The Importance of Smog Checks

image of a tail pipe

So you just received your notice in the mail: your registration is due for renewal, and the DMV wants you to get you car smog checked. It can seem like a minor annoyance, just another thing to have to deal with and get done, so what’s the deal? Are smog checks even important? And if so, why?

What is “Smog?”

Smog is a portmanteau, a combination of two words: smoke and fog (as in the haze caused by pollution). In Los Angeles in the late 80’s there was such an abundance of car pollution, the city decided something had to be done. Yes there were a lot of cars, and yes any vehicle with an internal combustion engine produces some form of emission, but perhaps they could reduce the number of cars on the road with excessive emissions. And so the smog check was born. The purpose of the check is to ensure that a vehicle’s emissions systems are functioning properly. Don’t worry if you have a high-emissions vehicle like a large truck or a diesel engine. Car manufacturers design and produce cars that already meet a certain level of emission standards–smog checks are not there to disqualify certain cars models from registration, but simply to make sure they are functioning according to design.

Why Do We Need a Smog Check?

Excessive car emissions are responsible for all sorts of bad health conditions. They have been identified as carcinogens and can cause or exacerbate a number of respiratory conditions. And oftentimes you will not be able to notice when a car’s emission systems are not working correctly. We’ve all seen some old clunker that is fuming black smoke, but that is not how bad emissions always look. Most of the bad emissions that smog checks test for are colorless and odorless. That’s why you need special equipment to test how bad a car’s emissions really are.

So yes, it may be a minor annoyance to have to get a smog check for your vehicle. But just remember that those checks are important because they help keep our air quality at an acceptable level.