Test Only Station

What is a Test Only Center?

Test Only Center is just that – a smog test only facility. No diagnostics nor repairs can be performed at a Test Only Center – just a smog inspection. The equipment and Smog Check Procedure is the same at a Test Only Center and a Test and Repair Facility.

Test Only Centers were created shortly after the introduction of BAR 97, California’s latest vehicle smog inspection program. Prior to BAR 97, all smog inspection facilities were allowed to perform smog diagnostics and repairs. Now only certified emissions repair technicians at Test and Repair Facilities are allowed to perform emissions diagnostics and repairs.

Test Only Centers provide a sort of “Checks and Balances” for the smog inspection program. We are informed that the data collected at a Test Only Center is what the State of California uses primarily to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

In addition, Test Only Centers are subjected to a higher rate of undercover vehicles by the Department of Consumer Affairs than Test and Repair Centers as one way of maintaining the integrity of the program.

Why was a Test Only Center Created?

The way I understand it, the cost of the new equipment raised the smog check price so much that consumers were forced to call around for estimates more than ever before. In order to get more business, some facilities lowered their prices to the point (I have personally seen prices as low as $9.99) that the only way to make any money was to cheat. Imagine paying for the equipment, calibration gases, phone charges, insurance, technician salaries, etc. and only charging less than ten dollars a smog check? As you can imagine, this promoted fraud which has been well documented by the Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Automotive Repair Division.

What many shops were doing was failing vehicles intentionally and selling  “repairs”. Since consumers were being “ripped off” and the smog inspection data being collected was inaccurate, this prompted the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs to step in to both protect the consumer and to maintain the integrity of the program. Thus, the creation ofTest Only Centers.

Why do I have to go to a Test Only Center when I never had to before?

This is not such a bad thing given why the Test Only Centers were created in the first place. I have been doing smog inspections both as a Test and Repair Center and now as a Test Only Center. I can tell you that I have never wanted a vehicle to pass as badly as I do now. There is no incentive for the vehicle to fail at a Test Only Center since no repairs can be performed, especially if a retest is performed at a discounted rate. The only incentive is for the vehicle to pass which translates into savings for the customer.

Some reasons for vehicles being referred to a Test Only Center are if the vehicle is labeled as a High Emitter Profile(HEP), a Gross Polluter, or maybe it is just selected randomly. This could be due to several reasons – age of the vehicle being one of them. The older the vehicle becomes, the higher the probability that it may fail and the State wants to keep a closer eye on these vehicles. This is not to say that Test and Repair Facilities cannot come up with the same results, but I guess that maybe Test Only Centers may be prone to be more consistent since they are under closer scrutiny.

HEP vehicles are vehicles that have established a pattern of emitting higher than normal emissions as they get older.

A “Gross Polluter” is a vehicle originally tested  and having failed at a Test and Repair Center with emissions results high enough where it is labeled a “Gross Polluter” by the State of California. It then has to be certified at a Test Only Center.

The State wants to track these vehicles and their repairs because only one percent of vehicles are “Gross Polluters” but they emit ninety nine percent of vehicle smog (latest stats that I have heard). Also, the State wants to check some vehicle models randomly to see what the emissions trends are on them.

Some vehicles may have been tested by the same Test and Repair shop since they were new and of course, customer loyalty could promote shops from failing vehicles when maybe they should.

Should I tune up my car or change the oil before the smog check?

Not unless you definitely know that your car is not running properly due to the oil being dirty or because of the tune up. I have seen many people spend a lot of money on vehicle repairs prior to the smog check only to find that their vehicle failed the smog check and the repairs performed were not at all related to the reason the vehicle failed the test. Since the retest is discounted for thirty days, bring it in first and let’s hope it passes the first time. This way you won’t throw your money away.

As for the oil, in my opinion, if it is bad enough to make a difference in the results of the test, you will notice it in the way your vehicle is running. If it is bad enough to make a difference in the way it is running, you will have other problems which will prompt you to take it into the shop for repairs long before your smog check is required.

Having said that, your oil should be changed every three thousand miles unless you don’t keep a car for very long. In this case you can follow the minimum factory warranty recommendation which is much higher. Remember, they are higher for warranty reasons only, not for longevity.

What do I do if my car fails?

If your car fails at a Test Only Center, emissions repairs must be performed at a Test and Repair Facility. Following the repairs, you then return to the Test Only Center to be certified.

What if I cannot afford the Smog Repair(s)?

The State of California offers Consumer Assistance for those who qualify under the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). For more information on this program, log ontowww.smogcheck.ca.gov.

In the meantime, if your vehicle has failed the smog check and the vehicle registration has expired or about to, I recommend my customers visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or the Auto Club of Southern California (AAA – if they are members) and pay the vehicle registration fees and then request a Temporary Operating Permit so that they can drive the car legally during the repair process. The DMV will issue a Temporary Operating Permit for up to 60 days.

There so happens to be a AAA office in Whittier at 16041 Whittier Boulevard, Whittier, CA 90603 (562) 698-3721  MAP

Can the Test Only Center refer failed vehicles to a specific Repair Shop?

No. A Test Only Center cannot refer any one specific Test and Repair Facility for smog related repairs. The Test Only Center has to provide customers whose cars have failed the smog check with a list of certified Test and Repair shops in their area. The shops on this list have to be included in the list of certified Test and Repair shops as determined by the State of California.

These shops are all included in the Department of Consumer affairs website www.smogcheck.ca.gov. If you don’t feel comfortable with any of the facilities on the list given to you, you can find a complete list on the website or by calling (800) 952-5210.

Why should I go to a Test Only Center for my smog check?

Being a Test Only Center, I know that this may sound like a biased statement, but it’s the truth. Many of our customers are not referred to a Test Only Center but they still come here for their smog check. Here are just a few reasons:

  • Given the reason for the creation of Test Only Centers by the State of California.
  • There is no incentive for a vehicle to fail here.
  • Keep the Test and Repair Facility honest. By this I mean that if your vehicle should fail for any reason, you can take the printout of the test results to different Test and Repair shops before you have any repairs performed to get an estimate and to discuss the repair procedures. This is especially good if you question what the first Test and Repair shop you visit may be telling you.
  • Many, many years of smog check experience. This translates into a speedy smog check and time saved. Also, we like to think that we give your vehicle the best opportunity to pass the smog check, legally, of course.
  • Our location Community Smog Center is centrally located on the southeast corner of Honolulu Ave. and Verdugo Blvd.. For those not familiar with the area, this is diagonally across the street from Rocky Cola Cafe and only a block away from the Auto Club.
  • Plus others.
  • Do I have to go to a Test and Repair Facility for Repairs? If the State of California says that you do. I have to say that smog related repairs are not as easy as some people like to think. Unless you have the proper equipment and training, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get the vehicle to pass the smog inspection retest. I have found that those who have their vehicles repaired at Test and Repair shops following the initial smog inspection failure, the customer is less stressed because the repairs are performed according to protocol and the vehicle passes the retest.Those that do not go to certified repair shops and have their vehicle fail the retest are usually very unhappy and get stressed out because they have thrown away their money on unnecessary repairs. They now find themselves in a quandary. Do they go directly to a Test and Repair shop and spend more money? Or do they go back to the shop that they just went to because they just paid them money and try to get “warranty” repairs? If they didn’t do it right the first time and don’t have the proper equipment, will they do it right the second time?  Do they try to get their money back and then go to a Test and Repair shop? Or do they just let their money go?  Decisions, decisions…

    Here at Community Smog Center, most of the time that repairs are performed by other than Certified Smog Repair Technicians, the vehicles fail the retest. this usually results in a very unhappy customer…and into wasted money for the consumer. Definitely have repairs performed at a Test and Repair shop.

    I go to the Dealership for all my repairs. Can I go there for smog repairs?

    Yes, if they are a Test and Repair Facility.

    However, I find that in my area, most Dealerships are not Certified Test and Repair Facilities. This means that they do not have the proper equipment and are not familiar with the smog inspection procedure which usually results in vehicles not passing the retest. Make sure that you check with your Dealership to make sure they are a Test and Repair Facility prior to having emissions repairs performed. Dealerships that  do not perform smog inspections normally means that they do not have the equipment nor a certified emissions technician.

    Having said this, if your car is under warranty, then you should return to the Dealership for warranty repairs. In addition, I believe that in the case of some exotic vehicles where the Dealership may be more qualified to perform the required repairs, I believe  the Smog Check program makes some allowance for these vehicles to return to the Dealership for emissions repairs.

I have been doing smog inspections for a very long time and I have yet to be able to determine the emissions levels by smelling the exhaust fumes. One needs the equipment to measure the output levels and to verify that repairs have been successful.

One of the things that upsets people the most is when they take their car to the Dealership for smog repairs and it still fails the retest. Some believe that the Dealership is the best at everything, including smog repairs when in fact, if you don’t have the proper equipment and training as required by the current emissions program, it is very difficult if not impossible to perform and verify your repairs, regardless of who you are and where you work. The smog inspection protocol and emission repair procedure and/or requirements as outlined by the State of California are taught in the emissions program training and certification process.

Can the owner of a Test Only Center own a Test and Repair Center?

It is illegal for the owner of a Test Only Center to own a Test and Repair Facility within 50 miles of each other. This is to dissuade customers from having their vehicles repaired at a Test and Repair Facility owned by the same owner of the Test Only Center where it failed. This also helps protect the integrity of the program.

Do you perform smog checks on Motorhomes or big trucks?

Yes. We have plenty of room for Motorhomes and for big trucks. Please call ahead for specific procedures on these vehicles.

For an official clarification of the role of a Test Only Center, visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.

For a more in-depth look at the process, please click here: California Department of Motor Vehicles.

If your car failed emissions tests in California, call Whittier Auto Repair today at 714-381-9025.

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