First section quoted from post of 1/95- Read on!
Jan. 1, 1995 - First stage of Smog Check II Implemented
Primarily, this will change the way cost-exeedance limitations work. Under the current program, vehicles that fail their smog check are assigned a repair cost limit, based on the model year of the car. Cost limits vary from $50-$300, and vehicles beyond economical repair can be repaired, or estimated (i.e. if your cost limit is $175, and it will take a $2000 engine overhaul to bring you within emission limits, you can present that estimate as evidence) into the referee program.
The referee program was designed for those without the funds to repair their old (and already dying) vehicles into compliance. Under this program, motorists could avoid the high cost of repairs by spending a day at a referee station, and getting their certificate of non-compliance (provided that the vehicles smog equipment had NOT been tampered with, or removed, there never has been a cost limit on tampered vehicles), so that they could use the old junker to get to work.
UNDER THE NEW PROGRAM, EFFECTIVE JAN 1, 1995
Cost limits for untampered vehicles will rise to $450, regardless if the car in question is a 1966 or 1994 model year.
Now, the repair structure is even scarier. Remember, your actual tailpipe readings are only a part of the test- You could have perfect tailpipe readings out of your car, but if some poorly-designed & expensive smog device fails, IT MUST BE REPAIRED BACK TO FACTORY SPEC, REGARDLESS OF THE AGE, OR THE ACTUAL POLLUTANTS COMING OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE.
Let's say you have a 1980 Chevy Citation with a bad EGR valve, no vacuum signal to the EGR due to a bad thermovalve, and with an acceptable tailpipe reading. (100ppm HC, 1.0% CO limit)
Under the old program, the station would fail you, on the functional portion of the test (not tailpipe emissions, the whole reason this program is here), and write you an estimate for repairs.
For the sake of argument, lets say a new EGR valve costs $400 on the car, and a new thermovalve is $200. Under the old program, that estimate alone, and your failed smog documentation, would be enough for a referee appointment, and a cert of non- compliance. If your car still failed a functional test 2 years later, you would still have the option of repairing it, or going back to the referee for another cert of non-compliance. Going to the referee is inconvenient, but it presents lots of options for the classic Citation owner: 70 year old ladies who NEED their car, and use it three times a week for shopping trips, etc.
Under the new program, that same classic Citation owner MUST: Repair both items, at a cost of $600. Why? because neither of the repairs come in over the new cost-exceedance limits, and both repairs must be done regardless of their effect on actual tail-pipe readings during the test. Estimates are no longer acceptable: Only repairs can get you to the referee.
Even if your car requires repairs above and beyond the $450 cost limit, you must spend at least that getting emissions repairs done, even if it is pointless. I.E., Car needs $2000 engine overhaul, pollutes like mad, but also has a bad EGR valve. EGR valve gets repaired at a cost of $450.01, but the car still pollutes like mad.
At this point, the car gets referee'd, but only once.
Under Smog Check II, cars cannot visit the referee consecutively. Second time around, you gotta fix, or junk the car.
The Repair Reporter cites about 5 different examples, by way of explanation, but I don't want to post them here- If I get enough feedback, I'll post the entire 12 page booklet of all to see.
This new program bothers me, as a smog station employee- It seems so pointless. Under the old program, we would take old, tired vehicles (with poor owners), spend some time trying to lower the tail-pipe reading (and succeeding in many cases- that's why smog mechanics are there!) , and referee them if we couldn't bring them to full compliance within their budget.
Under this new program, we are expected just to spend money, however pointless the repair, and then tell the owner that they have only two years left on the road in that vehicle before they must fully repair, or abandon the car.
I believe this new program will have little to do with clean air, but plenty to do with un-registered, un-insured motorists running around on California roads. We have plenty already, but the new requirements will only make this worse... I see the state of the motoring publics economy every day, and let me tell you-
California's drivers can't afford Smog Check II!
Above is a copy of the article I posted on the Usenet groups- It is now 3/95, and we have seen some impact of the new laws hit the ground. More cars are going to the boneyards (not necessarily due to tailpipe failures, mind you- It's the functional failures on those early Domestic computer controlled vehicles that really break the budget), and people are getting pissed off. I feel sorry for my service customers that have these problems, and do my best to help them out... I also feel justified in my initial anger at Smog Check II- People really can't understand, or afford this BS.
My personal recommendation is an overhaul of the Smog Check program- Kick up training requirements (one of the tenets of the new program), tighten security at Smog Stations to minimize false certs being issued- No Problem. As automotive professionals, we need to be properly trained to responsibly work on modern vehicles- This is an important concern of any good shop, and it doesn't have anything to do with the Smog program.
But... Lighten up on the consumer! It's not their fault that they bought an early computer-controlled abortion that was a product of this Clean-Air scourge in the first place... They just want to drive their car, get to work, pay bills & LIVE. Focus on tailpipe emissions, and get back to a system that fixes cost limits on the model year, and not some idealistic Sacramento reality. If we were able to fail, and repair (or junk) the gross polluters, and pass (or Referee) the 70-year old ladies and their old Citations with dead EGR systems- We could make a difference for clean air in California. As it stands, we are expected to enforce the Draconian standards set forth by the State, and repair everything that comes in the door back up to factory spec... It's not gonna happen.
Those people with massive failures, massive estimates usually disappear, only to return on the street with new tags. They are doing one of two things: Getting a false Smog written, or hitting a No Pass/No Pay station at 5:00 on a Friday, where the techs write 'em, sniff 'em, and blow them out the door for $14.95 + certificate. Still not doing much for Clean Air in California, just working the system hoping for a break. This will get worse and worse as the regs tighten. Despite the fines, there will still be people that will buy a BAR-90 machine and use it to make a profit, in a changing, desperate automotive service world.
I don't think things will change rapidly, not with the current 'Clean-Air' political feeding frenzy we have going in nearly every State... If only those politicians had to go through an automotive emission training class, and a few weeks in the field, I think their opinions might differ a bit.
If you want to make a difference, I suggest writing a letter to the B.A.R. (California Bureau of Automotive Repair) at:
10240 Systems Parkway
Sacramento, CA 95827
Ask for some answers, some information- Ask how we are intended to keep a fleet of vehicles with equipment that was designed for 'point of purchase, and three years thereafter' on the road without going broke or buying a new Honda. Ask about Tailpipe, versus Visual or Functional inspections, and why the system is set up that way.
Ask the legislators, and enforcers how we are to legitimately comply with their unrealistic regulations. Always remember to tell them to have a nice day.
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