California Vehicle Smog Waiver Rules

by Cathy O'Brien
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California requires all vehicles produced after 1976, or that have been in operation for longer than six years, to have a smog check. The only vehicles exempt from the smog check requirement are select hybrid vehicles, two-wheel motorcycles, diesel vehicles produced before 1997, vehicles with two or fewer cylinders, and engines under 819c. If a vehicle does not pass a smog check and still needs to be registered, the following requirements will need to be met in order to qualify for a one-time, two-year extension, smog check waiver.

Smog Check Failure

A vehicles must have failed a routine, biennial smog check conducted at an authorized smog check location. Authorized smog check locations include car dealerships, gas stations and car repair shops. All authorized smog check locations will display a blue banner with a large red check mark and the words "Smog check" written across the banner.


The vehicle must have been registered for operation in the state of California for at least two years prior to failing the smog check. This ensures the vehicle was either exempt from a smog check in the past or it had passed a smog check prior to failing the most recent test.

Intact Emissions System

There should be absolutely no signs of tampering on the vehicles emissions control system. The system must be in its original and approved state from its initial installation. Tampering with the system includes improper repairs and removal of parts.

Costly Repair

The vehicle in question must need at least $450 worth of repairs in order to make it pass the smog check. There must be written document from an authorized smog check location detailing the cost estimate and diagnosis of the repairs needed for the vehicle to pass the smog check.

CAP Program

The owner of the vehicle must qualify for the CAP program in order to prove the repairs to the vehicle are an income burden. The CAP program is the Consumer Assistance Program designed to provide financial assistance towards emissions-related repairs to those who qualify. Qualified applicants will need to prove they have a low income level and have not done any repairs to the car prior to applying for the program. The program will provide assistance up to $500.

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