Frequently Asked Questions

All Smog Check stations operate by the same standards as determined by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. However, in some cases the Referee can provide a third-party inspection.

Upon completion of the inspection, the Referee will review the results with you. You can also access your Smog Check results from the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) website beginning at midnight the day after your vehicle is tested. Click here to view your results.

No. Once the vehicle is in compliance with California emission laws and it passes the complete Referee inspection, the Referee will apply a BAR label allowing future Smog Checks to be performed by the industry.

In some situations, a one-time Repair Cost Waiver is available when a vehicle failed its Smog Check. If after failing a Smog Check the vehicle had over $650 in emission-related repairs performed at a licensed Smog Check repair station to reduce the vehicle’s emissions, and you cannot afford the additional repairs needed for the vehicle to pass the smog test, you may be eligible.

To be eligible, the vehicle must not have any tampered emissions control systems or components. Vehicles undergoing change of ownership or initial registration are not eligible. Money spent to correct or repair tampered systems does not apply towards the $650 minimum. This one-time waiver allows the vehicle to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Please note that the vehicle must fully pass the next required Smog Check.

It is possible the DMV might have made an error. To confirm whether the vehicle is exempt, make a Referee appointment and the Referee will provide guidance on how to resolve the issue.

No. Referees do not perform repairs or diagnostic tests, but they can help you to understand what repairs are necessary in order for the vehicle to pass a Smog Check.

Referees provide specialized services not available through regular Smog Check stations. The following are some of the reasons why you would make a Referee appointment:

  • The vehicle recently failed a Smog Check and you do not agree with the inspection results. 
  • You would like to apply to receive a Repair Cost Waiver.
  • The vehicle engine has been changed. 
  • You received a citation for a modified exhaust or emissions system
  • You have a specially Constructed Vehicle such as a kit car or dune buggy that has not previously been to the Referee. 
  • You recently brought your Grey Market (non US) vehicle into CA. 
  • The vehicle failed as a Gross Polluter, was repaired, but there are no Star stations in your area.  
  • You have a retro-fit alternative fuel conversion kit

No, the Referee does not perform any type of motorcycle inspections.

Yes, but some Referee stations are located where larger RVs cannot be accommodated. Check with a Call Center representative for scheduling assistance. Please note that if the RV or Van requires engine cover removal for access, you should arrive early at your appointment and remove it before the Referee inspection.

Call our toll-free number and a Call Center representative will help you schedule an appointment with the closest Referee station.

You will be provided with a list of what to bring when you schedule your appointment. Required forms vary depending on the reason for the Referee appointment, but may include: Vehicle Inspection Reports, repair receipts, various DMV documents, Parts Exemption Letters, and any paperwork that relates to the repair or construction of the vehicle.

Your vehicle must be in a safe and fully functional operating condition in order for the Referee to inspect the vehicle. Make certain the oil is full, the vehicle is not overheating, the tires are not worn too low, etc. Some of the reasons the Referee may not be able to inspect the vehicle include:

  • Low oil level
  • Fuel leak
  • Coolant leak
  • Excessive oil leak
  • Excessive engine noise
  • Lowered vehicle
  • Bald tires

Yes. Anyone you choose can bring the vehicle to the appointment as long as he or she brings the vehicle and the required paperwork.

The call center operates a Parts Locator Service that can assist you in locating the correct part. In some instances when a part is confirmed not available, a Parts Exemption may be issued, which would allow the vehicle to complete the Smog Check process at a Referee station. 

Before making a Referee appointment, please note the following:

  • The vehicle must have recently failed a Smog Check. 
  • The vehicle must be diagnosed at a licensed Smog station. 
  • The diagnosis must be documented on the invoice and clearly indicate the Smog Check failure is directly related to the missing part. 
  • Any failure items not related to the missing part must be corrected before an Exemption can be issued. 
  • If issued, a Parts Exemption is only valid for 90 days, as many times missing parts become available in the future.

While there are no guaranteed methods, regular maintenance such as oil changes and servicing will help ensure that your vehicle is running smoothly and increase the likelihood of passing.

A Gross Polluter is a vehicle that pollutes much more than a typical vehicle that fails a Smog Check inspection. The emission level at which a vehicle fails as a Gross Polluter varies according to the vehicle type and year. Once repaired, the vehicle must be tested at a STAR Station. If these are not available in your area, you can make a Referee appointment.

A Grey Market vehicle is a vehicle coming into the US from another country (Europe, Canada, Mexico, etc.) that was not originally manufactured and certified to be sold in the US. You may need to obtain a letter of compliance from the manufacturer or be required to have the vehicle tested and modified at a California Air Resources Board (CARB) licensed lab. Ask a Call Center representative for more information.

No. The Referee can only inspect the vehicle to determine whether it is in compliance with state emissions standards or exhaust noise standards. Once the vehicle has passed at the Referee, you will need to complete the process of clearing the citation with the issuing agency or court system. Refer to your citation for this information. Please note that the Referee can only perform exhaust noise inspections on vehicles that were cited for 27150 or 27151 of the CA Veh. Code. Assembly Bill 1824 changed the way that noise citations work. We can still inspect your vehicle and issue a certificate if it passes. The fee for a Referee noise inspection certificate is $108. Receiving a certificate may not necessarily remedy the violation and the court could still issue a fine in addition to the Referee fee.

All calls are answered by the Smog Check Referee Call Center. Agents have a wealth of information and can assist with a variety of vehicle questions, as well as taking care of all scheduling details.

If the Call Center agent is unable to answer your question, simply ask to have a Referee contact you directly at a future time.

Payment must be with Visa or Mastercard, cash or check are not accepted.

Appointments are scheduled for 50 minutes. Some services, such as engine changes, may require two appointment slots.

If your vehicle does not pass, the Referee will provide you with a Vehicle Compliance Checklist for your technician and can provide guidance on how to resolve the issue. Please remember that the Referee cannot perform diagnostics or repairs.