Help me move on down the road (literally)
August 13, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Hi Mefites. I'm planning, finally, on taking a chance with my personal and professional life and leaving my current place of residence (NM) to move to California to pursue better opportunities. Yay!

I just got to thinking about something that really concerns me. The CA smog test. The reason this concerns me so much is because I have a 2000 Toyota Tacoma with approx. 130K miles that I would be taking with me to CA. Also, I am still paying on the loan for this truck and will be for the next 1 1/2 years. The truck is in good shape and I don't anticipate any problems with it. Is it too old to pass a smog test?

I have been planning on relocating to California this fall for quite a while now, and I am kinda freaking out about this vehicle issue. How can I take a truck to CA if it won't pass smog/inspection? What would I do with a truck I still have a lien on if it doesn't pass? How can I move with a truck that could potentially not pass? My mind is going crazy thinking of the possibilities. Help me not overthink this. What can I do? Thanks everybody.
posted by strelitzia to Travel & Transportation around California (10 answers total)
If your truck fails the smog check, it can probably be repaired and brought up to code. I don't think anyone can tell just by the age of the truck whether or not it will pass (much older Toyota trucks pass every day, and much newer ones fail) - if the emissions system is stock and the truck has been maintained you will probably be OK. Make sure you have a recent oil change, clean air filter, and your truck has been running for awhile when you bring it in.
posted by muddgirl at 1:57 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Vehicles don't fail smog tests because they're old, they fail them because something's not working right. If it fails then you have it fixed, and move on with your life. If you're looking for a reason to give up on your big plans, this isn't it.
posted by jon1270 at 1:58 PM on August 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

Further anecdote - my parents have a 1976 truck (the oldest model that doesn't get an exemption) that passes its smog check every two years without fail.
posted by muddgirl at 2:01 PM on August 13, 2014

Unless your Taco is missing necessary mechanical components, or your CEL is glowing, chances are good that you'll be fine. My car (not a Taco) is the same vintage as yours, and has had no problems passing its biennial smog tests.

Come on out and see how it goes. If your car manages to fail spectacularly, look into the Consumer Assistance Program.

And you didn't read it here, but at least here in L.A., there are below-the-radar shops that, for a certain fee, will electronically transmit a Pass certification to the DMV. I will leave it up to you to decide if that approach falls within your personal sense of ethics. (Hint: the system is wildly skewed to protect gross polluters.)
posted by nacho fries at 2:09 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anecdote: I have a 1998 Nissan Sentra that is a 49-state vehicle (brought it with me when I moved) and it passes smog fine. I suspect that your truck, if it is in good mechanical condition, will do just fine as well.
posted by Aleyn at 2:39 PM on August 13, 2014

I failed the smog test once when I had a crappy old car.

What you do is get it repaired and then re-test. Sometimes they'll fix it right at the test place if it's minor. In my case it was that I needed a new gas cap, which costs all of about $20. It's not like "Fail once and they confiscate and crush your car."

I suppose it's possible to have a vehicle so flawed it would cost a fortune to get it ready to pass, but I've never heard of that happening to anyone.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:43 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, in California official smog check places are always separate entities from actual mechanic repair shops, so there's no real incentive for them to try to scam you.

Additional anecdote: I've been driving in California a long, long time, I've had many, many cars and I've taken horrible, horrible care of all them, and the only smog test I ever failed required me to buy a new gas cap due to a corroded gasket.

On preview, I went to the auto parts store across the street, so I guess watch out for the gas cap scam.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:52 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

The sketchiest car I've owned in California was a pickup that was more than 20 years old and had a backyard engine replacement with one from a junkyard before I brought it here from another state. It passed smog repeatedly, in spite of barely running and belching all manner of foul smells and sights most of the time.
posted by The World Famous at 4:28 PM on August 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for your input. California or bust!
posted by strelitzia at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


If your path leads you to southern California, and you'd like some local intel on car-related stuff, post another Ask and your friendly SoCal Mefites will steer you to the best automotive services available (honest indie Toyota mechanics, kind-hearted smog checkers, and more user-friendly DMV offices) to get that truck of yours all dialed in for California. Vroom!
posted by nacho fries at 6:15 PM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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