Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Smog Referee

We have an appointment with the Smog Referee. What is a Smog Referee and why would you want to see him? That is a good question.

This is our sad story. A few months ago, our 1985 Club Wagon failed to pass California's new smog requirements. We took advantage of the state's retirement program. They paid us $1000 to junk our van. I got a little choked up when we drove the van to the junk yard to be crushed.

After doing some looking around, we decided to replace our 1985 Club Wagon with another Club Wagon. Because of California's tough emissions requirements, we were worried about buying a used van. Once an older vehicle fails to pass the smog check, often the only thing you can do is retire the vehicle or replace the engine.

Frugal souls that we are, we decided to buy a gently used rental van. My brother who lives in another state works for Hertz car sales, so we were able to get a good deal on a van. For a few hundred dollars more we paid someone to drive it out to us.

Licensing a vehicle from out of state is a bit messy. The California DMV requires a smog check for every such vehicle regardless of how new.

So, I took it down to my local Smog Check place. After trying for fifteen minutes, the mechanic informed me that they didn't have the software compatible with such a new vehicle. I would need to have it smogged at the dealership. So, I called my local Ford dealership. They informed me that they didn't do smog checks and referred me to another Ford dealership about 20 minutes away. After a few more phone calls, I discovered that this dealership couldn't do the smog test either because they also lacked the software.

My next step was to call the DMV. I was hoping they would wave the smog requirement since it is a 2006 vehicle. No such luck. They referred my to the Smog Authority. This was an interesting phone call. The automated answering system listed options like, "For private investigation licensing hit 2, For security licensing hit 3, for....." Option 6 was the Smog Authority.

What kind of state bureaucracy handles both private investigator licensing and smog licensing?

So, once I got to talk to a real person and explained my dilemma, I was informed that I needed to see the Smog Referee. I am not making this up. They gave me another number to call.

After wadding through another answering system, I got to talk to "The Smog Referee." He informed me that they were very busy and it would take over a week to get an appointment. He gave me directions to a parking lot at a local community college with a warning not to be late.

All this to check the emission levels of a vehicle that is almost brand new.

I can't wait to see what a Smog Referee looks like. I'm expecting someone in a blank and white striped shirt with a whistle.

UPDATE: See Smog Referee - Part 2

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JP said...

And this - this is why I (until Missouri's recent legislative changes) owned (not at the same time) two 1969 Toyota Coronas, a 1965 Catalina, and a 1967 Dart. I would rather bake my brains out in 113 degree Missouri-muggy summer heat scouring junkyards, I would rather endure the permanent and unlady-like odor of grease-monkey in the stubborn effort to defy natural laws and keep an antique (and therefore exempt) vehicle operating, than face the infuriating bureaucracy of the smog police. I wish you luck.

Eric Holcombe said...

I'm currently driving my 1971 El Camino, while I shop for an early '80's Benz diesel (since my 1986 442 was recently wrecked/totalled). But we don't have emissions testing. I just like the grease monkey smell ;o).

Janine, like you say with the no-English school bus, I wonder how people put up with living in California.

Janine Cate said...

I will report back after my appointment next week.

NerdMom said...

I would never buy a car from outside CA because it is all so hinky. You guys know that there is that hertz lot on Stevens Creek where they sell fleet cars. Call them, maybe they could help. I bought my Protege there a few years ago (obviously when we lived in San Jose).

Janine Cate said...

I really like buying rental cars. When we bought our Toyota Camry from out of state at the same Hertz, we had no problem.

The smog people said that they only have trouble with a few types of new cars, Ford Vans being one of them.

We did look at a van locally that was almost identical, but it cost $2000 more than the van we bought from out of state.

Ironically, our van actually came from Los Angeles. It was sold by Hertz Car Rental to a Hertz Car Sales in another state. It still had a California pink slip. This of course caused another problem at the DMV because we had a pink slip from one state and a sales slip from another state.

We've had a few hassles but $2000 is $2000. If we deduct for the transportation cost and the smog cost we are still $1700 ahead. I've lost a couple of hours at the DMV, smog check and on the phone. Still, it is a pretty good deal.