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Car Inspection Laws in California – What Do You Need to Know?

In California, you must have your car inspected in order to be registered. In California, most inspections are concerned solely with whether your vehicle can pass emissions standards rather than safety concerns.

If you live in San Jose, you may be required to have your car tested to ensure that it meets California standards for vehicle emissions. At Henshaw & Henry, PC, our personal injury attorneys want to help you understand what vehicles are required to be tested, and what you must do to meet these requirements. This will help you ensure your vehicle is legal to drive and keep the environment clean as well.

Who Is Required to Get an Emissions Test?

Most residents in Santa Clara County are required to have their car’s emissions system inspected. To determine if you live in an area of California that requires emissions testing, you can enter your zip code through the government website. After you enter your zip code, you will be informed on whether or not an emissions test is required.

Information on emissions test requirements may also come in the form of a notice accompanying your registration renewal form. The inspection is required every two years for vehicles that require an emissions test. The notice alongside your registration will let you know the time for an inspection has come around once again.

Exceptions to the Inspection Requirement

There are many vehicles that are exempt and will not need the emissions inspection. Any gasoline powered vehicle model year 1975 or older is exempt from the inspection requirements. This also includes any diesel powered vehicle from model year 1997 or older.

Diesel or natural gas-powered vehicles weighing over 14,000 pounds are also exempt and do not require the biennial inspection.

Electric vehicles and motorcycles do not require an inspection.

New Vehicle Exception

Vehicles newer than six years old are exempt from the inspection in some cases. However, there is a $20 smog abatement fee that you must pay during the exempt years. The exemption does not apply to nonresident vehicles, diesel-powered vehicles newer than model year 1998 and weighing under 14,000 pounds, or specially constructed vehicles newer than model year 1976.

Inspection Is Part of the Registration Process

If your vehicle requires an inspection, you will need to complete the inspection prior to renewing your vehicle registration. Most smog inspection stations report the results of your inspection to the DMV electronically. It is a good idea to hold on to the results until your registration is complete. Your smog certification is good for 90 days, and you must renew your registration within that time or have your vehicle inspected again in order to renew the registration.

What If My Vehicle Fails Inspection?

There are different types of smog inspection stations, some conduct inspections only. Others offer inspections and repairs, and still others handle repairs only. If your vehicle fails the inspection, you must repair the problem that caused the failure. Once repaired, you may pass inspection and renew your registration. If the repairs to your vehicle are too expensive for you, you may be able to qualify for an assistance program that provides up to $500 for repairs to your car’s emissions system.

Alternatively, you may be able to receive assistance to retire the vehicle and purchase alternative transportation. Call (866) 272-9642 for more information on consumer assistance for retiring vehicles.

Keeping San Jose vehicles in good emissions condition helps maintain clean air, which benefits everyone. Maintaining your car is a part of being a conscientious driver, and ensuring your vehicle meets the legal requirements to be on the road can help protect you from costly fines and penalties, as well as car accidents.