Today we’re talking about the BMW E30M3.
Pictured here is a first generation M3. They were first produced in 1986 with a 4 cylinder motor named the S14B23 producing 192bhp. The M3 differed from the base model 3 series in many ways. Although sharing the same basic shell it had 12 different and unique body panels for the purpose of improving aerodynamics. The “Box Flares on the wheel arches in the front and rear were to help accommodate a wider track with wider and taller wheels and tires. It came with 5×120 wheel bolt pattern as opposed to the base model 4×100. Special front and rear brake calipers as well as plenty of suspension related upgrades.
The E30 M3 competed in many disciples of racing competing in both road and rally style races. In full race spec the “Evo” 2.5L motor produced 380hp. In 2007 @automobilemag included the E30 M3 in their “5 Greatest drivers cars of all time” BMW is currently on the F80 version of the M3 powered by a Twin Turbo 3.0L making 444hp in their competition package.
In this post I’ll go over aftermarket catalytic converters, why its important to select a catalytic converter that has been approved for your vehicle, and what smog inspectors look for when inspecting catalytic converters during a smog inspection.
This is going to be a long post, so if all you want is a quick summary, feel free to skip to the end.
… passed the smog inspection with flying colors except the tech says he can’t find a number on the cat and so he’s failing it … Is this a thing, or is the guy scamming me?
Aftermarket Catalytic Converters
Catalytic converters contain a slurry of three rare earth metals (Platinum, palladium, and rhodium) that are used to reduce and convert harmful combustion gasses before they enter the atmosphere. All three of these metals are extremely expensive. For example, the price of platinum on March 9, 2017, was over $947 per troy ounce.
If your vehicle is well maintained and in good working order, its catalytic converter(s) should last for the lifetime of the vehicle.
However mechanical malfunctions can damage catalytic converters and cause them to fail. Ignition misfires are especially harmful.
Did you know?
Did you know, that a flashing check engine light usually indicates a sever catalyst damaging misfire that should be repaired without delay?
Other reasons for catalytic converter replacement include theft, incorrect diagnosis of fault codes, and the far too common practice of attempting to mask emissions control issues with new catalytic converters.
Just throw on a new catalytic converter, right?
In the past substituting a “bargain cat” for proper repairs was easier to get away with because labeling requirements were unclear, and it was often difficult for smog inspectors to identify incorrect catalytic converter applications.
When I first got my smog license, I met a customer who claimed that he made two appointments every two years; one with his muffler guy for a new catalytic converter, and one with my boss for a smog inspection. He was almost proud of the fact that he bought a new catalytic converter every two years.
It wasn’t uncommon for people to buy cheap/universal catalytic converters specifically for the purpose of “getting through” a tailpipe emissions test. Very often those catalytic converters were so cheaply made that they might make it through a smog inspection but not much further down the road.
The worse part was that perfectly good factory parts were often replaced by low quality aftermarket catalytic converters when a simple repair was all that was necessary.
Catalytic Converter Labeling Requirements
- Labels must be permanent and indestructible
- Labels must be placed in a location easily readable after installation
- Labels must use letters and numbers that are at least half an inch and readable within five feet.
- Catalytic converters must be stamped with a directional flow arrow
- Must include executive order exemption number (D-###-###), manufacturer part number, and date of manufacture
OEM vs. Aftermarket Catalytic Converters
OEM (Original equipment manufacturer – factory) catalytic converters are a great choice for those of us who can afford them, but very often the difference in price between a “factory cat” and an aftermarket catalytic converter can add up to hundreds of dollars (Sometimes thousands if more than one catalytic converter requires replacement).
No person shall install, sell, offer for sale, or advertise any device, apparatus, or mechanism intended for use with, or as a part of, a required motor vehicle pollution control device or system that alters or modifies the original design or performance of the motor vehicle pollution control device or system.
Aftermarket catalytic converters must be exempted from California’s anti-tampering laws in order to be legally sold and installed in the state. If an aftermarket catalytic converter is shown to be durable and meets vehicle emission control requirements, it is granted an exemption Executive Order (EO) that allows it to be installed on specific emission controlled vehicles.
If an ounce of platinum costs $947, rhodium $930, and palladium $773 an ounce, how much of each could possibly be in a catalytic converter sold for as little as forty-one dollars? The answer is, not enough to qualify for sale in the State of California!
In order to be legally sold and installed in California, a catalytic converter must undergo extensive testing to prove that it is durable and meets emission control requirements. It’s not enough for a catalytic converter to “just get you through your next smog”, it must be built to last.
Did you know?
Did you know, that aftermarket catalytic converter installers in the State of California are legally obligated to provide you with a five year/fifty-thousand mile warranty on parts and labor? Did you receive your warranty card?
Aftermarket catalytic converters sold in the State of California must be proven to have a minimum durability of 5 years/50,000 miles.
Catalytic Converter Inspection
Original Equipment Manufacturer Catalytic Converters
When inspecting a vehicle’s catalytic converters, the first thing we check for is original equipment.
If a vehicle is equipped with OEM (factory) catalytic converters our job is almost complete. We still need to ensure that all catalytic converters are present, undamaged, unmodified, and installed in their original locations.
Aftermarket Catalytic Converters
There are two sets of rules that smog inspectors are required to follow when inspecting aftermarket catalytic converters:
- Pre-OBD II Vehicles (1995 and older)
- OBD II Vehicles (1996 and newer)
When inspecting aftermarket catalytic converters installed on pre-OBD II vehicles, smog inspectors in the State of California must first follow all of the same rules that apply to OEM catalytic converters.
A word about installation:
In addition to installing catalytic converters in their original location and configuration, installers must also ensure that they follow all manufacturer guidelines.
Some catalytic converters have the word “TOP” stamped or engraved on one side (Usually on the heat shield). Very often they will come into the shop installed “upside down”. In addition to the non-shielded side being exposed to the vehicle’s floorboard, the executive order exemption number, manufacturer part number, and date of manufacturer will not be visible.
In most cases the smog inspector inspecting the vehicle will enter “Tamper” or “Modified” for the catalytic converter, and the vehicle will fail the smog inspection.
All required catalytic converters must be present and properly installed in their original factory locations and configuration. Again, catalytic converters must not be modified or damaged.
When inspecting aftermarket catalytic converters installed on pre-OBD II vehicles, smog inspectors in the State of California must also ensure that all aftermarket catalytic converters installed on the vehicle comply with applicable labeling requirements (See above).
Unlike OBD II vehicles (Discussed below), inspectors are not required to verify specific vehicle applications when inspecting pre-OBD II vehicles; however, the catalytic converter must be approved for the vehicle category (PC 1, PC 2, T1, T2, etc).
- PC 1 (Single Configuration) – A passenger car with single or dual exhaust that is equipped with one catalytic converter per bank.
- PC 2 (Dual configuration) – A passenger car with single or dual exhaust that is equipped with two or more catalytic converters per bank.
- T1 (Single Configuration) – A light duty or medium duty truck with single or dual exhaust that is equipped with one catalytic converter per bank.
- T2 (Dual configuration) – A light duty or medium duty truck with single or dual exhaust that is equipped with two or more catalytic converters per bank.
A PC 1 passenger car can not be equipped with a catalytic converter that has been approved for T1 vehicles.
OBD II Aftermarket Catalytic Converters (1996 and newer vehicles)
Again, OBD II aftermarket catalytic must follow the same rules regarding placement, configuration, and condition that apply to OEM and pre-OBD II catalytic converters.
In addition to those rules, OBD II aftermarket catalytic converters must be approved by CARB for specific vehicle applications.
The following information must match on all OBD II aftermarket catalytic converter applications:
- Executive order exemption number (D-###-###)
- Manufacturer part number
- Model year
- Engine size
- Engine Family Number (Also referred to as engine test group)
CARB Catalytic Converter Database
When it comes to inspecting aftermarket catalytic converters (Especially on OBD II vehicles), CARB’s catalytic converter database is the smog inspectors bible.
After selecting a vehicle’s manufacturer, model year, model, and engine size from the database’s drop down menus, the database returns a list of all CARB approved catalytic converters for the selected vehicle.
Your muffler guy may make a lot of reasonable arguments, but if a catalytic converter is not CARB approved for your vehicle it will not pass a California state smog inspection.
To determine the correct catalytic converter part number for your vehicle, you will need its make, model, model year, engine size and test group/engine family designation.
Test Group Name (Engine Family Number)
The engine family or test group is the one field that seems to create the most confusion among installers, consumers, and even some smog inspectors.
All vehicles sold in the United States have a unique drive-train identifier called the “Test Group” or “Engine Family Number”. This number allows owners, parts suppliers, and service providers to determine specifications and installed emissions control equipment of motor vehicles. Because many vehicles may have several different configurations, this number will provide specific information about the emissions control system and exact standards that a vehicle was designed to meet.
In many cases a single character in the test group will be the determining factor between a passing catalytic converter, and a failed smog inspection.
On Federal/EPA certified vehicles (Those that are not California emissions certified), EFN does not need to match since only CARB approved EFNs are listed in the database. However, all other requirements apply.
Q. Federal vehicles are not listed in California application catalog. How do I determine what catalytic converter to install on a federal vehicle?
A. Find a catalytic converter exempted for a California vehicle that is of the same make, model, and model year as the federal vehicle, except for the engine family. Install the catalytic converter on the federal vehicle and make a note on your invoice and warranty card that it is a federal vehicle.
Application type can be 2WD, AWD, 4WD, ALL, etc. We don’t see this very often, but it is possible for a catalytic converter to be approved for two wheel drive applications, but not four wheel drive, or the other way around.
The manufacturer of the catalytic converter.
Manufacturer Part Number
The catalytic converter’s manufacturer part number.
The part number must be an exact match.
82633 and 82633R are not a match.
The catalytic converter’s executive order exemption number.
By clicking on the executive order number in the list, you can view a PDF of the actual executive order for the exemption.
The executive order document will list information regarding specific vehicles and manufacturer part numbers covered by the executive order.
The total number of catalytic converters that should be installed on the vehicle.
Not all catalytic converters installed on a vehicle serve the same function. When inspecting aftermarket catalytic converters, it is important for an inspector to ensure that all catalytic converters are installed in the correct location.
Rescinded and Withdrawn
Affected converters sold on or before their rescission or withdrawal date, are legal for use and installation in California. Affected converters sold after their rescission or withdrawal date, are not legal for use or installation in California.
An executive order exemption that is listed as Rescinded is one that has been rescinded (cancelled) by CARB.
An executive order exemption that is listed as Withdrawn is one that has been withdrawn by the manufacturer.
In either case, rescinded or withdrawn, it is not legal to advertise, sell, or install affected catalytic converters after the date of rescission or withdrawal.
You can find the date of rescission or withdrawal by clicking on the executive order number in the catalytic converter database listing. The applicable date will appear stamped across the executive order PDF document.
Toyota Sequoia and Tundra Pickup Trucks
CARB goofed a few years ago and published the wrong information for certain Toyota Sequoia and Tundra pickup trucks. As a result Sequoia’s and Tundra’s failed smog inspections, and the wrong number of catalytic converters were installed based on CARB’s information.
Fortunately CARB decided to play fair. CARB is allowing use of catalytic converters installed based on the wrong information as long as the installation occurred during the affected period.
This was a long post, so let’s summarize.
- Before you replace a catalytic converter, especially an OEM/factory catalytic converter:
- Make sure that your vehicle has been properly diagnosed, and that the catalytic converter has actually failed.
- Repair all other mechanical issues that may have damaged the original catalytic converter.
- Do not use a new catalytic converter as a substitute for proper emissions repairs.
- Maintain the original exhaust/catalyst configuration.
- Do not add or subtract catalytic converters.
- New converters must be installed in the original catalytic converter locations.
- Do not modify existing or new catalytic converters.
- Catalytic converters must be installed according to manufacturer specifications.
- Observe direction of flow.
- Do not install replacement catalytic converters upside down. If a top is indicated, that should be on top.
- If a catalytic converter is installed incorrectly, the vehicle will not pass a California smog inspection and a smog certificate will not be issued.
- Install catalytic converters that are CARB approved and legal for sale and use in California.
- California legal catalytic converters will comply with CARB labeling requirements
- If an aftermarket catalytic converter does not comply with CARB labeling requirements, the vehicle will not pass a California smog inspection, and a smog certificate will not be issued.
- Pre-OBD II Vehicles (Model year 1995 and older):
- Catalytic converter must be approved for vehicle class (PC1, PC2, T1, T2)
- If a catalytic converter is not approved for the vehicle’s class, the vehicle will not pass a California smog inspection, and a smog certificate will not be issued.
- OBD II Vehicles (Model year 1996 and newer):
- The catalytic converter’s executive order exemption number, and manufacturer part number, must be approved for the vehicle’s:
- Model Year
- Engine Family Number (Test group)
- Engine Size
- Location on Vehicle
- The catalytic converter’s executive order exemption number, and manufacturer part number, must be approved for the vehicle’s:
If any of the above do not match, the vehicle will not pass a California smog inspection, and a smog certificate will not be issued.
Catalytic converter visual inspections constitute just one part of the California smog inspection, but if you have made it this far, you now know that it takes a lot of knowledge to do it right.
Smog Check Frequently Asked Questions for February 2017
How do I determine what year a car needs a smog check?
Gasoline, Flex, CNG, LNG, LPG Powered Vehicles
1976 to current model year vehicles are subject to smog inspection.
All 1976 and newer model year vehicles entering the State of California require a smog certification prior to initial registration
Change of ownership smog inspections are required after the fourth model year
A 2016 model year gasoline powered vehicle would be subject to change of ownership smog inspections beginning in 2020 (2016 + 4 = 2020).
Biennial (Every two years) smog inspections begin after the sixth model year.
A 2016 model year gasoline powered vehicle would be subject to biennial smog inspections beginning in 2022 (2016 + 6 = 2022).
A good rule of thumb is that even number model years are due for smog inspections on even numbered years. Odd numbered model years are due on odd number years.
This year (2017) we started performing biennial smog inspections 2011 model year vehicles. We’re also inspecting 2009, 2007, 2005, 2003, 2001, 1999, etc.
The only difference between hybrid/gasoline powered vehicles is that hybrids become subject to smog inspections beginning with model year 2000 instead of 1976.
Diesel powered vehicles under 14,000 pounds GVWR become subject to biennial smog inspections beginning with the 1998 model year.
Unlike the vehicles described above, diesels do not have a four year change of ownership exemption, nor do diesels have a six year new vehicle exemption.
In most cases, the answer is yes.
If your your 1976 or newer motor home (RV) is gasoline powered, and more than four years old, it is subject to smog inspections in the state of California.
If your 1998 or newer motor home (RV) is diesel powered and has a GVWR of 14,000 pounds or less it is subject to smog inspections in the state of California.
Click here for more information about smog requirements by vehicle type.
Why did my car fail for incomplete OBD II readiness monitors. I Thought the rule was that my 1996-2001 car could pass with two incomplete readiness monitors.
Most 1996 – 1999 model year gasoline powered vehicles will fail the California smog inspection if two or more OBD II monitors are incomplete. Any one OBD 2 readiness monitor can be incomplete and a gasoline powered car will pass the smog inspection.
Most 2000 and newer gasoline powered vehicles are subject to stricter rules. A 2000 or newer model year vehicle will fail the smog inspection if any monitor other than the EVAP monitor is incomplete.
Most 1998 – 2006 OBD II certified diesel powered vehicles will fail the smog inspection if any monitors are incomplete. All OBD II monitors must be complete in order for a 1998 – 2006 model year OBD II certified diesel powered vehicle to pass the California state smog inspection.
Most 2007 and newer model year OBD II diesel powered vehicles can pass with two incomplete monitors. If more than two monitors are incomplete the vehicle will fail the smog inspection.
Some vehicles are known to have difficulties completing OBD II monitors and may be subject to different rules. For more information see the Smog Check OBD Reference.
Smog Check Frequently Asked Questions for January 2017
1996 to 1999 Gasoline powered vehicles: Any one monitor can be incomplete.
2000 and newer Gasoline powered vehicles: All monitors, with the exception of the EVAP monitor must be complete.
1998 to 2006 OBD II certified diesel powered vehicles: All monitors must be complete.
2007 and newer OBD II certified diesel powered vehicles: Any two monitors can be incomplete.
For more information about OBD II Monitors:
Pay your fees!
Even if you do not pass smog, you can avoid paying late fees by paying all registration fees on time. While the DMV will not issue a registration renewal until all requirements, including the smog certification, are complete, the DMV will stop assessing further late fees upon receipt of your payment.
You may also be eligible for a temporary moving permit. Contact the California DMV for more information.
Absolutely! Many people are under the mistaken impression that they have to return to the original smog shop to finish the smog inspection after failing. Not true. Pass or fail, that smog inspection ended when you received the results. It’s done. You are free to have the vehicle inspected at any shop.
Of course, if the vehicle requires an inspection at a STAR certified shop, you must take it to a STAR station.
Also, it important to note that if the shop that inspected your vehicle promised you a free retest, or any other discounts, those promises only apply at the shop that made the offer.
Again, absolutely. Shops performing emissions repairs in the State of California are required to be licensed by the Bureau of Automotive Repairs; however, you are not obligated to have your vehicle repaired by the shop that performed the smog inspection.
If you acquire a vehicle that is currently registered in California from a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild, you are entitled to an exemption from the smog inspection. Other family members or relations are not exempt and are required to obtain a smog inspection certification.
For more information read “Transfer a Vehicle Between Family Members.”
No, if the check engine light (Service Engine Soon, MIL, etc), is burned out, missing, disconnected, or not functioning normally for any reason, the vehicle will not pass the California smog inspection.
If a vehicle fails any part of a smog inspection the state’s software will not certify the vehicle. In other words, the vehicle will fail.
As a matter of fact, if the check engine light isn’t on, the technician inspecting your car won’t know your car failed until the test is over.
Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, and beyond, the choice is simple! For any and all smog inspections, booking an appointment at Just Smogs® in Huntington Beach will be the best smog inspection decision you’ll ever make.
Click here, or call (714) 596-1019 to make an appointment.
According to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), “Engine changes continue to present problems and challenges to car owners and technicians“.
Instead of an engine change (a.k.a swap), BAR recommends rebuilding and reinstalling the original engine, transmission, and emissions configuration. However, if that is not possible, the following is a list of things to keep in mind.
Remember, these are guidelines for performing engine changes – not certification procedures. All exhaust emission controlled vehicles with engine changes must be inspected by an official Referee station and must have a Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) Referee label affixed to the doorpost.
You can determine if your vehicle is a California certified vehicle by checking the vehicle’s under-hood emissions label.
Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Engines
While especially popular with Honda enthusiasts JDM engines are not a legal option. JDM engines are easily identified and will not be certified by the BAR Referee.
Make sure the engine and emission control configuration is certified to the year of the vehicle or newer, and to the same or a more stringent new vehicle certification standard. The rule of thumb is that you can move forward but you can’t go backwards.
Don’t mix engine and vehicle classifications which will degrade the emissions certification standards.
- A heavy-duty engine cannot be installed in a light-duty exhaust-controlled chassis even if they have the same displacement.
- A Pickup truck engine cannot be installed in a passenger car.
- Non-emissions controlled engines such as industrial or off-road-use-only engines may not be placed in any exhaust emissions controlled vehicle.
If a computer controlled engine is installed in a non-computer controlled vehicle, the “Check Engine Light” (Service Engine Soon, MIL, etc), diagnostic link connector (DLC), wiring harness, and all sensor and switches necessary to make the system fully operational must also be installed.
Also, the same rule would apply if you are installing an On Board Diagnostic II engine in a vehicle previously certified to earlier standards (OBD I etc). Remember, you can add, but you can’t subtract.
Emissions Control Configuration
Mixing and matching emission control system components could cause problems and is generally not allowed. Engine and emission control systems must be in an engine-chassis configuration certified by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The engine must meet or exceed the requirements for the year and class of vehicle in which it is installed.
California Bureau of Automotive Repair
Vehicles introduced for sale in California and elsewhere in the United States are subject to strict testing and emissions certification standards. Even a minor change can result in the increased harmful gas emissions, and violate state and federal law.
The installed engine and host chassis must retain all original emission control equipment. Diesel-to-gasoline conversions must have all gasoline engine and chassis emission control systems installed (Fill-pipe restrictor, EVAP system, etc).
Engine Modification and After-Market Parts
No internal or external engine modifications (cams, pistons, intakes, etc.) may be performed unless the parts are ARB-exempted or EPA-certified for use in the installed engine. Refer to ARB’s Aftermarket Parts Database of Executive Orders to search for exempted aftermarket parts.
In observance of the Labor Day holiday, Just Smogs® in Huntington Beach will be closed on Monday, September 5, 2016.
As always, we will be open from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm on Saturday September 3rd and closed on Sunday.
We will resume our normal weekday schedule (8:00 am to 5:30 pm) on Tuesday, September 6, 2016.
On August 1, 20016, the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) implemented a change in the BAR-OIS testing procedure that may result in a new type of smog inspection failure.
What is BAR-OIS testing?
The BAR-OIS is the Smog Check equipment required when inspecting most model-year 2000 and newer gasoline and hybrid vehicles and most 1998 and newer diesel vehicles. The system consists of a certified Data Acquisition Device (DAD) and off the shelf equipment, including a computer, bar code scanner, and printer.
During a BAR-OIS smog inspection, the DAD collects data from your vehicle’s Power train Control Module (PCM), or as most people call it, “The Computer”.
The data collected by the DAD includes diagnostic trouble code information (Mode $03), Vehicle Information (Mode $09), and the current monitor information from Mode $01. Other data is also collected, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on Mode $01 monitor information.
OBD II Monitor Readiness
Most model year 2000 and newer gasoline powered and hybrid vehicles can pass the BAR-OIS inspection if EVAP is the only incomplete monitor; otherwise, all other OBD II monitors must be complete.
While most vehicles behave as expected, some vehicles do not respond with proper OBD monitor information from the PCM, or the transmission computer responds instead of the engine computer.
In most cases cycling the vehicle’s ignition (off/on) will solve the problem, but occasionally the vehicle will continue to respond with invalid or no data.
Prior to August 1, 2016, a vehicle could pass the BAR-OIS inspection if this condition continued; however, that is no longer the case.
What has changed?
If a vehicle in the following list fails for invalid OBD II monitor information, it should be referred to the BAR Referee. Vehicles not included in the list will most likely require repairs.
- 2004 Volvo C70 HPT
- 2004 Volvo C70 LPT
- 2004 Porsche Boxster S
- 2004 Porsche Boxster
- 2003 Porsche Boxster
For more information about he Bureau of Automotive Repair Repair Assistance Program, visit the Consumer Assistance Program website, or call Just Smogs® in Huntington Beach at (714) 596-1019 for all your smog check needs. You can also make an appointment for your next smog check by clicking on the above link.
The Bureau of Automotive Repair has issued an update to the Smog Check OBD Reference Guide. The update includes new service bulletins, emissions recalls and information on the following vehicles:
- BMW 323i: ECM reflash recall is needed to set oxygen sensor monitor.
- 2000-2001 Nissan Maxima and Infinity I30: New catalyst may be needed to run catalyst monitor.
- 2001 Chevrolet Silverado and Tahoe C/K 1500: Send to BAR Referee only if secondary air monitor is not running.
- 2002 Chevrolet Silverado C/K 2500 HD Diesel: Send to BAR Referee only if EGR monitor is not running.
- 2009 Kia Borrego LX/EX: Send to BAR Referee only if EGR monitor is not running.
- 1999-2006 Nissan UD1200 Box Truck (10-14K GVWR, Federal Diesel): Not equipped with OBD, BAR-OIS skips OBD test.
- 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.4 liter turbo: Catalyst monitor not running. BAR-OIS allows any one monitor.
- 2001-2002 Chevrolet Cavalier CNG: Catalyst monitor not running. BAR-OIS allows any one monitor to be incomplete.
Click here to view the complete Smog Check OBD Reference Guide.