The smog check is a necessary emissions test that is required in many countries and states during the registration process.
Although the smog check was first implemented back in the 1980s, a lot of people still don’t know how long smog checks take, and that’s what this article is all about!
Luckily, smog checks typically don’t take too long, and you can probably get them done in under 30 minutes. However, there are some factors and tips to help you speed things up.
Today, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about smog checks, including how they work and how long they take. Let’s dive right in!
How Does a Smog Check Work?
A smog check is an inspection of the vehicle’s exhaust and emission-control system to determine if it’s doing its job properly.
The test mainly detects the most popular air pollutants and gaseous emissions that cars may produce while burning fuel, including:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
- Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
- Volatile organic compounds and other hydrocarbons
- Other particulate matter
The test is conducted by a certified technician who uses special equipment and various tools to measure the amount of pollutants coming from the vehicle’s exhaust system.
According to the Department of Automotive Repair, the components of a typical smog check include:
The technician will visually inspect various parts of the emission control system, including the exhaust manifold, gaskets, catalytic converter, oxygen sensors, fuel evaporative canister, etc.
Additionally, they will also check for any leaks in the exhaust system that may produce black or white smoke.
On-board Diagnostic Inspection
The technician will use a scan tool to check the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic (OBD) system for any error codes that indicate a problem with the emissions control system or related systems.
The functional inspection will include a variety of checks of various car parts to see if they’re doing their job properly.
This includes parts like ignition timing, idling system, exhaust gas recirculation system, check engine light, fuel evaporative system, gas cap, and more.
The components of this test can vary depending on several factors, such as the car’s model and the manufacturing year.
Tailpipe Emissions Inspection
In this test, the attaches a portable emissions analyzer to the vehicle’s tailpipe and measures the amount of pollutants and gaseous emissions it collects.
The specific amount of pollutants permitted in the previous tests will vary from state to state, so you have to check your state’s guidelines for the test.
How Long Does a Typical Smog Check to Take?
Since smog checks include a variety of tests, many people think that it’s a complex test that takes a lot of time.
However, it’s a fairly simple process because it’s mostly done by machines and the results are usually immediate.
The procedure of smog checks may vary from one state to another. Additionally, older vehicles with carburetors will typically take longer to check than newer ones. Yet, smog checks usually take around 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
That being said, you might need to wait a while before it’s your turn to get your car tested, which can extend your overall downtime.
Tips to Speed Up Smog Check Process
To help you save your time, here are some tips that will help you cut down your process time considerably:
- Whenever possible, consider calling ahead or booking an appointment to save yourself the hassle of waiting in long queues.
- Most people complete their smog checks on weekends, so avoid those rush hours by going during weekdays.
- Avoid using any additives or fuel grades that are not approved by the manufacturer, as they can sometimes interfere with the smog test results.
- Drive your car for 10 to 15 minutes before arriving at the test center. This normalizes the emissions rates produced, as they might peak during initial ignition.
Are All Cars Required to Do a Smog Check?
Generally speaking, smog checks are required for most recent gasoline-powered vehicles and some Diesel-powered vehicles.
Currently, smog tests are mandatory for registering some cars in 33 states. That being said, some vehicles are exempted from this requirement, such as electric vehicles and motorcycles.
Since it varies from one state to another, you might want to check your state’s DMV department to see if you’re required or encouraged to perform it.
Where Can You Run a Smog Check on Your Vehicle?
The answer here depends on the state you’re in, as each has its own list of approved locations for testing.
In most cases, the state’s DMV department will provide a list of certified smog check stations where you can perform the test.
A good tip here is to go for stations that also offer repairs to common smog test issues. This way, you can quickly fix the issues and save you a lot of time if your car fails the test.
How Much Does a Smog Check Cost?
Since the smog check procedure can vary depending on several factors, the cost of the test can vary accordingly.
However, it’s usually a fairly inexpensive test that may cost as little as $30 and as high as $70. Keep in mind that local rates and extra fees may also apply, which increases the smog check cost.
How Often Should You Run a Smog Check on Your Vehicle?
This mainly depends on the local requirements where you want to register your vehicle. For instance, California requires cars to run the test once every two years, so you’ll need to perform the smog check every other year.
As you can see, most smog checks should take around 20 to 30 minutes to complete. However, it’s usually the waiting time that you need to worry about.
For that reason, make sure that you book an appointment before going to save yourself some valuable time.
Also, if your vehicle has failed a smog check in the past, have it inspected by a qualified mechanic before you retake the test or check if there are repair options in the test station.