Do I move 1999 4Runner to Cali - Smog?

I’m moving to from DC to California and I want to bring my 1999 4Runner with me. I guess there’s some crazy smog rules, is it worth it for me to bring it over?

If–as I assume–California has stricter emissions regulations than DC does, I think that it would make very little sense to take this 16 year old car cross-country with you.

I live in Central MD, and our smog requirements have been the same as California’s for quite a while. I imagine your truck must meet MD requirements,and probably meet Cali requirements too. Your best source is the California DMV:

Read the info there, email a question, or call them.


“meet Cali requirements too.”


If the truck is 49-state, then it must pass federal test standards

If it has California emissions . . . very possible, since many vehicles were built that way . . . then it has to pass California test standards

The underhood emissions sticker will tell you what it has

I do smog inspections at work, and the machine ALWAYS asks what kind of emissions specs the vehicle has . . . Federal, California, BAR referee, etc.

Under no circumstances are you supposed to test a 49-state vehicle as if it were a California-spec vehicle. It would 100% fail, because the software calibrations would be wrong, the emissions would be too high, and various emissions components would be missing or different

I say OP should go ahead and bring the truck to California. If it’s running well and has been well maintained, it will probably pass the smog exam. If it’s running like crap and hasn’t been well maintained, the chance of failure is fairly high

One more thing, and it’s important . . . if this truck is NOT full time 4x4, it goes on the dyno. Because of it’s age. If a vehicle is model year 2000 and newer AND OBD2 compliant, it is eligible for the simple plug-in test, plus the usual visual inspections. But that is not the case, because OP’s truck is older than model year 2000

If the truck is full time 4x4, then it doesn’t go on the dyno, but it gets a “two speed idle” test instead.

Bottom line, if it’s coming to california, it gets a tailpipe test

I was under the impression that a new resident could bring their USED (at least 7,500 mi) car with them even if a 49-state model. What they frown upon is modification–ANY mods–even if they don’t increase, or even decrease, emisdions.


Nothing’s really changed . . . a resident moving into California can still bring their 49-state car with them

I imported a 49-state into California. It had to pass a smog exam, as a 49-state car

As I said, you CAN’T test a 49-state car as a California car.

it is the smog technician’s responsibility to determine what emissions standards the car is supposed to adhere to

In fact, if the emissions sticker is missing, that does not constitute tampering or failure. It means the technician has to spend more time determining what emissions standard the car is supposed to have, and how to test it

modifications are supposed to either be exempt, or have an executive order number

@db4960, a number of states, including Maryland and DC (I know it isn’t a state), only allow new cars that meet the CARB requirements. I’m not sure how long that has been the case, but it certainly is now.

A properly maintained '99 4Runner, possessing all the factory installed emissions equipment, passing Calif emissions, I wouldn’t expect to be much of a problem. You’ll have to do what the rest of us here in Calif do is all, make sure the ignition parts are in good condition, the engine oil is clean, the ignition timing is correct, the valves are properly adjusted (if applicable to your engine), the engine is operating at the correct temperature, and no check engine light. If you Google “How to Pass Calif Emissions” you’ll see some good links for commonsense things you can do before the test.


Why are you telling me that?

We’re talking about a 16 year old truck


Let’s not jump to conclusions, just yet

We don’t yet know if the truck is 49-state or California emissions

If it’s 49-state, it gets tested as federal, not California spec

Even if the truck is located and registered in California

@db4690, it seemed that you were telling me that there are no other states that use CARB requirements at all, not just for the 1999 model year. Does the response make more sense now?

Before I gave my old Camry to my son, who lived in Massachusetts, I had it tested to Mass specs. It passed. I didn’t want to give my son a car that he wouldn’t be able to get inspected. You could always see if you can find a shop that will test your vehicle to California specs. That way you’ll know for sure and can make a decision with solid knowledge.


Yeah, the response makes more sense now



Here’s a question for you, and it might be mainly hypothetical in nature

Let’s say new cars sold in Massachusetts are built to California emissions standards

Can the smog technician in Massachusetts choose to test the car to Massachusetts standards, instead of California standards?

Is there a scenario in that state where a California spec car fails according to California test procedure, but is able to pass Massachusetts spec test procedure, and therefore gets a passing grade, so to speak?

In other words, can the smog technician choose the test procedure that is most advantageous to the customer?

“I do smog inspections at work, and the machine ALWAYS asks what kind of emissions specs the vehicle has . . . Federal, California, BAR referee, etc.” - DB

I honestly don’t know. Based on your statement quoted above, I suspect it’s possible. It can’t hurt to ask around. My recommendation was for the OP to see if he can find a shop that can do it.

Look, the simple answer is that, surprise!, California regulations are actually reasonable. A used car from out of state is OK if it has more than 7500 miles on it. Any new car (less than 7,500 miles) registered in Cal has to be Cal compliant. And there’s a special rule if you move to California and bring your new or newish car.

Look at this from the Cal. DMV website:

Does This Apply to Someone Moving to California?

If you are moving to California from another state, you may register a new 49-state vehicle if it was first registered by you in your home state, or for military personnel, in the last state of your military service. When applying for vehicle registration in California, you must provide evidence that the vehicle was registered.

It’s unlikely there’ll be an immediate emission hurdle to overcome for the OP to register their car in Calif, as long as it is properly registered and has already passed any emissions testing required in the home state. And has all the original OEM emissions equipment still installed. Be aware though that there could be a substantial registration fee involved. The registration fees and rules change year to year as the subject is sort of a political football here in Calif. But they are concerned with folks trying to avoid the Calif sales tax on new vehicle purchases by purchasing out of state then re-registering in Calif. OP could probably phone up the Calif DMV and get an estimate for the fees involved.

There are no crazy requirements if there is nothing wrong with the vehicle. Some real junkers pass all the smog tests every two years. I wish there was a bald tire law in Ca.

I wish there were mandatory safety inspection in CA

There are constantly guys whose heaps are breaking down on the freeway, endangering all those around them


Look, the simple answer is that, surprise!, California regulations are actually reasonable.
...except that they are (laughably?) onerous W/R/T vehicle modification. It's bureaucracy writ large: if you change your vehicle in (seemingly) any way, even if it has zero effect on emissions (or even improves it), it's default impermissible unless you care to jump through the hoops to prove otherwise. Other states have "tampering" laws, but usually the onus is on the state to prove an emissions increase; in Cali, it's on the motorist. (Heck, in my Commonwealth, it's written into the laws that ANY modification that DECREASES emissions cannot be a cause for test failure--try that in CA!)

I’ve read car guys complaining about getting “busted” for stuff like PCV catch cans and replacing plastic vacuum line with copper…both of which decrease emissions in the short/long term. Also, CA emissions goes 'till the end of time…in most states, you hit a “threshold” around 20-30 years and are thereafter exempt.