Why the Smog Test Program Exists
There are lots of reasons why California has pursued a course of regulation to lower air pollution such as:
Reducing the health impacts of smog on residents;
Improving the quality of life in California;
Protecting the environment for current and future generations;
Reducing our consumption of oil by ensuring combustion engines work efficiently;
Reducing the carbon output of motor vehicles that is linked to climate change.
The California Environmental Protection Agency has information on the health impacts of air borne pollution and the bureau of automotive repair (BAR) has additional information on the smog check program overall.
What is a Smog Test?
The primary way in which California limitations air pollution is through the smog check program. Based on your world view this is an advantage, bad thing, or something in-between. California is or at least was an automobile culture. Believe it or not there are more cars than people in Los Angeles. So unlike other states which can limit emissions by regulating particles from smoke stacks and other stationary point sources, California has a completely different problem. The solution is the smog check program which requires vehicle owners to check their cars and trucks emissions and ensure they do not exceed established requirements. This program is administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).
How Often Do You Need a Smog Check?
If you register a vehicle in California you should get your vehicle tested. How often you have to get it tested depends mainly on where you live and what type of car you drive. You can find detailed information about how often a smog check is need at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website, or the smog check program website run by the BAR.
The bottom line is that if you reside in a city and have a car that is more than a couple of years old more than likely you will need to have your automobile smog tested every 2 years. So, where can you discover a "great" smog test? That depends, because one persons' "excellent" can be another person's not so "excellent". Nevertheless research studies have actually been conducted on this question and most people value "convenience", "speed", and finally "price".
How Can I Find a Smog Check Station?
There are a couple of ways to find a smog check station. First you need to identify if you have been directed to a STAR smog check location. Each year a random selection of vehicles are required to go to a STAR station. You may also be directed to a STAR station based on your type of vehicle or your vehicle's test history.
The BAR has a website that you can find a smog check location by searching a number of different ways, like the station name or a city. A list of smog check locations is displayed based on your search criteria. This list works, but it does not provide a good display for mobile phones or tablets, and it does not provide a map of the stations in the list.
What is the STAR Program?
The STAR program is a new licensing program administered by the BAR. Its' purpose is to improve the general quality of emissions testing in California. The BAR gathers statistics about vehicles, smog check stations and technicians. In short it uses these statistics to grade the quality of a technician or a smog check location by comparing technician's and smog check locations test results for similar vehicles against each other. If a vehicles' smog test result fall outside the average test results of similar vehicles then the smog check locations' STAR rating can over time be affected. If issues continue, the location can lose its' STAR certification. The BAR also evaluates technicians by looking for behavior during testing that matches patterns used to improve the chances of a vehicle passing a test. If a technician is found to be improperly testing vehicles the technician's STAR rating can be affected. Only those stations that test vehicles as expected can maintain their STAR certification. Only STAR locations get vehicles directed to them by the DMV. So maintaining a good STAR rating by testing vehicles correctly is very important for smog test locations.