Getting a Smog Check in Walnut Creek, California
Complete Guide for Smog Inspections in Walnut Creek, California
If you live in California, you probably have enjoyed the great outdoors during the summer months. You probably have also experienced California's smog-ridden air. The longer you live in California, the more you get used to having smog around you.
However, these pollutants are not suitable for you or the environment. These facts are why the Motor Vehicle Department has instituted a smog and emissions test for all state licensed drivers. This state requires these tests to be completed every two years.
These requirements are not mandated in every county and can become confusing if a person does not completely understand the regulations. This complete guide to the state's smog and emissions test was compiled to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about pollution and emissions.
Walnut Creek is nestled to the east of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. Its sprawling landscapes, warm weather, upscale dining, posh shopping district and local winery, make Walnut Creek a suburban oasis with urban flair.
Now you know the smog stations in Walnut Creek -
How do you decide where to go?
What steps should you take to complete a smog check?
Your registration renewal and other factors affect when you should schedule an appointment. If it is the appropriate time, the first step to completing the check is to schedule an appointment with a station. The Bureau of Automotive Repairs offers a variety of different station types.
These types include STAR stations, Test-only stations, Test and Repair stations, and Repair-only stations. Each of these stations specializes in a particular aspect of the smog check process. These stations will be explored in detail further along in this article.
Once at the station, the company will ask you to provide your driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration. If you own the vehicle, the station will also need your title. These papers will help verify the information and ensure that the correct data is given to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Once the inspection is complete, the technician will let you know if your car passed or failed. If your vehicle passed the examination, you would be given a smog inspection certificate. This certificate must be presented to the California DMV in order to register your car. It is also necessary when you want to renew the registration.
Most stations also send this certificate to the DMV electronically. The electronic version is an excellent resource when you want to renew the vehicle's registration through the mail or online. If you want more information about registration fees or location, call your local DMV office.
What happens during a smog check?
When you take your car into a smog check station, the technician will go through the process of verifying certain aspects of your vehicle work correctly. The licensed will begin by attaching measuring equipment to the vehicle.
The technician will conduct the smog test by completing an emissions inspection, visual inspection, and functional inspection. All of these inspections are used to ensure that your equipment is in place, functioning properly, and reducing pollutants from entering the atmosphere from your car's exhaust.
While at the station, the technician will measure carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and oxygen. Sometimes the levels of oxides of nitrogen are also measured. Depending on the location of the station, three different types of testing methods could be used:
Onboard diagnostics (OBDI)- This test requires the technician to download information from your vehicle's built-in diagnostics computer.
Acceleration simulation mode (ASM)- This test is typically reserved for older cars and uses a dynamometer to measure emissions while under simulated driving conditions.
Two-speed idle (TSI)-With this test, the technician will measure the exhaust emissions from the tailpipe. This type of analysis is used for cars manufacturer before 1995.
After completing the test, the technician will give you a copy of all of the results, whether your vehicle passed or failed. This sheet of results is called the Vehicle Inspection Report or VIR. With this report, you will also get a certificate and receipt of payment for the inspection.
How long does a check take?
If you schedule an appointment with one of the varieties of available smog testing stations, it should take them about ten to twenty minutes to complete the smog certification. If your vehicle is a 2000 or newer model, it will generally take about ten minutes to complete the tests.
2000 or newer vehicles are subjected to the BAR-OIS Plug and Play inspection. This inspection system was created to increase the efficiency of the inspection station. If your car is a 1999 or older model, it will require the BAR-97 (ASM) inspection.
This type of inspection typically takes around 30 minutes or so. These times do not include the paperwork side of the examination. The technician must perform various administrative duties associated with each inspection.
These duties will add to the time you are required to be at the shop. One standard tip suggests picking a station near a shopping mall or restaurant. This location allows you to drop off your car and then visit the mall or have a bite to eat while you are waiting.
When scheduling an appointment for an inspection, it is an excellent idea to schedule it during the morning instead of the afternoon. In the morning, the technician may be able to get right to your vehicle. However, in the afternoon, previous appointments may have gone over the allotted time, which pushes your vehicle back.
What are the different types of stations?
When looking for smog certification, you will find three types of testing stations: test and repair, test only, and repair only. Each of these stations specializes in a particular area of the smog test process.
The test only stations can only provide smog inspection tests and are not allowed to perform any repairs. They specialize in conducting fair and unbiased inspections because they have no interest in offering any repairs services.
These stations do not benefit if your vehicle needs repairs. They also do not lose anything if your car does not need repairs. In fact, BAR regulations do not allow test only stations to comment on, express any opinion, or offer any repair services when it comes to a smog test failure.
Some of these stations may offer free advice about repairs which are allowed under the regulations. However, they cannot charge for diagnosis or any type of repairs. These restrictions mean that if your vehicle fails a smog inspection at this type of station, you will have to take the car to a test and repair or a repair only station.
The fewest smog stations are repair-only stations because they are incredibly limited regarding what they can do with smog inspections. As the name implies, these stations can only perform the necessary repairs and cannot offer smog certification.
However, these types of stations do have various advantages for your failed vehicle. They specialize in repairs, so they have all of the proper diagnostic equipment needed to diagnose and fix cars effectively.
Some of these stations even have the inspection machine to guarantee the vehicle is fixed correctly and will pass the smog inspection after the repairs are complete. However, these stations do not have the appropriate licenses to complete an official check. These types of stations are probably not the best choice for the general public.
The final type of station is the test and repair. By the name, you can probably guess what this station does in regards to smog testing. This station is one of the most frequently visited stations because they can perform the inspection and fix any issues if the vehicle fails.
This station saves the customer time and money. While STAR certified is technically not a type of smog station. Instead, it is a badge of honor for the smog station.
What is the STAR program?
The STAR program established the criteria and performance standards for smog testing stations. These types of testing centers are held to higher performance standards than the average testing station. The STAR program labels stations with the distinction of test only and test and repair.
Regardless of this distinction, all STAR stations are required by the state to post signs describing their services. Regular smog stations perform many of the same functions as STAR stations, but the state more closely regulates STAR stations.
According to SmogTips.com, the duties and responsibilities of a STAR station are dependent on the type of station. For a STAR Directed Smog Test Only Center, they are authorized by the state to conduct both regular and test only inspections.
These STAR centers are not allowed to offer or perform any type of smog repair. This center's principal obligation is to provide a nonbiased and accurate smog inspection. The unique thing about these centers is that they are authorized to inspect all DMV required vehicles.
For a STAR Directed Smog Test and Repair (CAP) are authorized to conduct regular and test only smog inspections and repair any issues with these checks. This station is the only center able to inspect, repair, and certify all types of vehicles.
What is the difference between a STAR center and a regular center?
As you are paying your car registration, you notice it is time for a smog inspection. It is not a big deal because you can find a smog testing station on almost every street corner in Walnut Creek. You are entirely aware that you can get the inspection done at any DMV-approved station within the county.
What is holding you back from just getting it done then? The most confusing part of getting a smog inspection is choosing the type of service to use. You can choose from test only, repair only, test and repair, and STAR stations.
You can learn above about the differences between a test only, repair only, and test and repair stations. In this section, the differences between a regular smog center and a STAR Directed Smog center will be discussed.
The main difference between these two types of smog centers is how the Bureau of Automotive Repair has certified the center. STAR centers can be labeled as test only or test and repair. These stations are closely monitored by BAR.
They also must go through an additional layer of certification than the regular smog center. These certified stations perform more involved testing than the regular station also. The only station that can inspect, repair, and then certify a vehicle are STAR stations.
Sometimes, a registration will tell a customer that a STAR station must perform the smog inspection. The state requires a certain percentage of vehicles to be referred to a STAR smog station. When you have to find a STAR center, you should look for the signage posted outside the establishment.
The DMV looks for particular items to determine whether a vehicle must undergo rigorous testing or simple testing. These items include:
Random picking of all vehicles registered and driving on the roads in the state will provide some of the required cars.
If your vehicle is a high emitter profile vehicle, it will probably be chosen also. These types of vehicles are determined by the BAR as being likely to fail the test.
If your vehicle fails a previous inspection with high emission readings, BAR labels it as a gross polluter and will require a STAR center inspection.
Sometimes, people will worry that their vehicle will not pass an inspection. If you fall into this category, you can always get a pre-test inspection done. This test is unofficial and allows an owner to fix any issues before taking the official test.
Are there any exceptions to the required check?
The state provides a few exemptions associated with the smog check rules. The first of these exemptions are based on the vehicle. All vehicles in the state are required to have an inspection done except:
Vehicles over 14,000 pounds and powered by natural gas
Diesel vehicle weighing over 14,000 pounds
Diesel vehicles made during or before 1997
Any gas vehicles made during or before 1975
The following zip codes in the state are also exempted from the smog rule. These counties include Riverside, Sonoma, San Bernardino, Placer, San Diego, and El Dorado. Some parts of these counties may be required to perform the test, so it is best to check the zip code on the BAR website.
The Bureau of Automotive Repair is an excellent resource for any questions associated with smog rule exemptions. This group provides licenses for the automotive repair industry. This industry includes smog stations, brake and lamp stations, automotive repair dealers, and a variety of other industry-related service providers.
It is vital to note that the state also offers a smog abatement fee exception for vehicles six years old or less. If your car is six-year-old or less, the vehicle smog rule does not apply. Instead, you can simply pay an annual $20 smog abatement fee.
However, after your vehicle is seven years old, you will be required to complete the smog rule every two years. This abatement fee does not apply to:
Diesel vehicles made during or after 1998 and weigh under 14,000 pounds
Any specially created vehicles after or during 1976
What factors will affect the cost of the inspection?
A typical smog inspection costs around $50, which includes the fee for the state certificate. However, the smog station regulates the pricing for the service. A variety of situations can increase the price of your vehicle's smog inspection test.
One item that may increase the price of the inspection is an added fee for vehicles requiring STAR certification by the DMV. This extra fee covers the cost of maintaining the equipment necessary to participate in the STAR program. Your vehicle's registration will tell you if a STAR certification is required for the car.
If your car was produced in 1999 or before 1999, it will require a BAR-97 inspection. Newer vehicles utilize the accelerated simulation mode inspection (ASM). The change to the BAR-OIS plug and play system check has increased the cost for BAR-97 inspections.
The station may charge an extra fee for the BAR-97 inspection because it is more time-consuming. It also uses a dynamometer. The vehicle is driven on this device while tailpipe exhaust is collected for analysis of emissions.
Another item that may affect the price of a smog inspection is a required EVAP test. This test is typically required for vehicles made in 1995 or before. The official name of this test is the Low-Pressure Fuel Evaporative Test. It evaluates the vehicle's fuel system, including the tank and fuel lines. If this test is required for your car, the station may add an additional fee.
Different vehicle types may require the technician to remove the engine cover or panel removal to complete the inspection. This removal is mandated by BAR, and a service station can charge an extra fee for the labor involved when removing the panel or cover.
Finally, oversized vehicles weigh more, which places extra stress on the load-bearing equipment. Some stations will charge an additional fee to cover the wear and tear on their machine. When looking for an inspection station, you should call ahead and ask for an estimate on the price.
What to do if my car fails the inspection?
Did your vehicle fail the inspection? According to a Department of Motor Vehicle recommendation, the first step you should take is calling the BAR Referee Program at (800)622-7733. This number will provide you with help for a smog inspection dispute resolution.
If you are low-income, you may qualify for assistance from the BAR’s Consumer Assistance Program. This program helps low-income individuals with the necessary repairs to pass the inspection test.
If you are not low-income, your next step is to take your vehicle to a test and repair or repair only station and have the repairs completed. Once the car is fixed, you can retest the vehicle and get the necessary certification.
Additional details about each smog station
A wide array of stations is available in the Walnut Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area. When compiling this list, location, reviews, and services were taken into account. To ensure a wide variety of choices, test only, repair only, and test and repair stations were included. This list contains the top ten stations using the above considerations.
Walnut Creek Honda
1707 North Main Street
Walnuts Creek Honda is a test and repair station with a 4.9 out of 5 stars rating on Auto.com (146 reviews available). This station is not STAR certified and does not perform Consumer Assistance Program repairs. However, this center does test 1999 and older vehicles, 2000 and newer vehicles, and 1998 and newer diesel vehicles.
Quick Star Smog
1790 Ygnacio Valley Rd Unit B
Quick Star Smog is a STAR test only center with a 3.9 out of 5 stars rating on Groupon (16 reviews). It will test all gas vehicles as well as diesel vehicles 1998 or newer. It is not authorized to make any type of smog repairs, including Consumer Assistance Program repairs.
Contra Costa Smog
1411 Autocenter Drive
Contra Costa Smog is a STAR test and repair center with a 4.9 out of 5 stars rating on SureCritic.com (145 votes). This station is STAR certified so that it can complete Consumer Assistance Program repairs. It also offers tests and repairs for 1999 and older models, 2000 and newer models, and 1998 and newer diesel models.
Porsche W. C.
2555 North Main Street
This Porsche dealer is a test and repair smog center with a 4.8 out of 5 stars rating on Carfax (47 reviews). This center is not STAR certified, so it cannot perform repairs for the Consumer Assistance Program. As with the previous centers, Porsche offers tests and repairs to 1999 and older vehicles, 2000 and newer, and diesel vehicles in 1998 and newer.
Gordon Smog and Lube Center
1506 Third Avenue Ste C
Gordon’s is a STAR test and repair center with a 4.6 out of 5 stars rating on Google (14 reviews). It is STAR certified, which means it can complete any Consumer Assistance Program repairs. It also tests and repairs 1999 and older vehicles, 2000 and newer vehicles, and 1998 and newer diesel cars and trucks.
Smog N Dash
2040 N. Main Street #26
With a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating on Google (52 reviews), Smog N Dash is an excellent choice for STAR testing only. This center does not complete any repairs, including those for the Consumer Assistance Program. They will STAR test any gas vehicles and any diesel vehicles 1998 and newer.
N Service Auto Repair and Service
1145 Bont Lane
This service center has earned a 4 out of 5 stars rating on Yelp (12 reviews). It is a test and repair shop, but it is not STAR certified. This fact means it cannot complete any repairs for the Consumer Assistance Program. This site will not test 1999 and older model vehicles.
A1 Brake and Tire
2008 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
This service station has earned a 5 out of 5 stars rating on Angie’s List (2 reviews). This shop is a repair only station. Even though it offers repairs, it is not STAR certified. So, it cannot perform any Consumer Assistance Program repairs. It also cannot test any vehicles but provides repairs of any make or model.
Dirito Brothers W. C. Volkswagen
2020 N. Main
With 2,152-lifetime reviews earning this station a 4.9 out of 5 stars rating on Dealer Rater, this station is ready to handle your smog repair and tests. However, it is not STAR certified, so it cannot offer Consumer Assistance Program repairs. It will test 2000 and newer gas model vehicles and 1998 and newer diesel model vehicles. If your car is a 1999 and older gas model, you will have to find a different station.
German Sport Parts and Service Inc.
1400 Auto Center Drive
This European Auto Specialist center has earned a 5 out of 5 stars rating on FaceBook (5 reviews). It is a non-STAR certified test and repair shop. It cannot offer any repairs for the Consumer Assistance Program. It will test 2000 and newer gas models as well as 1998 and newer diesel models, but will not test 1999 and older gas models.
With the vast array of services available in the area, you will easily be able to find the perfect match for your smog inspection. You will get excellent results with any of the above certification stations. Be sure to schedule your appointment well ahead of time to ensure compliance within the allotted time frame.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with everything you need to know about the state’s smog requirement and test. If you need more information, please visit the Bureau of Automotive Repair website.