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Smogging a ride in Cali…wth?

Posted by rikdaddy On September - 15 - 2009

It’s bad enough having to pay registration fees on your car every year, but do you realize what a big hassle it is to get a smog check here in Southern California? I happened to be unlucky enough to have both of my registration renewals this year include a required smog check with both of them. That meant that on top of the couple of hundred dollars per car that I’m paying for just to get this lame little reflective sticker to slap onto my license plate (which usually ends up getting stolen by someone who is apparently smarter than me), I have to drop another $100 to get both of my cars smog checked. Good thing for me that I sold the other four cars or else I’d be as bald as Mike Dunleavy right now trying to figure out how to get all of them registered and smogged. Then again, he can afford it since he’s been ripping off Clippers season ticket holders and owner Donald T. Sterling at the tune of $5million a year for the past few seasons. Hmm. Getting off track again.

The Mercedes Benz C320 wagon should have been pretty simple, but every since they implemented the dyno smog check, your car had to do more than just blow out clean exhaust fumes. Because the Electronic Stability Program (their version of traction control) was messed up on my car and couldn’t be disabled, it wouldn’t let them run it on the dyno without the ESP kicking on. The guy at the Mobile station that I went to told me that he technically could still do the smog check, but would throw a red flag if they didn’t run the car on the dyno. Great. It’s not like my traction control has anything to do with how much emissions my car puts out. Or do the geniuses that set up these rules actually think it does? Somehow I managed to disable the ESP for a few minutes and just long enough for the dude to run the acceleration tests. For some reason, I always get nervous when I’m getting a smog check. Like I’m taking a mid term in college (Yeah, I remember college) or physical at the doctor. About twenty minutes have passed and finally the guy tells me that my car had passed. Here’s the dumbest (OK, maybe not the dumbest) part, in order to save time (or paper), the smog certificate is sent electronically. That doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but they still charge you $10 for it. That’s $10 for a piece of paper that tells you the results of your smog test: carbon monoxide, knock levels, hydro carbons, and all that fun stuff that 99% of the population can’t understand anyway nor do they care. Anyhow, my Benzo passes after I drop $40 (with a coupon) and now I have to go home and pay the DMV another $181 for that 2010 sticker. One car down – one to go.

My Acura NSX isn’t nearly as simple to get smogged because it requires me taking it to a Test Only station. Those are state or government funded places that are only allowed to test your car, but not fix it if it doesn’t pass. Just in case you didn’t pick that up by the “Test Only” title. It’s lame because a lot of Test Only stations charge more even though they’re actually doing less. Isn’t that how things always work (See Mike Dunleavy reference above)? I kind of lagged on this one a bit because I hate having to find a Test Only station and one of my four O2 sensors was burned out so I had to get a new one from Hugh Le and have Will “Homer” Law install it for me when he was test fitting some DC Sports headers. I did pay the DMV registration fees in advance so I wouldn’t have any penalties, so I had to suck it up one day and go to whichever Test Only smog station had a coupon in the Penny Saver that week. That was a waste of about two hours of my life. Not like I have whole lot of other stuff going on, but I’d rather not chill at some grungy smog station. Because the C32A engine comes with direct fire ignition from the factory, a lot of people don’t know how to pick up the RPM signal on it. So trying to explain that to this guy while he clamping the pick up to every part of my motor. They could read it off of the OBD II as well, but their reader was old and kept showing a communication error. After three or four passes on the dyno, the technician pulled my car off because he still couldn’t get the machine to read the RPM. He tested an older car, I guess 1996 and under you don’t need to run on the dyno, and that hunk of crap passed. Then my car goes back onto the dyno, he finally gets the machine to read RPM, but the final stage involved linking up to the OBD II and their machine couldn’t do it. Ugh.

I didn’t want to, but I had to go to this old, grumpy Korean dude off of PCH in Long Beach to get my NSX test only smogged because I went there before and I knew he could do it. Yeah, it took me having to deal with him pushing me, grunting, and pointing at parts of my car, but it was worth it in the end. Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that. The first series of runs on the dyno, he forgot to turn the traction control off and kept messing up the acceleration test so my car failed because there were too many restarts. After another series of tests, my car finally passed and I was almost on my merry way home until I realized that he only took cash and with the $10 certificate I didn’t need, the total was $40. I looked in my wallet and only had $38 because I bought two tacos from Jack in the Box the other day and don’t carry my little bag of change with me in the NSX. I ended up having to bum $2 off some dude waiting for his car, which made me feel unbelievably ghetto. I’ll pay him back if I every run into him again. LOL.

All that hassle and this is every two years right now. I know that California wants to make older cars have annual smog checks. Not sure if it’s more the keep the air clean or just to make money off of people who can’t afford new cars. Whatever the reason, I know SEMA is trying to fight it. I’d be extra annoyed if I had to go through this nonsense more than once every two years. I understand that we need to keep this state clean, but how about putting stricter regulations on those trucks and busses that are blowing out black smoke? Just a thought. Then again, what do I know? I’m not the one who put California into debt and keep raising taxes.

My NSX at a test only smog station

My NSX at a test only smog station

Ricky “RikDaddy” Chu

rikdaddy@rikdaddy.com

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2 Responses to “Smogging a ride in Cali…wth?”

  1. Dan Renner says:

    In regards to your license plate sticker, first remove as many of the old ones as you can, then put the new one on your license plate. Use a razor blade and slice it in various angles to keep it from getting stolen.

    As to the smog tests, you could have your engine running cleaner rather simply. This causes three positive reactions.

    The first being that a clean burning engine does not clog up it’s spark plugs or cylinders with excess carbon, with a side-effect of less frequent repairs.

    The second is that a cleaner burning engine means less pollution. For example, we have a seven year old Honda Civic (non hybrid) producing ZERO HCs and ZERO CO per a California smog test. You can see the test results on our website — http://engineecology.com.

    The third, and most important to the driver, is that there is a nice increase in power due to your engine actually burning most of the fuel that is being sent into it. More power is always a good thing!

  2. I hear you man, I despise california law. It’s utterly ridiculous what they make you guys go through. Here in vegas we have to get smogged once a year i think, but its a walk in the park compared to you guys. (not to mention you can just slip some dude a cnote and it’s passed anyway). California…what a waste of space.

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