Not every state requires a smog test, but states like Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania require annual smog tests to be performed on your car. Certain states have specific requirements. For example, in Georgia, all vehicles that are three to five years old are required to have annual smog checks, while in Massachusetts, only certain cars are required to have an annual check.

It’s important to read up on your state’s vehicle requirements. If your car needs to pass a smog test, it’s also important you understand how to successfully get ready to do so.

How to Pass a Smog Test

Pass a Smog Test with These TipsTo prepare for a smog test, you need to get your vehicle ready. That includes performing routine maintenance, plus a little extra:

  • Warm up the engine – According to Smog Star Express, a California-based smog test facility, the warmer the engine, the more likely it’ll pass the smog test. So, before you head to the test facility, make sure you run the car for a bit. Head to the grocery store, go for a drive, run a quick errand – anything that gets the vehicle moving helps.
  • Keep up with required maintenance – Even if you aren’t going in for a smog test, it’s vital you keep your car up to date on any required maintenance. Something as simple as not changing old oil can cause your vehicle to fail a smog test if it's full of contaminants. If you have any maintenance done that requires the car’s battery to be disconnected, make sure you put some miles on it before you go for a smog test. The reason for this is that when the battery is disconnected, it’s possible for the vehicle’s memory chip to be temporarily erased. If you don’t allow enough time for the memory chip to reread information on your car, it could fail the test.
  • Check your tires – Using a tire gauge, make sure your tires are at the proper inflation level. Depending on where you have the smog test performed, your vehicle may need to be driven on a dynamometer (a device that measures the power output of an engine). If your tires are properly inflated, you should pass this part of the test with no problem. Make sure you read up on your tires in the owner’s manual, and if you’re unable to inflate them yourself, you can take them to a service center.

Where to Go for Testing

Where do you go to get a smog test done? It really depends on where you live. In most cases, you can have a smog test done at a local dealership, smog check station, or most service centers. As for how much it’ll cost, the amount varies. Again, where you live and the type of car you have can affect the cost. Typically, in states where it’s required annually like Pennsylvania and California, you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $70. In most cases, you can call the location you plan to have the test done ahead of time, give them your vehicle information, and get an estimated cost so there aren’t any surprises.

Can You Pretest?

Did you know that some places offer a smog pretest? This is an unofficial test that runs through the same steps as an official smog test. You should call ahead first and ask whether this option is offered, because not every location that performs an official smog test has a pretest option. The places that commonly offer a pretest are smog check stations based out of California, and they typically charge a fee in order to let your pretest your car.

What Happens if My Car Doesn’t Pass?

If you go in for a smog check and it fails the test, what comes next? Don’t feel discouraged, as you’ll be able to take the test again. But, before you take it in for a retest, make sure you ask the inspector why your vehicle failed. They should be able to tell you the reason or reasons, and what needs to be done in order for your car to pass. Most inspectors are licensed repair technicians, and can fix the issue themselves. Get the issue(s) fixed, and reschedule for another smog test at the same service center, dealership, or smog check station as soon as possible.