Once smog time rolls around it’s time to find a station that will look at your car and (hopefully) pass it so you can register it for another year. Have you seen smog stations in your area that says “smog test only” stations? A “test only” smog station is a perfectly viable option for every car on the road that requires a smog test.
When a smog station is “test only”, it means this shop will only test your car to see if it passes smog, and is not authorized or equipped to repair your car in the event it fails the test. If your car does pass the test, the station will send the results directly to the DMV and you can go on your merry way.
In contrast, a smog check and repair station is authorized and equipped to both test and repair your smog equipment. If there isn’t a “test only” at the smog check station, you’ve got a good bet that the mechanics there can repair your smog equipment if needed. There are also “repair only” smog stations that are only permitted to fix, and not test, so if you’re in need of a smog test, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask to make sure.
There are two kinds of smog licenses that are required to do either a smog test or repair. A licensed smog inspector may only examine a car to make sure it has smog equipment and then test it, and is not authorized to fix the car if it fails. A licensed repair technician is authorized to diagnose what is failing on the car and then fix it. While these are two separate licenses, a mechanic may possess both after enough schooling and perform tests and repairs.
If your car does not pass smog, you’ll need to have it repaired in order to keep it registered. In certain states like California, if your car does not pass smog you simply can’t register it legally. If your car is not registered and you’re caught driving it, the police have every right to impound it. Smog equipment can be expensive, so fixing whatever problem you’re facing isn’t always an immediate option. If this is the case, you may qualify for, depending on your state, vouchers, and extensions.
Something to be aware of is test and repair stations. Because these stations are able to do both testing and repairs, they are fully capable of failing a car on purpose and then recommending unnecessary repairs. A better practice might be to visit a test-only station, and if your car fails you can take it to a repair station of your choice.
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