I observed an interesting smog inspection


Hey guys,

This morning I got one of my cars smogged. It passed with flying colors, as I pretty much knew it would. I’ll spare you the reasons why I felt that way ahead of time

Anyways, this is a car which I KNOW was supposed to get a tailpipe test and go on the dyno. I know this because I do smog inspections as part of my job, so I of all people know a little about the regulations. I’m just mentioning this for the benefit of anybody reading this who doesn’t know me.

I work for a government fleet, so we’re not allowed to smog private vehicles, much less our own. Again, this is for people reading this who are not familiar with the business.

I showed up at this place, and the inspector was just getting started on a Jaguar. I observed some strange things right off the bat. A different individual pulled the car into the bay and onto the rollers. The inspector then took over, proceeded to enter information on the smog device, etc. This other guy then put the probe into the tailpipe. The actual inspector did subject this vehicle to the dyno portion. But he never “strapped it down” . . . when he was done with the dyno portion, the other mystery individual proceeded to remove the probe from the tailpipe.

The Jaguar passed, for what it’s worth

now it’s my turn

Again, it was interesting, but in a different way. The actual inspector pulled my vehicle, small rwd car, onto the rollers and inserted the probe himself. But he subjected the car to a two-speed idle test, as opposed to the dyno run which it should have gotten. The car does have traction control, but there is a very prominently labeled switch on the dash which allows you to turn it off. You can’t miss it, it’s staring you right in the face

After the tailpipe portion of the test was over, he proceeded to perform a visual inspection which included removing covers he wasn’t supposed to . . .

So this guy didn’t do the things he was supposed to, but did things he wasn’t supposed to

My car passed, as I knew it would

Here’s my concern . . . and it’s not for me, but rather for the inspector. I know that the bureau of automotive repairs does monitor smog inspections, but I’m not sure how closely. Even if they’re not physically spying on you, they still . . . to some unknown extent . . . check what you did or did not do. I’d be worried about catching their attention for taking too many shortcuts. On the flip side, they also don’t want inspectors to do things that aren’t part of the established procedure. And believe me, it is spelled out. The most egregious thing would be to inspect and fail a vehicle for a faulty fuel filler cap, if the procedure clearly spells out you’re not supposed to remove and test it. That was just a hypothetical situation, but that did not happen in this instance.

I though it was highly irregular for an individual other than the smog inspector to be physically involved in any part of the inspection. Where I’m at, only I am allowed to perform the inspection . . . the entire procedure is mine and mine alone.

Any comments?

Anybody had a vehicle fail because the inspector did things incorrectly in some way?

Anybody have to get the referee involved because of improper procedures on the inspector’s part, resulting in a failure?


By the way . . . the cartalk website is saying my topic is similar to “High interest-rates” :smiley:


Interesting observations there db4690. The most unusual thing that has happened during emissions testing for me, when testing my Corolla on the dyno:

The shop I’d been going to for 10 years or more had always displayed a big sign that said “2nd test free”. I never needed a 2nd test until 6 years ago, when the Corolla failed the first test, so it did need a second test. When I brought the car back for the 2nd test, showed the guy the paperwork from the first test, this second time it passed, and the staff guy presented me a bill for $70. Now the fee for the first test was only $60! When I told him I expected the 2nd test was free, he said, “no, it has never been free”. So I pointed to the big sign on the wall, the sign had been there for 10 years or more. Huge letters “2nd test free”. Guess what he did? He tore the sign down from the wall, ripped it up, and threw it in the garbage can!! LOL … To attempt to make it up to me he offered me a $20 discount, so since I passed I paid the $50 and left as quickly as I could. Never to return to that shop.

That shop sometimes would adjust the idle speed screw during the test. I’m not sure why, or if they were allowed to do that or not, but after it passed I’d just set it back to what it was before.

Every time I’ve had a test done, only one person is involved with handling the car and the test equipment. Sometime there will be an assistant handling paperwork only.


We don’t have smog inspections in my area so I’ve never had the pleasure of going through one.

So how would a “regular” person know whether the inspection was being done by procedure? It kind of makes you wonder what other procedures the facility bypasses or alters.


No, they’re not allowed to do that

They probably adjusted it higher, based on experience. But tampering with the idle adjustment screw during the test is not permitted. Not today, anyways. Maybe it was in the distant past, but I doubt it

As I mentioned in a previous discussion, certain vehicles will pass with flying colors at the high end of the allowed engine speed range, but fail miserably at the lower end. If the upper range is 1100rpm, for example, it is acceptable to test at 1100rpm. If you’re out of the engine speed range, either too high or too low, the device will warn you and eventually kick you out, forcing you to repeat that procedure


There’s really no way to know, b/c the procedure isn’t published. At least I’ve never found a complete description of the procedure and how the equipment they use accomplishes it.

Every place I’ve been however has allowed me to watch, so I’ve sort of figured out over the years just by watching. It varies car to car of course, so my observations only pertain to my early 90’s Corolla.


Not so

It’s on the bureau of automotive repair website. No membership fee required. But it takes some doing to find it. It’s not just one document, but several. Videos, as well. The current smog procedure manual is there, for all to see.


The confusing thing about them adjusting the idle speed screw, since it was dyno tested at 15 mph and 25 mph, it doesn’t seem like it would matter what the idle speed was. None of the testing is done at idle.


I haven’t had a dynamometer based test in 25 years. All converted over to simple OBD scan. The place I lived that did dynamometer testing followed the IM240 protocol iirc. The test person was the only one to drive the car. Depending on how busy it was, other employees would handle the probe and fans to speed up the process. The state ran the test stations and they were very protocol specific. Nothing more or less and same order of operations every time.


We don’t have dyno testing or tailpipe sniffers in most of NT State. Our testing is done at private garages, by state certified inspectors. The station has to have an interface to connect the OBDll port to tje states phone system which reads the info directly from your car. You can have one system not ready to read. Two systems for a 1996. Oversight of state inspection stations is handled by the state police and they do respond quickly, I know from personal experience.

I had a 61 Dodge Dart Phoenix and a new station opened up a block away from me so I tried it. The owner who was the inspector decided that my emergency brake needed adjusting. He kept walking back and forth between my car and his back room, right past me. The last trip, he brought his Motor Repair Manual out to the car. The emergency brake drum was between the transmission and driveshaft and he proceeded to adjust it the wrong way all the way to the end and forced it so badly it could not be turned the right way. He then failed my car because now it had NO emergency brake and charged me for the inspection AND the emergency brake “adjustment” He also adjusted the headlights so all 4 were pointing in a different direction. I had to take the driveshaft out, remove the drum and get the adjuster out that was mangled so badly that I just went to the Dodge dealer and got a new one, .

I put everything back together , adjusted the brake and went back up to the inspection station to show him the brake was working and get my sticker. He told me I would have to make an appointment for next week and if I didn’t like that, to take my car someplace else for the inspection.

I went home and called the State Police and told them exactly what happened. They said to give them a half hour and then bring the car to the station. The owner came out of the station, said not a word, came out to my car with my sticker and receipt . put the sticker on the windshield and went back inside. I thanked the State troopers and left. The next week his inspection sign was down and he was closed in less than a month.


I can’t speak for smog inspections as those are not done in OK. It does sound a bit odd.

A former boss of mine who owned a Subaru dealership and a used car lot was a licensed safety inspector back when OK had that system in place.

I’ve seen him send (multiple times…) his 18 year old lot porter to eyeball a car during a safety inspection. The porter was not a licensed safety inspector or even much of a mechanic. He would go and tell the boss everything is fine and the boss would sign the inspection certificate even though the porter was the one who filled in the blanks…

Illegal as sin and no car ever failed an inspection on his watch… :frowning:


Do you mean the cap on the gas tank? It’s part of the inspection in NM. As I have a locking cap I have to unlock it for the guy.


Here, much depends on a few things

For example . . .

the model year of the vehicle

OBD2 compliant or not . . . the existence of a 16pin DLC is actually not confirmation of compliance



There is no emissions testing in the city I live in now, but when I was in WA I was a State Authorized Emission Specialist for over 20 years. There were regulations as to what kind of repairs or recommendations I could do or make, and certainly no one else was allowed to do any of the work or testing other than the Authorized Emissions Specialist working on the car, but I suppose there were a few gray areas. I often had a shop helper warm up a car, drive it in for me and open the hood. I did the actual testing and repairs, but I don’t see a problem with having a shop porter drive a car to warm it up or pull out and hang up the tailpipe probe when I’m done.

As far as ancillary inspections, in WA emissions jobs were not specifically exempt from routine shop procedures. If your shop routinely performed a courtesy fluid level/exterior lights/tire inspection on every car that came in, you were free to do so on an emissions job as well. However, any recommendations for additional service needed to be clearly identified as not affecting emissions testing. I often found substantial additional sales from an emissions job but created a second separate invoice for those to avoid confusion. In 20+ years I had to get a referee involved twice.

As a kid growing up in the LA area, I recall an incident with a tampered undercover car. My first job was at a corner Chevron station that did smog checks. Two of the mechanics were certified for smog. CARB had sent over a Pontiac Fiero for a test, they had pulled the vacuum line off of the vapor canister which was hidden from easy view on this car. The tailpipe emissions were beautiful and the mechanic issued a smog certificate. The mechanic and the shop owner both had to pay fines and the mechanic had to attend training as a result.


Trucking companies with shops can get one of their own mechanics certified to do state inspections for their own fleet in NY, a system just begging for abuse. School buses in NY are inspected by traveling state employed inspectors and all buses are inspected twice yearly. These guys are tough! I have seen buses written up for being dirty inside (floor) and (windows). Any body rot takes a bus off the road and they don’t just want patches welded in. I drove for a LOT of trucking companies, including the largest in the country and I have never seen any trucks maintained as well as school buses in NY. I have aslo never seen a trucking company that practiced safety as much as the school district I drove for. The private school bus companies give the state required training but their hearts are not in it.

I used to drive a small bus from our district, in to some Buffalo Charter schools and the things I used to see from the private company that does their transportation were appalling. They used to drive through each others red lights, mine too. I saw one of their rear engined buses driving down the street with his engine cover up dropping off students. He obviously could not have done a pre-trip inspection. I also used to have one of their drivers pass me every day on an expressway leading into the city. He was speeding about 10 over, smoking a cigar and talking on his cell phone. A trifecta of lawbreaking.