Clogged Up By The DMV’s Smog Check
There’s so many things about California that are so different from the rest of the USA, it’s impossible to describe many of them unless you live here.
I’m originally from elsewhere in the country and one of my first slap-in-the-face introductions to the Golden State after moving here was realizing that apartments don’t come with refrigerators. I had to rent one, at an additional $20 a month.
Another one is the smog check. If you have a car that’s a few years old, or if you’re registering a car here from another state, you have to get your car smog checked. If you think this is just a ploy by the state to extract extra dollars out of its residents, then you are correct.
Before you can receive that coveted sticker that goes on your license plate, you have to go to a certified smog check place, which is usually a gas station. Every vehicle owner in the state sweats out the smog check for the 15 minutes or so it takes to complete it (not counting at least a half an hour wait) in hopes that your car passed. You gladly pay the $65 or so smog check fee, plus the $8.50 for the certificate, which enables you to pay a few hundred dollars for your registration sticker.
I recently did a lot more sweating than usual, however. I had purchased a 2002 BMW from a friend and the thing looks great and has been running great but I then ran headlong into the smog check inspector. It failed the test.
Actually, it passed all the emissions aspects of the test – and isn’t that the point!? – but the check engine light was on and the California test won’t pass a car with a dummy light on and, well now what!?
I immediately took the vehicle to the honest guy who worked on my previous car. He mentioned something about a gas cap and reset the dummy light. This did not satisfy the guy at the emissions place because, apparently, you can’t fool the smog test machine.
I had to drive the car and the light came back on, so I had to find someone to look at it. And the problem in America with getting your car fixed – as every American knows – is you don’t know whom to trust. I found a place and they called me with a whopping bill of $900! What!?
“Well you need an oil change (I did), a new air filter, a $95 air filter valve, two new tires, an alignment…”
I sucked it up and paid it but before I went back to the smog check station, the mechanic told me I had to drive the car to reset the engine light computer.
“How far,” I asked.
“At least 50 miles,” he responded.
“Fifty miles!?,” I exclaimed.
“Yes, and ideally at a steady 50 mph.”
With clogged freeways and surface streets with horribly-timed lights, that’s a near-impossible task in L.A.!
Well, after 25 miles the light came on again. Another $150. If that didn’t work then the next step they suggested was a $500 part.
All this because the danged light came on and I needed a smog check!
So I drove 60 miles and the light stayed off so I took it back to the smog check inspector. He plugged in a computer and said I needed to drive another 50 miles because the computer had not reset.
You see what I mean about the difficulties of living in Cali?
Thankfully, after a week of dealing with this issue, driving a total of 150 miles and spending $1,000 in repair bills, I passed the danged smog check and got my much-valued 2019 sticker.
Now, where I did I put my passport???