How to Get a Smog Check (USA)

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The US government has tightened automobile emissions standards because of increasing smog and air pollution. Check with your auto-repair shop or State Department of Motor Vehicles for local requirements to acquire smog certificate. Not every vehicle needs to get a smog check, but if you live in California or a handful of other progressive states or counties, you may have to pass their smog check requirements in order to have your vehicle registered with the state. The requirements will be determined by the make and model of your vehicle as well as where it is to be registered.


  1. Understand why your vehicle needs to undergo a smog check.In an effort to reduce carbon emissions that lead to global warming, many states are being proactive in regulating pollutants being emitted through your automobile exhaust system.
  2. Take a look at, “The Unofficial Site of the DMV,” at to determine if your state has smog check requirements. This site tells you which counties in each state have smog check requirements and what vehicles need to be tested.
  3. Check out California state resources to determine if there are smog check requirements for your vehicle.California’s Smog Check program was created to help California have cleaner air as well as to help the state meet the requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act.
    • Sites such as the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Automotive Repair can give you detailed information to help get you started.
  4. Look for notification in the mail. In California, for example, your registration renewal notification will state “Smog Certification Required.”
  5. Know what to take for your smog check.
    • If you are doing your smog check to renew your registration, then take your vehicle, your registration renewal paperwork and your payment.
    • If you are transferring a vehicle to a state that has a smog check requirement or your vehicle is being registered for the first time in a state with smog check requirements, you will need to not only bring your vehicle and your payment, but all necessary registration information as well.
  6. Understand what takes place at your smog test.
    • A certified technician will apply the necessary measurement tools to your vehicle, at which point, he or she will perform the test.
    • In some states, these testing facilities have direct access to your state’s department of motor vehicles and will immediately transmit the results to them. If not, get a copy of your emissions report signed by your mechanic and send it to the DMV.
    • The staff will let you know the results of your test as well as give you the appropriate documentation of the tests.
  7. Follow up with any necessary department of motor vehicle requirements, from registration for passed tests to repair work for failed tests, once your check is complete.

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