Hybrids are designed to meet strict emission standards and to provide improved fuel economy over conventional vehicles. However, hybrid emission control systems experience the same causes of long-term deterioration affecting other vehicles. Emission control system malfunctions on hybrids can cause emissions to sharply increase. By ensuring that hybrid emission-related problems are identified and then properly repaired, emission levels will remain low over the life of the vehicle.
Since their introduction to the California market in 2000, hybrid vehicles could not be properly tested on the BAR-97 equipment that was introduced in 1997. This equipment could not test the emissions of hybrids as the vehicles would switch into electric mode during an inspection. The new Bureau of Automotive Repair On-Board Diagnostic Inspection System (BAR-OIS), which is based on a visual inspection of emission control components and a scan of the vehicle’s On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system, has resolved this testing issue.
Which types of hybrids will be required to receive a Smog Check?
All hybrid vehicles will be subject to a Smog Check. Just like traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, hybrid vehicles six model-years and newer are exempt from the biennial Smog Check requirement. Hybrid vehicles four model-years and newer are also exempt from the change-of-ownership Smog Check requirement.
What is the Smog Check procedure for a hybrid vehicle?
The Smog Check procedure for a hybrid is similar to the procedure for model-year 2000 and newer gasoline-powered vehicles. This includes both a visual inspection of emission control components and a scan of the vehicle’s OBD system. However, the procedure for hybrids does not include a visible smoke test. This procedure is consistent with other hybrid inspection practices implemented in other states across the country.
Are hybrids required to have a tailpipe emissions test?
No. A tailpipe emissions test is not required for hybrid vehicles.
What Smog Check equipment is used to inspect hybrids?
Hybrids can only be inspected using the Bureau of Automotive Repair OBD Inspection System (BAR-OIS). The BAR-OIS is the only equipment compatible for testing hybrid vehicles in California.
Will hybrids be checked for emissions related aftermarket parts?
Yes. Hybrids with non-approved aftermarket equipment or devices will fail their Smog Check. However, hybrid battery enhancements, such as plug-in charger kits and increased battery capacity, are not cause for Smog Check failure. The only exception would be if illumination of the vehicle’s “Check Engine” light is caused by the aftermarket system.
How do inspectors determine which emissions equipment is required on a hybrid?
The same methods used to determine required emissions components for conventional vehicles will apply to hybrids, including, but not limited to the following:
- Underhood emissions labels
- Emission control application guides
Are engine changes allowed on hybrids?
The same Engine Change Guidelines applied to conventional vehicles also applies to hybrids. If a hybrid engine is changed to a different year or type of engine, the complete electrical and emissions control systems must also be changed.
Engine changes on any vehicle subject to the Smog Check Program will require an inspection at a Referee Center. To make an appointment, consumers may contact the state Referee at 800.622.7733.
What types of emissions warranties are offered for hybrid vehicles?
Hybrid emissions warranties vary by vehicle manufacturer and model. Many 2005 and newer model-year hybrids are certified to California’s Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) standard. The PZEV standard requires an emissions system warranty of 15 years or 150,000 miles AND a battery warranty of 10 years or 150,000 miles. Model-year 2004 and older hybrids typically have the same emissions system warranties as traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.
Technicians should encourage vehicle owners to check their owner’s manual or contact the vehicle manufacturer directly for emissions warranty information. This will help the consumer better understand the emission warranty coverage for their vehicle and whether any necessary repairs will be covered under the warranty.
Is there financial help available to consumers whose hybrid vehicles fail Smog Check?
The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) offers both repair assistance and vehicle retirement options to eligible consumers. Up to $500 in emission-related repairs is available to income-eligible consumers whose vehicles fail a biennial Smog Check. Up to $1,500 is available to consumers who choose to retire an eligible vehicle from operation.