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Smog test alert – keep your nose clean

Written by maryp posted on Saturday, October 24th, 2009

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Well, by now, we are sure that most of you have heard about the busts of the seven smog shops in our Bay area, (and also in L.A.). The techs are charged with what is called “clean piping”, where they use the emission readings from one car for another.

Emission testing has become sophisticated enough that basically Sacramento can tell when one car is on the dyno and a completely different car is being read at the tail pipe. This is a science, after all. Duh!

The report that we read said that the techs were charging about $200 cash to “pass” what was really a “failed” car. Not sure what if any, criminal charges that the drivers may face, but the techs busted were charged with felonies. It takes commitment to get a smog tech license, and it’s difficult for us to understand that someone would risk their license. It’s approximately 188 hours necessary before you can even qualify to take the tests, and pay the hundreds of dollars in fees and course materials.

When our Bay Area became an “enhanced” emissions testing location, stations were required by law to begin testing the cars on a dynomometer. Keep in mind that everything about the smog test is regulated except the price charged. So at that time, it was very disheartening to see some reports in the local papers accusing smog shops of “gouging”. After all, shops had raised their prices to pay for the State mandated new machines, the techs additional time to perform the test, additional education and certs, and the increase in their liability insurance, (if they could afford that to begin with). The state mandated dynomometer costs about $40-50K and the maintenance expenses on those machines are annual and pretty steep. In our opinion, it is a real fact however, that there are many shop owners/techs in our expensive Bay Area just not charging enough for these tests. We’ve seen the $19.95 ads at Test Only shops. The test usually takes about 30 minutes. It’s pretty doubtful, at those prices, you can pay off a $40-50K investment before it’s time to buy another dyno machine or California changes the rules, again. How do you pay the rent?

Clean air in California is serious business. No, it’s not always cheap and should we expect it be? Hopefully, this bust by the Bureau of Automotive Repair will deter any unethical customers and techs, while educating people at the same time. Keep it fixed, keep it clean. Keep it legal.

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