Vehicle-exhaust checking: It’s a good thing – or is it?

California’s first ever car-exhaust measuring program became effective in 1984. And, it’s no wonder. Southern California experienced its first major smog episode in 1943. Not knowing what was initially to blame a butadiene plant was shut down. Even with the plant closing the smog persisted. It became apparent that it was motor vehicles that were primarily responsible for the smog problem. Consequently, efforts were put in place as a means of controlling polluting smog.

Returning to my home state of Maryland after graduating from college in 1976, I purchased my very first motor vehicle. It was a Capri, with manual transmission. (There is a point to all of this). It was a pretty good car from what I recall, but after driving back to California, the car was involved in an accident and that was that. In need of another car, I found a used one in San Luis Obispo where I was staying at the time. You will understand if I don’t mention the brand or model, but this bruiser (the car) had seen much better days. The day I test drove it, the car performed quite satisfactorily, or so I thought. The model year of the car was 1969. Now, had a smog evaluation been required during the summer of ’77, I have no doubt that this particular automobile would have failed – unquestionably. So, even with engine tuned and the timing set appropriately, what naturally looked to be a good buy, in the end, a lemon, this turned out to be.

Within a few months’ time all kinds of problems started to develop. These were not problems that a brand new engine or a brand new auto with a brand new engine couldn’t solve. Long story short, that’s exactly what I did – I traded up in 1979.

Now as to the point of this experience, it is this: Sans a thorough automobile exhaust evaluation, the previous owner was able to sell the car. That shouldn’t happen now. In a like circumstance today, if a motor vehicle is a model 1976 or newer, if the vehicle is to change hands, the owner, before selling to another person, is required to have said vehicle smog certified – it’s the law. If the vehicle passes smog testing, then a transfer of title is permitted to take place. If, on the other hand, the motor vehicle in question fails a smog certification, it is up to the vehicle’s owner to make any and all repairs at their own expense to ensure the automatic mobility device meets spec. This is a safeguard that has been put in place to protect both the buyer and seller and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, in “California Smog Check Program gets upgrade with ‘STAR’,” I pointed out the difference between what is known as “Smog Check” and what is known as “STAR.” “STAR” testing is required on registered vehicles in state that are privately owned for model years 1999 and older (with the exception of vehicles 1975 and older) while “Smog Check” testing is required of registered motor vehicles in state that are privately owned for model years 2000 and newer. Smog testing in either case, providing specs are met, is every two years. At least, this is the way I understand things.

So, I ask the questions: Are “Smog Check” and “STAR” effective programs? Are both programs needed? Is the money that is generated through these two efforts doing enough to make a difference to significantly reduce pollutant emissions coming from the transportation sector in California? Really, that last question to me is what matters most, for if these programs truly are effective, then the state should be seeing substantial improvement regarding motor-vehicle-emissions reduction. If not, then it could be time for an altogether different approach.

Your thoughts on this?


– Alan Kandel

3 thoughts on “Vehicle-exhaust checking: It’s a good thing – or is it?”

  1. * Do you want $2 Gasoline at the pump?

    * Do you want clean air and water?

    Ethanol waiver and elimination of E-85 flex fuel credit can cut our ozone & CO2 transportation pollution over 50%

    Let’s improve performance of CA Climate change law AB 32 (Pavley) in 2015 for future generations

  2. What is a PZEV?

    Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle

    Do PZEV Smog Check fails get fixed?

    Not as often as they should.

  3. I certainly think that Smog checks and STAR testing is a step in the right direction in tackling pollution but you certainly raise very interesting point about their effectiveness. I think there should be more done globally to police these programs to ensure we are doing the best for our environment.

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