Passing the smog test isn’t as hard as it seems: just because you own a vehicle from the 70s doesn’t mean that it will pollute so much by comparison to a new model vehicle that you won’t be able to register it. Tailpipe emissions are graded on a sliding scale that depend on model year and vehicle type. This is good news, if not for the air but for your wallet and your love for these old vehicles. You can take your vehicle to STAR stations.

If you live in California, you most likely live in several STAR stations testing areas but many other states implement or are in the process of implementing similar testing requirements that mimic if not duplicate CA exactly. Some people pass on the first attempt while others take several attempts. Some people give up and sell their bus in frustration. Overcoming the red tape is a great feeling of victory and relief but the process can often test your will.

The biggest challenge for any owner is figuring out if a newly purchased bus is in a condition to pass. Because of all of the tampering by the mechanics and POs over the years the bus may have no chance in its current condition yet be close to passing given the appropriate attention. The key is to inform yourself about the process before you go for your test to STAR stations and that’s the goal of this article. Some states like CA, forbid vehicle title transfers without a recent smog test but quite often the purchase takes place before the paperwork is complete.

What to do when things go wrong is confusing, so I’ve tried to compile all of the detail from my own experience and from others. Being prepared for your test is half the battle. Most of what I’ve written is universally applicable but the details are CA specific so if you live in another state be sure you understand the local rules and regulations.

In August 2005, Oregon and Washington announced that they were going to adopt the California emission standards (the strictest in the country) in a few years. Even Texas is starting to smog vehicles in the metropolitan areas. Some states, like Arizona have exemptions but require you to register your vehicle as “collector” and limit the mileage you can drive.