California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair is proposing a new rule which could drastically limit the effectiveness of smog checks:
The California Air Resources Board and the state Bureau of Automotive Repair want to make the most far-reaching changes to the smog check program in at least a decade. Under the measure, any California motorist with a 1996 or newer vehicle would no longer be required to pass a tailpipe emissions test or a treadmill test. Instead, every two years when the vehicle is due for a smog inspection, a technician would hook up a meter to a port under the dashboard and download data from the vehicle’s computerized onboard diagnostic system.
Instead of measuring actual tailpipe emissions, technicians would merely see if the “check engine” light has come on. Pretty sweet deal for manufacturers of engine code readers, but not so good for the environment.
Using $50 code reader, it is trivial to clear engine codes. Tampering with engine sensors and electronics isn’t that difficult either.
And even if the electronics are working properly, they only catch certain problems. For example, my car had a failing EGR valve, but no check-engine light ever came on.