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California Smog Check II
or how do I get my Jensen Healey past the dreaded smog test?

by Greg Fletcher

The California Air Resources Board has released a draft report on the effectiveness of the Smog Check program. Some quotes: The most significant options that we expect would have direct, quantifiable emission reduction benefits are:

  • More stringent inspection cut points;
  • Renewed testing of older cars; and
  • A new, more thorough evaporative systems check for older cars (i.e., adding a comprehensive evaporative system and liquid leak check element to Smog Check)

While implementing final cut points would move the fleet emission rates closer to the SIP commitment, there would also be other consequences. For example, based on an analysis of the roadside data, at current cut points, we expect a failure rate of approximately 22 percent, while at final cut points we would expect a failure rate of about 50 percent. In addition, the current average repair cost is approximately $130 per failing vehicle. This cost would substantially increase under the final cut points. Pilot studies estimated that repair costs could approach $450 per vehicle under final cut points.


That from the state of California. It's a drag and getting worse. Old Jensen Healeys (meaning neglected ones) don't often run clean. If your J-H is in good mechanical shape, you have no worries, but I hear about someone's J-H failing a smog test almost every week. Here's some information on the program and some ideas to help you get through the most unpleasant part of old British car ownership.

What is Smog Check II?
Smog Check II is an enhanced version of the current vehicle-emissions inspection program. It is operating in the areas of the state with the dirtiest air. Frequently asked questions include:

When does Smog Check II start? The program is operating now. Most of Smog Check II is being phased in. The major provisions took effect in the summer 1998. Some portions of the program have yet to be implemented.

How does it work?
Smog Check II requires most
1974 and newer vehicles to be tested every other year (new vehicles are also exempted until their fifth year). Eighty-five percent of vehicles go to neighborhood smog check facilities for testing and repairs, while 15 percent must go to designated test-only centers. These vehicles include:
High-mileage fleet vehicles "Gross polluters" and other potential high-polluting vehicles, two-percent random sample of all covered vehicles.

Are emission standards stricter?
Emission standards are still based on those in effect in the vehicle's year of manufacture. New cars must still meet more stringent standards than old cars.

How likely am I to fail?
State officials estimate that 30 percent of all vehicles tested will fail, due to the more accurate and representative test. Without a pre-test, 18 percent of all vehicles tested failed under the old program.

What happens if I fail?
To be registered, failing vehicles must be repaired to meet the standards applicable to the vehicle. They may also be stored or otherwise lawfully disposed of. Eventually motorists will be able to sell their failing vehicles to the state under the "buy-back" provisions of the program. A subsidy program to assist low-income owners of failing vehicles is being developed.

What is a gross polluter?
Vehicles that fail by a wide margin are considered "gross polluters." (10 percent of vehicles produce about half the auto-related emissions — or 12 percent of emissions from all sources.) A gross polluter can be any age or type of vehicle that has been tampered with, poorly maintained or in need of repair. It is illegal to drive or sell a gross polluting vehicle in California, and it cannot be registered with the DMV.
There is no cost limit on repairs to these vehicles. If they are repaired to below gross polluter threshold, they are eligible for a one-time waiver or "economic hardship extension." After the waiver period, the car must be brought in to compliance or disposed of in a proper manner. Gross-polluting vehicles are not subject to confiscation by the state.

Why am I seeing roadside emission sensors?

The state will use roadside sensors to help in the identification of gross polluters. The program is not yet fully operational. The equipment motorists are now seeing in Southern California is gathering information on locations and set up. When the plan is implemented, owners of vehicles identified as gross polluters by a roadside sensor will be mailed a notice and must have the car tested at a designated test-only station. If it passes, the owner will not need to take any further action. If the car fails, the procedures are the same as those described above, depending on how badly the vehicle fails. Failure to respond to the notice will result in fines.

Additional changes compared to the old smog check program:
Pre-1974 vehicles have been exempted from biennial smog checks as well as smog checks upon transfer of title. The 1966 to 1973 vehicles are still subject to smog checks if they are identified as "dirty" by a roadside sensor or audit. New cars under five years old receive the same exemptions as pre-1974 cars. Gross polluters must go to a designated station for a retest after repairs have been made. Smog check test information is electronically transmitted by the technician directly to the state. Vehicle owners will no longer submit certificates to the DMV at vehicle registration time. Motorists should take their registration renewal form to the test site to assure the accuracy of the information transmitted. Smog check technicians and mechanics are subject to improved training, testing and monitoring by the state.

Where can I get more information? The California Bureau of Automotive Repair has an information line-(800) 952–5210.


So, after reading this I'm sure I don't need to emphasis that it's desirable to avoid being labeled as a Gross Polluter by the State of California at any cost.

You can get your Jensen Healey to pass a Smog Check II, it's just a matter of trying a solution that fits your budget–

  • What about Dellorto carburetors on the Jensen Healey with Smog II?
  • Tune your car for a Smog Check II Pre-Test to find out where you stand.
  • The last resort? Consider a cataylic converter, they're fairly inexpensive and JHPS members have reported excellent results. Pike Automotive in Glendale, CA specializes in getting Jensen Healeys through the Smog Check II test.

Here's an interesting web site for any California car, it's theCalifornia DMV website at
Just enter the car's VIN or license number. You'll get a vehicle smog test history and location of the test- neato!

2003 UPDATE for California registered 1974 Jensen Healeys-

From clubber John Busch in San Jose, California–


Great news for California JH owners – Yesterday, Jan. 6th, the DMV surprised me with a no hassle registration experience for my “non-op” 1974 Jensen.

This car has been garaged for the past 5 years because it was always on the “just not quite” side of passing smog. But now that it has hit its 30th year, the DMV was more than happy to take my money and provide the registration and stickers with no hassle. Even better was the fact that my car’s normal registration due date is March, but they were happy to let me settle up 60 days early.

Here are the details as I understood the from the DMV clerk:

You can go to the DMV within 60 to 90 days before your normal registration is due to pay the registration fees and get your tags. If you try to pay only the portion of fees up to your 2003 registration date, the DMV computer will ask for your smog certificate (if it is due). If you offer to pay all fees out to your 2004 registration date, then the computer will not ask for the smog certificate and you are home free. If your car has been “non-op” for a number of years, you should only have to pay registration fees for the current years (year up to 2003 registration date + year from 2003 to 2004 registration date).

Note: as required by CA, you will need to have proof of liability insurance when you go to the DMV. I happened to forget that fact, but was able to call CSAA right at the clerk’s desk, activate liability and have them fax proof of insurance to the DMV (all within 10 minutes).

So, now I am ready to hit the road again after a long period of hibernation. Hip, hip, hooray!

Cheers from San Jose,
John Busch




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