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To encourage the repair of the worst polluting vehicles a special classification the Gross Polluter was codified in law. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) estimates that while Gross Polluting vehicles represent between 10 to 15 percent of the automobiles they cause greater than 50% of automobile smog.

Gross Polluters pollute much more than a typical failing car. The term is really a legal definition. The emission level at which an automobile is categorized as a Gross Polluter differs according the automobile type and year. Normally they exceed a minimum of one of the gross polluter standards (twice the optimum discharge limits). Gross Polluter vehicles are selected with these strategies:

Autos tested at certified smog check stations which surpass at least among the gross polluter requirements (twice the optimum emission limits).

Vehicles chosen from the High Emitter Profile (HEP) data source which have a high likelihood of failing the Smog Inspection evaluation.

By law, a Gross Polluter should be tested at a special facility. Prior to 2013 Gross Polluters were smog checked at a Test-Only station, however from 2013 onward these cars should be taken to a STAR smog station which can be either Test Only or Test and Repair.

California has a Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to provide monetary aid to those who must fix their car to pass a smog check. CAP provides monetary assistance for qualified owners whose automobiles fail their biennial (every-other-year) Smog Inspection.Participation in CAP programs is restricted to available funds.

Older automobiles are not held to the same discharge standards as newer automobiles. Older cars were constructed to less rigid standards when initially made and therefore the smog inspection process is developed with this in mind. The vehicle owner of an older car is offered a slight handicap or advantage. They need to nonetheless up keep their automobile's maintenance to a acceptable level.

Gross Polluting cars will typically produce excessive white or black smoke from the tailpipe. This should be a clear indicator that your vehicle's engine is not running well.

Typically a car sending out large amounts of white or black smoke will be designated as a gross polluter after the smog inspection. It is extremely advised you seek repair prior to getting a smog check or emissions test.

Black Smoke: Large amounts of black smoke from the muffler is usually due to a rich fuel mixture and will produce high CO, and as a result high HC during the smog check.

White Smoke: A car giving off excessive white smoke from the tailpipe may have a burned or blown head gasket. A blown head gasket may trigger overheating and high NOx exhausts. Most often the level of NOx produced will be two times the allowed restriction, rendering your vehicle as a gross polluter or HEP.

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