Auto Repair Blog by California Motor Works & Tires

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Smog Check Requirements For San Diego Residents

Smog Check Requirements For San Diego Residents

Every year, hundreds of thousands of San Diego drivers seeking to renew their car registration with the Department of Motor Vehicles must pass a smog check to do so. And some are specifically required to visit a certified STAR station. But what does that mean? And what exactly are the smog check requirements for San Diego residents anyway?

Here's How Smog Check Requirements Work For San Diego Residents

Every two years

If you drive a gas powered vehicle made after 1975, California law dictates your car must receive a smog check biennially — in other words, every two years. In most cases, this simply means a certified mechanic performs emissions tests on the vehicle to ensure it still meets state-mandated standards.  

The first 6 years don't count

If you've only been driving new cars the past few years, you've likely never been required to perform a smog check. For the first six years, a new car is registered with the state, it's not required to smog check. Instead, a $20 smog abatement fee is applied to the cost of registration. However, at the end of the sixth year, and every two years after that, a smog check will be required for that vehicle.

New California residents must smog check within 20 days 

If you've recently moved to San Diego from out of state, California requires you to smog check your car within 20 days to qualify for in-state registration. California has long set the pace among states for having strict emissions standards to control air pollution, so out of state certifications won't count — the smog check must be performed here.

Types of smog stations

Licensed smog check stations in the state of California generally fall into two categories. Test only stations, and test and repair stations. Test only stations specifically perform smog checks, issuing a pass or fail grade, and that's the end of it. 

Test and repair stations, on the other hand, are certified to perform smog checks, and also offer repair services. That means, if your vehicle doesn't pass its smog check, the mechanics at these stations may perform work on your car to ensure it passes the second smog check, in one convenient location. For newer models, and well-maintenaned vehicles, a test only station should suffice. However, when there's any question about the vehicle's ability to pass a smog check, a test and repair station will be a more reliable option. 

STAR Certified Smog Check Stations

Some California drivers owners will receive a motor vehicle renewal notice specifying their vehicle must receive a smog check from a certified STAR station. A STAR station tests emissions to an even higher set of standards established by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. So-called "directed vehicles" may be required to smog check at a STAR certified station if they are a model year of 1999 or older, if their make and model are considered potential gross polluters, and if they reside in urban centers where high ozone levels are a greater risk.

Only a certified STAR station may provide this directed smog check, though, like regular smog check stations, a STAR station may be licensed to test and repair, or to test only. Even if a driver isn't required to get a STAR station, smog check, they may still do so.

What to bring to a smog check

California Motor Works, in Kearny Mesa, is a STAR certified test and repair station, meaning we can handle all smog check requirements for San Diego Residents. When you need a smog check, simply bring your vehicle, along with a valid driver's license, proof of insurance, vehicle registration, and title (presuming you own the vehicle outright). We can take care of everything. Give us a call at (858) 560-1245 today to get you all set up.