Smog laws in finer details en lieu of vehicle sale

i just bought a 1999 toyota tacoma in california. the seller said there was nothing wrong with it and it passed smog in september. i went to the dmv to get it registered, and the dmv sent me to get it smogged. so i took it to a smog shop and it wouldn’t pass smog… turns out the exhaust manifold is cracked in half and it has blown 3 valves. it needs a new top end. california law states that a car is only sellable if the car passes smog, and the seller is responsible for repairs to get it to pass. smogs are valid for 90 days.
but, the seller is claiming that his smog is still valid since it was done less than 90 days ago, therefore he won’t pay for the repairs. this can’t be right?! maybe it passed in september, but it doesn’t pass NOW, at the time of purchase. does anyone know anything about this?

We have a similar law here in Georgia. Even though the smog test and proof of insurance has gone electronic, and the electronic record is required to be accepted by DMV, every test center is still required by law to provide a paper reciept. I have the reciept for smog of all my cars going back 7 years. If the seller has a valid smog check, he must have some proof of it he can provide. Going by his word is laughable. The DMV has final say if the smog test he has is valid, and they say it is not.

Of course, he has your money. The only recourse, if he insists that the smog is valid, is possibly small claims court. Good Luck.

I would have to think there’s some missing story here. The truck was apparently running fine a few months ago and in a short 3 months it has now been diagnosed with a cracked exhaust manifold and a shot top end; apparently due to 3 “blown valves”, which would actually be an incorrect term.

So in this interim was there any overheating, rough running, Check Engine Light, and so on and how long did it exist?
Severe overheating can lead to problems with the exhaust manifold and valves although “blown” is not the proper way of phrasing it

How were these “blown valves” diagnosed?

First, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t live in CA. That said if you need a smog test to get the truck registered then the previous smog test is mute. It doesn’t pass smog to get registered and if the law requires a passing grade on a smog test to complete the sale then you are in the right. Now, how to get your money as this is now disputed by the seller?

Park the truck and request a refund in writing stating you will return the truck when you get your money back. If the seller won’t take this action, you’ll need to consult a lawyer in CA on how to proceed.

I think you’re going to have to go to small claims court. Not familiar with CA at all…but if what you say is true (That is MUST pass smog to sell)…then I think you have a case. Doesn’t matter if it passed smog test 90 days before. Who knows what happened between then and now. It’s NOW that matters. If it won’t pass inspection NOW…then the seller MUST fix.

What I’m concerned about…is the cracked manifold and the 3 blown valves. Seems to me that the truck wouldn’t drive right. Did you test drive it before you bought it???

Unless you’re very knowledgeable about vehicle mechanics ALWAYS have a mechanic check out a used vehicle before you buy.
An exception MIGHT be a certified pre-owned.

You need to read very carefully the CA DMV information on their website concerning smog testing requirements and transfer of cars. No new test is required if: "A biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date (a vehicle inspection report may be required for proof of certification). "

Based on this info, a new smog test was not required if the 90 days or less statement was met at the time of transfer. However, now that a new smog test is on record, you may be required to complete the repairs.

Based on the info on the DMV site, and since no pre-purchase inspection revealed the defects to be negotiated before hand, I would conclude the former owner is not on the hook for the repairs. Why the local DMV office required a new inspection is not clear at this point.

It’s good that you have the law on your side. Since you’ve not yet registered it, having had to get it smogged before doing so, I think you have a good argument that it was bad when the seller sold it to you. I think you’ll fare well in small claims court…and they’re the only ones that’ll be able to make the seller return your money.

From this experience you may want to learn that you should always get a used vehicle checked out thoroughly before signing anything or turning over any money.

Sincere best.

Something is fishy. Exhaust manifold cracked in half? I can’t imagine not noticing such an extreme exhaust leak if not from the noise, the smell. 3 blown valves? What does that mean? Seriously, if it was in such bad shape, it should be very noticeable from the drivers seat on a test ride.

MA has some pretty serious buyer protection laws too. But they have limits. If you take your newly acquired ride to Joe Schmoe’s garage for a safety and emission inspection and Joe has a boat payment due, you can’t just stride over to the seller and say, hey, cough up $1500 to Joe to get my car fixed. You can see the issues right? First off, I’d think a second opinion is in order not just because it’s a lot of money but the issues they claim exist should be obvious to you too just driving it around. Secondly, the laws here have limits on liability. The seller isn’t going to get socked for the entire bill regardless. You better check your local laws to be sure you understand your rights and the limitations of liability for both parties…

I’m curious and not holding my breath, as to whether the rest of the story will be told.

With three alleged blown valves, whatever the heck that is, the truck should have been running like garbage when the OP first went to purchase it.

I’ve heard in CA it is always best for the seller to require the prior owner to deliver a current (done within a few days of the sale) smog certificate prior to title and money transfer. It may be the case that a 90 day old certificate is fine w/the DMV, but as the purchaser, you don’t have to accept it. But you have to do this BEFORE the sale price is agreed upon. You can try to get the seller to take the car back, or chip in on getting it fixed. I’m not sure that you’ll have much luck trying to use the court system to get your money back though. You’d have to probably prove the seller knew about the problem.

After the sale, it is too late to ask about smog checks. Unless you see the smog test results, verify the date and the VIN, you end up with nothing. True, the smog certificate is not paper but the test results are given to the person who has the test done and it is on paper. No law says that you can’t pay for your own smog test before buying the truck. I can’t help you but maybe the people with similar questions can now protect themselves.

clairebear, if you were given a smog check that was not more than 90 days old, then you did not need re-test. I am thinking maybe between the purchase and your visit to the DMV the smog expired and that is why they asked for re-test. Now that takes the original owner off the hook. My problem is that probably whoever passed the car did not do a proper smog, or your current tester is not a good one. Look at the smog test that hopefully the previous owner provided and go directly to that station.
I have sold one car that would not pass and had the buyer sign a disclaimer that he was “told so”.

I would find out who did the test in September and take it back there and maybe the same magic will work twice…Sometimes, in California (and other states) the vehicles being tested get mixed up so that it’s the shop-owners car that gets tested 3 or 4 times a day but the paperwork reflects a different car…just one of those paperwork errors…

@Caddyman; that used to “happen”, but my understanding is that now every smog machine has a camera next to it, or at least that is what I am being fed.

clairebear, I kind of think you got yourself into this mess by relying on a smog test as some kind of actual car inspection.