Smog Checks: Technological Processes Designed to Improve Air Quality

By Special Guest
Jonathan Brown
November 02, 2018



As the environment continues to be destroyed by pollutants and other contaminants, like car smog, many states have jumped into action to try and help reduce their carbon footprint. They have developed a process in which all vehicles on the road must be tested to ensure they’re not letting off too many emissions into the air. Each state has its own set of requirements, yet in general, the laws are focused on older vehicles being tested every 1-2 years.

State Vehicle Inspections

Every few years it is a state requirement that all registered vehicles pass a state inspection. It is a means of ensuring the safety and security of everyone on the road. Again, the areas of inspection vary by state, however, older cars are required to undergo a smog check. The tests are performed to determine if your emissions equipment is properly functioning, intact, and reducing the pollutants produced by your vehicle’s exhaust system. If you pass, it essentially means that the emissions coming from your car are within the legal limits mandated by your state. A failure could essentially mean that there is something wrong with the exhaust, catalytic converter, engine, and filters. You might also need a tuneup or have your tires properly inflated.

Smog Check Technology

As rules and regulations regarding car emissions get stricter new technology has been developed to help auto shops and state departments of motor vehicles to more accurately test the efficiency of a vehicle’s emissions system. Known as dynamometers, the computerized device is attached to the car to measure the level of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, oxygen, and in state’s where the air quality is poorer, nitrogen oxide is also tested. The test essentially simulates the condition the car would be in if it were in motion.

The levels are measured and the test is immediately available for the monitoring agency responsible for managing statewide vehicle emissions like the Georgia Clean Air Force or the Bureau of Automotive Repair.

Types of Emissions Tests

There are several types of emissions tests done and which one you have done will greatly depend on the age of your vehicle.

  • There is the two-speed idle test which is performed on cars that are manufactured in or before 1995. Attaching a device to the tailpipe the technician idles the engine at high and then lower speeds to test the exhaust emissions.
  • The acceleration simulation mode, again designed for older vehicles is a simulation test using the dynamometer like described above. With new advancements in technology, the smog check machines are better able to simulate “real-life” road conditions that a car would encounter to give a more thorough and accurate reading of the vehicle’s emissions.
  • For newer cars, however, technology is taking yet another leap. An on-board diagnosis has become a method increasingly popular for newer cars. Taking key data from the vehicle’s diagnostic chip, the smog check technicians can get accurate accounts of the vehicle’s emissions downloaded to the dyno machine without having to go through an extensive or simulated test.

Preserving the environment in recent years has become an increasingly important subject matter to the federal government with things like automotive emissions being at the top of the list. The state and federal government continue to come up with ways to enhance the quality of life for their citizens and reduce their carbon footprint. Such guidelines and requirements make drivers responsible for reducing their carbon footprint and maintaining their vehicles. Though they’re working their way towards the manufacturing and distribution of zero-emission vehicles in the near future, the automotive and tech industries continue to develop advancements in everything from vehicle data to more advanced software and cost-effective testing processes in hopes of making the world a safer place for everyone.



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