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Check Engine Light / Smog Test ? 1989 Toyota Corolla Dx

Question 1: Does the 1989 Toyota Corolla Deluxe have a check engine light?

Question 2: Is the check engine light required for this vehicle to pass CA smog emissions?

Question 3: Can you and should you go into a Smog Test with a large hole in your muffler? (Theory is if it doesn?t pass the smog test, the car might not be worth the time/money to fix both smog and muffler)

The story: I live in CA and I need to take my car in for a smog test. Mechanic 1/smog tester 1 told me and initially failed my car?s smog test because my check engine light would not come on during the initial power up of my car. After trying to pull apart my dash myself without success, I took the car back and had Mechanic 1 try to fix the check engine light problem. Mechanic 1 proved the light blub worked, ohm the PCB dash board, other tests, etc? and could not figure out how to make the check engine light turn on. After a calling to the state for approval, mechanic 1 passed my car and didn?t charge anything outside the first smog test.

Two years passed and this year?s smog test prevents me from going to Mechanic 1 (Smog Test vs. Smog Test ONLY), so I asked for a recommendation and go to the recommended Smog Tester 2. Before Smog Tester 2 started the test, I explained the check engine light does not power up. The Smog Tester refuse to test my car until it?s fixed and said his brothers a mechanic (Mechanic 2) can fix it. Even though Mechanic 2 has a shop, he said to drop my car off on a Sunday at his house to fix the light (saying that he thinks tracing the wires will lead to the problem). Once I returned to pick up my car, Mechanic 2, told me that after he opened the dash and tried to trace wires that were nothing there, so he called his brother, Smog Tester 2. They said that the deluxe version of the ?89 Toyota Corolla does not have or require a check engine light. Mechanic 2 said I still owe him $40 for the time to pull apart the dash as well as telling me that I should get my muffler fix before I go in for a smog test. I?m disappointed in this whole ordeal, and wonder who is telling the truth.

Note, Mechanic 1 show me in his book where it said the check engine light was required, but this was a 2 years ago and I?m not sure if he was looking specifically at the deluxe model. As a FYI my car has very low mileage (<65,000 miles). Thoughts, comments, feedback, and especially the answers to the three questions are appreciated.

Yes, your car does have a check engine light and it probably does have to come on in test mode to pass the smog test. Unfortunately, to fix the problem (assuming the bulb is in fact working) you’ll probably need a new computer which can be pricey, though might be found for cheaper in a junkyard. Do you know if this car is carbureted or fuel injected? If the computer is toast, the fuel injected version probably won’t run or will run poorly, whereas the carbureted version will probably keep ticking along just fine although the emissions equipment won’t work so even if they let you get by without the CEL you likely won’t pass the sniff test. Though, if it is a carbureted car, it could be as simple as a blown fuse, which would be nice!

Here’s one quick test you can do yourself. Get yourself a paper clip or small piece of wire to use as a jumper and follow the instructions on this site:

and you should be able to put the computer in diagnostic mode. If the computer is working properly, the check engine light should start blinking twice a second indicating a code 1, which means “everything’s okay”. It would also be normal for another code or two to be in there stored. If you get the normal function code, the problem is just with the bulb test mode, which may mean having to replace the computer anyways but it could also be a wiring or an ignition switch problem.

As for the muffler, they need to get an uncontaminated exhaust sample so a big hole in the muffler would cause fresh air to get into the exhaust, skewing the results. But if it’s just a smog check and not a safety inspection, there’s no reason why you couldn’t just use one of those muffler patch things or even just duct tape!

Wow. You’re response is very helpful, thank you! I’ll see if they checked the fuse and if they knew about this quick test. I really hope it’s not the computer. The next question really is how much repairs/money should I really put into this car vs saving to buy a newer one. With only 61500 miles and 28mpg, I’m kind of torn.