddit
On reddit, everyday people talk about topics from their favorite movies to financial advice; they even talk about passing a smog test. Here’s a summary of advice.
First of all, we have to make a plan and stick to it. If you know your car is dodgy when it comes to emissions, figure out how you’re going to pass this test before heading in for it.
You can try disconnecting the battery. If the power drains long enough, the car may be able to push itself some miles before it again states that it needs its engine checked.
Another tip is to run the vehicle at least twenty minutes before the test. The officials say this doesn’t work, though.
The people who work there have weighed in with the inside scoop, and they have issued a word to the wise: just take the car to a smog repair shop and get the advice you need. Honest and licensed technicians will advise you of the necessary repairs.
A Final Word on Engine Maintenance
Owning a car is a serious responsibility. Beyond the requirements of being a safe driver (driving sober, wearing sunglasses, watching for pedestrians, going the speed limit), there are expectations about the maintenance of your car.
If you own a car, you must keep it in good working order for the health, safety, and wellbeing of the community. For example, if you don’t get your car’s brakes repaired when needed, not only is this dangerous for you and your passengers, it’s dangerous for everyone on the road.
The same could be said about driving while sick, tired, or under the influence of drugs and alcohol. If you’re not in the condition to drive, don’t take to the roads.
A car that won’t pass a smog test also causes health and safety concerns. It may not seem like a big deal to some people, but driving a car with an unfit level of emissions is causing unnecessary pollution. As citizens, we all have a responsibility to do better.
Although some people debate it, the governments of many states have acted to ensure that cars don’t pollute at unacceptable levels, hence smog tests and emissions tests.
Rather than try to work around the system, we should try to keep our own contamination levels down where we can.
As many trusted mechanics, smog test station experts, and environmentals have told us, the best way to pass a smog test is to drive a newer vehicle or to get the appropriate repairs done so that the car operates as designed.
If you can’t afford the repairs, or you don’t want the responsibility of a smog test failing vehicle, consider sending the vehicle to the junkyard.