Passed Emissions Smog but tech can't find a # on the Cat so it's failed?



Hey all,

I have a rare 1995 AWD Supercharged Toyota Previa that I got salvaged in California.
I got a bunch of the papers saying it has passed smog every year, once it didn’t and they put in a new Cat, in California.
I got it smogged when I registered it and it passed with flying colors.
Now I have to get it smogged again, and it passed with flying colors
the tech said he cant find a number on the cat and so he’s failing it. Or something.
WTF. Is this a thing or is the guy scamming me?
How did it pass last year and the year before and the year before and now all of a sudden it needs a number?
Please help, the guy took $80 bucks from me, and I’m out of state helping my mother with brain cancer while my dude is trying to do all this remotely for me back in Cali. and now he’s saying it needs a whole new exhaust system just for some number? I feel like this is total crap.
Thanks for any help.


Oh my. You’ve run smack into CARB. California air resources board. And that’s not a good thing. Been there, done that. Don’t panic though, a little at a time you’ll eventually work your way through. Make sure to keep a written record of all communications you have, including the time-line, until it is resolved.

You or your helper needs to surf to the CARB or Calif Bureau of Automotive Repairs website, then look through their FAQ section. Might be something there. If not a phone call will be necessary.

I presume this is all taking place in Calif. Calif requires replacement cats be Calif emissions compatible. Surf over to Rock Auto for example, see what cats they have there for your car. They’ll say which are Calif compatible. That’s what the tech needs to verify, that you have one that is Calif compatible. Since there are no identifying numbers on it, unless you have the paperwork from when it was replaced, you’ll likely have to install another one. Best of luck.


Unflamingbelievable! Government regulations run amok!
That story makes me sick. We have no testing or inspections here. I live in America.


No, he’s not scamming you. CA tests for tailpipe emissions and components. Meaning that it’s possible for a car to have tailpipe emissions that meet standards but the car still may have been tampered or altered. So they check that all the emissions devices that the car was built with are still there, and that any replacement parts meet CA standards.

There is a part number/code on the catalyst that identifies it as CA compliant. If the inspector is unable to verify the cat as being the proper one, the car fails inspection.

Maybe the number was visible the last 3 times but has rusted away. Maybe the last 2 inspectors didn’t look in the first place, or it wasn’t visible and they didn’t care. But unless you can prove the catalyst is compliant you may be buying a new one.


The reason it passed last time . . . the guy didn’t crawl under the car and check

Or he saw it was a replacement cat, saw no numbers, but simply didn’t care

I do smogs in California, BTW

To be brutally honest, it sounds like the smog technician performed a thorough inspection, and abided by the regulations

If your replacement cat is not on the list of approved cats for YOUR car . . . meaning specifically for your make, model, model year, engine type, etc. . . . you fail

Sorry if that’s not what you want to hear

If you feel your car should have passed, you can always try to contact a BAR referee, but if your replacement had no numbers at all, then I wouldn’t too hopeful


Interesting info about the certification by part number. I’m curious: what documentation is acceptable? Only numbers on the cat itself?


That sounds awful. So glad I do not live in California.

No inspections here. No smog testing. No B.S.!


[quote=“Propane_Car, post:7, topic:95860, full:true”]
That sounds awful. So glad I do not live in California.

No inspections here. No smog testing. No B.S.!
[/quote]If you lived in an area with a high concentration of cars, you would be thankful for emissions regulations.


“If you lived in an area with a high concentration of cars, you would be thankful for emissions regulations.”

I won’t argue with that statement, but…

if the objective is to have vehicles meet or exceed certain emission standards, and the vehicle does, why harass the compliant owner with this?

It’s not like the car came in with a “test pipe” in place of a cat. The car came in with either the original cat or one that works.

So, the owner removes a functional cat and scraps it. Then more pollution and use of resources are the result of manufacturing, shipping, etcetera, of a new one, not to mention the cost to the owner of a non-polluting vehicle, the time and driving required to fix something that’s not broken…

Net result is counterproductive. This is what leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth when slapped with government over-reach.


Thanks for your input. I do have the paperwork from when the part was installed. And the state has the paperwork from the vehicle being smogged every year since then…


CSA, here’s where it gets sticky. The car was designed as a package to meet all applicable standards and regulations. At the time the design was submitted, a full gamut of testing and analysis was done to prove compliance.

Subsequent, a yearly inspection is performed to verify ongoing compliance. A small subset of the original compliance testing is done as part of this verification. Since they cannot do the entire test as it might prove too costly or not technically feasible as a field inspection, a visual inspection is also performed to ensure the parts meet the original design specifications.

There could be many important considerations aside from the HC level emitted from the tailpipe. Those are covered by a visual inspection, looking for a compliance mark on the parts. No compliance mark? It’s not guaranteed to meet all of the requirements (even though it may). But the field inspector cannot know that for certain.

This happens in other industries as well. Typically called a surveillance audit/compliance test as opposed to a full audit or certification effort.

I don’t necessarily like the regs either but I think I understand the motivation behind them.


“I don’t necessarily like the regs either but I think I understand the motivation behind them.”

I won’t argue with that statement, but…

What if this cat meets or exceeds the performance of the original one in all parameters?

What if this vehicle is driven only 8,000 miles per year and another one with all compliant numbers is driven 25,000 miles per year.

Which one causes the larger environmental impact?

What if Mt St. Helen blows it’s top?
What if, what if, what if…

What about all the vehicles tested and passed and then quickly fall out of compliance until the next testing cycle?

People still have to be able to live, get around, (to pay taxes that support CARB and testing sites) and afford to do both. Common sense says let’s cut the citizens a little slack, give them the benefit of a doubt.


I hear ya. People will get caught in the cracks. If the replacement part was done in CA, then I’d be trucking on over to the repair place to get them to remedy the situation. This kind of thing is why I NEVER change where I get my cars inspected once they pass. It’s no guarantee but it helps- you guys passed it last year…

Shops vary around here. I know they are sticking their necks out but they seem to use good judgement when it comes to these kind of things. That small window crack on the side- that happened after you left here right? absolutely! :wink:


@TurquoiseDusk, that sales receipt might not help much. Even though the part numbers on the left might trace to a valid replacement catalytic converter, the inspector may have no way of determining whether the two on your car are the ones referenced on the receipt without pulling the numbers directly from the installed parts.


I see ole Gov. Brown signed another emissions bill again that they hope will be the model for the nation. Just can’t help themselves but I read people are leaving in droves.


That’s why. Emissions tests can be cheated. Maybe you did something temporary that would allow the car to pass emissions and 5 minutes later, it’s belching out more pollution than the 20 cars around it.

I’m not a huge fan of the idea of living under California regulations either, but I do remember what LA used to look like on a regular basis, and it looks worlds better now, and that’s because California decided to get extremely strict with its emissions regulations.

Did they go too far? In some areas, yeah. But I’d rather see them go too far and end up with a decent environmental picture than not go far enough and end up like Beijing.


From the NAPA description of that part number
"California Universal Catalytic Converters Are Universal In Fitment, However They Are Engineered & Formulated To Work w/ Each Application’s Specific California Emissions Control Systems"
sounds like this might win an appeal if you get the right person. Good job bringing up the paperwork!


Interesting that back in 1947 the major source of smog was orchard smudge pots to keep the groves from freezing. One of the ideas eventually scraped was creating huge ventilation ducts that would carry the smog away to the mountains. One must consider that there are physical issues with California making smog a worse problem that don’t exist other places. Had about a 30 mph wind yesterday. No smog at all.


I looked on the napa website

Both of those cats are CARB-compliant and are approved for 1994-1997 Previa, and were manufactured by magnaflow, as per the information on the napa website

However . . . that is not the end of the story

Every approved aftermarket cat needs to have a visible executive order number. If it’s not visible or missing, you fail

I lookied on the carb website of approved cats. It was a bit tedious, but I determined that both of your cats are approved for your specific vehicle. The executive order number is D-193-103

The exact manufacturer, as per the document is “Car Sound Exhaust Systems, Inc. (d.b.a. Magnaflow)”

There is a phone number at the bottom of the list 1-800-242-4450 . . . it is the air resources board public information helpline. I expect somebody on the other end of that phone will be able to answer your questions, and possibly get you in touch with a referee

BTW . . . here is an interesting cut and paste from D-193-103

New Label Requirements
The label on the catalytic converter shell must be ½ inch high and large enough to be read from a distance of 5 feet from either side of the vehicle. The label must show
the EO, specific part number (universal or direct-fit) for the vehicle, and date of production (month and year)

As I said earlier, if that label is missing or illegible, then the car should technically fail

I suggest you attempt to contact a BAR referee and provide him with all of the paperwork

Expect the worst, but hope for the best

Should this ultimately lead to satisfaction, you owe me a virtual box of crispy cremes . . . !

:doughnut: Obviously, crispy cremes don’t have red glazing, but it’s the only doughnut emoji I could find at the moment

You get the idea :smirk:


And If we are asking as doughnuts for favors I would love some of the old dunkin doughnuts bettermilk ones, looked like a baseball with sugar glaze, but hope you can appeal the ruling on the cat, no doughnuts really necessary.