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Four state organizations have some input into the smog check program.  The CA DMV and the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) are the two most involved organizations.  However since the smog inspection program is in part required in order to comply with Federal air quality requirments, the Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) are involved as well.  In fact, the new STAR smog check license was developed jointly be the BAR and the ARB  It is nearly guaranteed that at some point if you own a car, a smog inspections will be required in order to register the vehicle at the CA DMV. 

How the CA DMV is involved in Smog Checks

When your vehicle comes up for registration renewal the CA DMV sends out a registration notice.  Depending upon where you live, the type of car you own, the last time a smog check was performed and the age of your vehicle, you may be required to have your vehicle smog tested in order to renew your vehicles registration.  The CA DMV is responsible for adding the notification to the renewal notice for the smog check.  The CA DMV also directs a certain number of vehicles to STAR licensed smog check stations.

The process whereby a vehicle is selected by the CA DMV to be directed to a STAR station is in part random.  Each year a certain percentage of vehicles are simply randomly selected by the CA DMV.  The other portion of the vehicles directed by the CA DMV to a STAR smog test locations are identified as gross polluters.  A gross polluter is a vehicle that has failed their smog inspections by emitted such high levels of pollution that a special category, called a Gross Polluter was created.  While only 10 to 15 percent of vehicles are identified as Gross Polluters it is estimated that half of the smog in CA produced by motor vehicles is emitted by Gross Polluting vehicles.  The DMV in CA will identify a vehicle as a gross polluter and by law the vehicle will be directed to a STAR licensed smog check location for testing.

The DMV Requires a Biennial Smog Inspection in CA

In order to register your vehicle depending on the age and vehicle type the DMV requires a smog inspection every other year.  Most vehicles are exempt for on average 6 years from their model year.  After that time, a smog check is required in CA every other year or biennially.  Some vehicles follow different rules on when a smog check is required.  The specific rules can be found here.

The DMV does not Require Hybrids at this Time to Have a Smog Check

Currently, the CA DMV does not require hybrid vehicles be smog checked.  This is in a large part because though hybrids do have a gasoline engine, emissions tests have not been developed for hybrid vehicles.  For example, one part of the smog test required by the DMV is an idle smog test which measures emissions when a car is idling.  However, the combustion engine in hybrid vehicles typically do not idle.  When the vehicle is stopped, neither the combustion engine nor the electric engine are engaged.

The DMV Enforces Different Smog Check Requirements Depending Upon Where You Live

Many people don't know that the requirements enforced in California vary depending on where you live. In most cases whenever a vehicle is sold or ownership is transferred a smog check is required.  This rule is valid in all areas of CA and is enforced by the DMV when they receive notice of sale or transfer.  However, depending on population density addition smog checks may be required.  Further the DMV will require a different type of smog check.  Highly populated areas required an Enhanced Smog Check, while less populated areas only require a Basic Smog Check.

The DMV Provides Helpful Information at its website

Complete information regarding smog check regulations relating the the DMV in CA are found at the DMV website.  Information found here.

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