I have a 97 Toyota Avalon with about 160,000 miles on it. Tried to get it smog tested about two weeks ago and it failed on hc at 15 mph (52 allowed). Mine was 54. It was fine at 25 mph. All other emissions passed.
The first time I went in the guy told me to superheat my catalytic converter by driving on the freeway before coming in. So I went and did that and came back. My hc at 15 mph was 55.
A mechanic friend told me that I could try cleaning the throttle body, switching the air filter and putting premium gas in (I usually use regular). I was wondering if this would be enough or if I should try something else. Also is that easy enough for a college student to do by himself or should I take it in somewhere??
You said “poor college student.” Now, what state do you officially reside in? Do you go to college in state or out-of-state? The reason being…IF you go out-of-state, AND there is a discrepancy in testing protocols between states…register the car in the state that is most lenient. You’re generally not considered to have “moved” just because you’re going to school somewhere–but if it benefits you, just give you current residence, and simply don’t volunteer the info that you’re a student.
(Come to think of it, this works intrastate, too, if testing protocols vary…generally harsher in more populous areas.)
BTW, why are they even sniffing this? All cars from '96 onward are OBDII…generally that’s “plug in; look for Check Engine Light; pass if not illuminated.” Is the CEL on?
P.S. What do the more experienced members of this board think about filling up with enough E85 to make the whole tank E15 or so? Since stoich. is richer this way, it should drop HC readings, IF the car fails to immediately adjust fuel trims.
If your permanent address is in Oregon and you’re a full time student, you need not get it registered in California… if that’s what you’re doing. You may even be able to register the car in Oregon online. You may want to check this possibility out.
Can you clarify for us exactly what you’re trying to do here?
Re: the testing; many states still use testing rather than the OBD download. The way it works is that states that have areas that require emissions testing submit a compliance plan to the EPA. The EPA either approves it or requires it to be modified. If a state desires to change its plan, it submits the modified plan to the EPA for approval/denial. When the whole process started, OBDII did not yet exist. Every state by necessity used tailpipe testing. As technology evolved, and after the mandate for all vehicles model year 1996 and newer to have OBDII, some states submitted new plans to the EPA based on an OBDII download and an inspection of the systems for compliance (no mods that might affect emissions, etc.). NH did that. Many states did not, staying with tailpipe testing. Many states never had any emissions testing requirements, because the initial air quality testing during the implementation of the program showed levels of emissions lower than the EPA’s goal.
Oh I need to renew registration in Oregon, and they require smog testing, but since I’m not in Oregon I asked and they said as long as I pass smog inspection in Cali, they’ll clear me and I can get my registration renewed.
A slightly dirty injector can cause this also…A quality injector cleaner like Chevron Techron or BG Formula 44K will clean them up quickly. Add the cleaner to your gas tank when it’s below 1/4 so you get a good concentration of cleaner…
Check your state law. Generally, they recognize that people (like military, students) can be out of state for extended periods and do not require otherwise due inspections until you get back in state for a nominal length of time, like one week.
For example: I went to school in NM while I was a resident of PA, for roughly 3 years. PA required both safety and emissions; NM (San Juan Co) required neither, and had no means of doing either. HOWEVER, I could keep driving my Sentra without current emissions/safety stickers until I spent 7 consecutive days back in Commonwealth.
Given that all my holiday visits lasted exactly 6 days , I (legally) drove that car the full 3 years with rather AGED stickers!
You are so close to passing that almost anything you do that will have any effect on low speed combustion should push it below the limit. I would expect that a fresh oil change would get you the couple of ppm you need to pass. Is it time for an oil change anyway? Problem is, you probably get only one free re-test, so you want to be pretty sure it will pass next time you go back.
I would not be surprised if the biggest problem at 160k miles is old , tired oxygen sensors, but you don’t want to spend that kind of money just to pass SMOG. Put those off until the engine computer starts to complain about them.
Your car has no spark plug wires. It has rubber boots below the coils. The boots can crack and cause misfires that increase HC, but those would not likely cause a failure at 15mph test, and even if they do, fresh plugs will fire easier likely hide that sin for a while. Look at the rubber boots when you are replacing the plugs, and if you see cracks and burn marks, new ones would be a good idea. I have replaced the boots on both my '97s, but my cars have a lot more miles than yours.
You can spend anywhere from $2 to $10 each for spark plugs for this car. I would suggest NGK BKR6EGP in your constrained budget situation. They run about $3.50 each and should hold up fine for 30k miles or so. Other good options are Denso or Bosch spark plugs. Don’t let anyone sell you $10 spark plugs unless you really want plugs that you can run 100k miles.
Another thing that does no harm, though it is more of a CO solution than an HC solution, is some fuel injector cleaner like Techron.
You can absolutely change the spark plugs (and rubber boots if you need them) and the air filter yourself. Minimal tools are required and instructions can be found on the web.