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The Smog Test: What to Do When You’ve Failed

smog test sign

Depending where you call home, your vehicle may be subject to an emissions inspection every couple years. During these tests, commonly known as smog tests, a computerized system monitors your vehicle’s exhaust gases to make sure it’s not polluting the atmosphere. In states where a smog test is required, your ability to register your vehicle is dependent on the vehicle passing an emissions test, so it’s important to keep your car well-maintained to pass. If you don’t pass, however, don’t worry. You can take the test again. Here’s what to do if you fail.

Failing the Testemissions

If you find that your vehicle has failed a smog test, don’t worry, report cards won’t be sent home to your parents. It simply means that one of the parts tested, be it your exhaust pipes, catalytic converter or even simply your gas cap, may not be functioning properly. If you fail the test, the testing facility will give you a printout verifying the test and pointing out what is in need of repair. While some things may be simple enough to fix yourself, others may require the experts at your local NAPA AutoCare Center . Once you’ve made the repairs, take your car back for retesting. If everything is fixed correctly, you should pass without issue.

Failing Again

Even with the parts repaired or replaced, sometimes vehicles fail the smog test a second time. While everything is working correctly, some cars, especially older ones, still can’t meet today’s stringent emissions criteria. If you find that your vehicle failed for a second time, you can often show your receipts from the repairs and obtain a waiver that will allow you to register your car. This varies from state to state, so be sure to check with your local DMV.

How to Avoid Failing

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that goes for your car as well. By simply keeping up a regular maintenance routine and having your local service center inspect your exhaust, you can help ensure your vehicle passes the emissions test with flying colors and avoid costly repairs.

Failing a smog test can be frustrating, but the fix is often simple. By keeping up with routine maintenance and making sure your exhaust system is free of leaks and is functioning properly, you can increase your chances of passing the first time.

Check out all the fuel & emission system parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on passing a smog test, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr.


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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