I just bought a used car, and I'm going to get it smogged soon. Apparently (this is what the mechanic said), I can't get it smogged until 2 "checks" turn on. I think this means that the check engine light may or may not come on soon, but I need to drive it until its activated or something.

My question is, if the check engine light comes on and the repairs are going to be expensive, is there a smog abatement fee I can pay so that I can skip the repairs? It was a very cheap car, and I don't want to have to pay more on repairs than I paid for the car.

Let me know if this question is not in the scope of this beta, and I will remove it. Any additional information (e.g. what are the "checks" he's talking about?) will be helpful.

The car is a 1996 Subaru Legacy Outback.

  • I'm not from CA, but I remember someone from there once telling me that when the repairs reached a certain dollar value (maybe based on percent of the vehicles value) that they had a choice of paying a fee and just buying the cert even though it didn't pass, or they could scrap it and get some money towards a new car. – Brian Knoblauch Feb 9 '12 at 13:44
  • I think that what the mechanic is referring to is that the check engine light and probably the ABS light are coming on for a few seconds when you start the engine. They're obviously supposed to go out after a few seconds... – Timo Geusch Feb 10 '12 at 0:28
  • Oh, and a quick look on the Internet suggests that there aren't any ways to get around the requirement for the smog check. – Timo Geusch Feb 10 '12 at 0:29

Since the vehicle is a 96, the mechanic might have meant that you need 2 or 2 more OBDII monitor readiness checks. Some emissions systems are checked continuously by the powertrain controller, while others are only checked periodically when certain driving conditions are met (FAQ).

Has your battery been disconnected? That could have reset the monitoring status. It can be done from a scan tool, also. If the previous owner reset the system with a scan tool before you bought the car, that's obviously not a good sign and the vehicle might need some emissions work.

Normally you're good to go for emissions testing after a couple days of driving after a reset/power loss.

As Timo Geusch is suggesting, I don't think there is a way around passing an emission test if you want to keep the car on the road. However, there is a program that offers up to $500 of financial assistance toward emissions repairs (if you qualify).

Supposedly, though, you should have gotten a current smog certificate at the time of sale. It sounds like you can go after the seller.

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  • thanks, I actually did end up going after the seller, who was able to pay $150 in smog maintenance repairs. All is good now. – John Apr 2 '12 at 17:49

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