Repair Assistance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Program Overview

1.1 What is the Consumer Assistance Program?

The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) is responsible for administering the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). CAP, through its Vehicle Retirement and Repair Assistance options, is designed to help improve California’s air quality by reducing motor vehicle emissions.

1.2 What is CAP’s Repair Assistance option?

The Repair Assistance option provides qualified consumers who own a vehicle that fails its biennial (every other year) Smog Check inspection up to $500 in financial assistance towards certain emissions-related repairs.

1.3 When can I participate in the Repair Assistance option?

To be eligible to participate in this option, you and the vehicle must meet all eligibility requirements. Participation is limited to the availability of funds each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30).

2. Application Process

2.1 What are the eligibility requirements to receive repair assistance?

To be eligible to participate in CAP, you must meet all eligibility requirements at the time you submit your application to BAR.

2.2 How can I apply to participate in Repair Assistance?

If your vehicle fails its biennial Smog Check inspection, you must complete and submit an application to BAR either online or by mail.

2.3 I don’t have access to the internet. How can I obtain an application?

To request an application be mailed to you, contact the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210. Note: Applying online may result in faster processing.

2.4 How long will it take to process my application?

Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Please allow up to two weeks to process an application.

2.5 I’m unsure if I am eligible to receive repair assistance. Can I contact BAR to determine if I am eligible before applying?

BAR considers a variety of factors before determining whether an individual or vehicle is eligible to participate in CAP. These factors are based on regulations. BAR can determine eligibility only by evaluating a completed application.

2.6 Should I submit documents verifying my household income with my application?

To verify your household income, BAR encourages you to mail or email a copy of ONE of the income or benefits documents listed below:

  • Public Assistance: A letter from an issuing agency or bank statement verifying public assistance issued to you within the past 60 days OR
  • Unemployment, disability, social security or veteran’s benefits: A letter, check stub, or bank statement verifying funds issued to you within the past 60 days OR
  • Tax form and paycheck stub: Your Federal Tax Form 1040 or State Tax Form 540 filed in the most recent tax year AND a copy of an employment warrant issued to you within the past 60 days verifying your year-to-date earnings, hours worked and hourly wage OR
  • Wage History Report: If you do not have documentation from the list above or currently have no income, you may submit a Wage History Request to the Employment Development Department (EDD) requesting verification of your reported wages, even if zero, for the last four available quarters.

2.7 Are there any other documents I need to submit with my application?

After reviewing your application, BAR will notify you by mail if you need to submit additional documents.

2.8 How can I check the status of my application?

To check the status of your application , you will need both your CAP ID number and vehicle license plate number.

2.9 How will I be notified concerning the status of my application?

After reviewing your application and regardless of whether you applied online or through the mail, BAR will mail you a letter.

2.10 If approved, how will I be notified?

If approved, BAR will mail you an eligibility letter that will provide specific instructions on how your vehicle can be repaired by a STAR test-and-repair station.

3. Eligibility Requirements

3.1 Can any vehicle qualify for repair assistance through CAP?

Assistance with emissions-related repairs to your vehicle through CAP depends on meeting all eligibility requirements at the time you submit your application to BAR.

3.2 Do I have to obtain a Smog Check inspection? I am sure my vehicle will fail.

Yes. DMV requires the Smog Check inspection to renew your vehicle’s registration. You must have the Smog Check inspection completed before submitting your application. BAR will review this test when it processes your application to verify that the results of the Smog Check inspection meet program requirements. If your vehicle passes the test or fails due to a tampered emissions system, it is not eligible for repair assistance through CAP.

4. Repairing Your Vehicle at a STAR Test-and-Repair Station

4.1 If approved, where do I take my vehicle for repairs?

You must take your vehicle to a STAR test-and-repair station authorized to repair vehicles participating in CAP or call (800) 952-5210.

4.2 Is there a deadline for repairing my vehicle through CAP?

Repairs on your vehicle must begin prior to the expiration date indicated on your eligibility letter. If you are unable to begin repairs to your vehicle by the expiration date, but are still interested in participating, you will need to re-apply and meet all eligibility requirements at that time.

BAR is only authorized to reimburse STAR test-and-repair stations. These stations have entered into an agreement with BAR to perform state-subsidized emissions-related repair work.

4.4 What costs am I responsible for paying?

You are required to make a co-payment consisting of the total costs associated with the testing and diagnosis of the emissions-related failures for the vehicle. You must make the co-payment directly to the STAR test-and-repair station. If your vehicle passes the Smog Check inspection, you must pay $8.25 for a Certificate of Compliance. You are also responsible for paying any repairs you authorize that exceed the $500 CAP benefit.

4.5 What do stations charge for diagnosis, testing, and repairs?

STAR test-and-repair stations set their own prices. BAR has no authority over the prices charged by these or any other automotive repair facility. BAR does require STAR test-and-repair stations charge CAP consumers no more for repairs than what they would charge to a non-CAP consumer. To ensure the best price and value for the required repairs, BAR encourages all consumers to obtain more than one estimate prior to authorizing diagnosis, testing, or repairs for their vehicle.

4.6 Will I be reimbursed for repairs obtained prior to or after applying to CAP?

BAR cannot reimburse consumers for costs incurred.

4.7 My vehicle recently failed a Smog Check inspection. Why does a station have to perform an additional test and diagnosis to my vehicle prior to making repairs?

STAR test-and-repair stations are responsible for verifying and documenting the current condition of a vehicle. Therefore, the STAR station must perform a Smog Check inspection to determine the vehicle’s current condition as it relates to the emissions failure prior to recommending or performing repairs.

4.8 Can a STAR test-and-repair station decline to work on my vehicle?

STAR test-and-repair stations have the discretion to not accept vehicles for any of the following reasons:

  • The vehicle is inaccessible, unsafe, or untestable.
  • The station does not have the expertise to diagnose and repair your specific vehicle.
  • The consumer is uncooperative or unwilling to work within CAP guidelines.

4.9 What if the STAR test-and-repair station is uncooperative or unwilling to work within CAP guidelines?

If you encounter issues with a station, you may file a complaint online or call BAR at (866) 272-9642. BAR agents are available to answer calls Monday through Friday from 8:10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for state holidays.

4.10 What types of repairs are covered by BAR?

A vehicle can fail a Smog Check inspection for a variety of reasons. This means the repair strategies and associated costs necessary to attain the emissions standards required by the Smog Check Program vary from vehicle to vehicle. BAR only provides financial assistance for repairs contributing to the vehicle’s failure to meet emissions standards as identified in the Vehicle Inspection Report provided by the Smog Check station performing the inspection. BAR will only reimburse a station for those repairs deemed to be both necessary and cost-effective for achieving a vehicle’s compliance with these emissions standards.

4.11 What types of repairs are not covered by BAR?

BAR cannot pay for non-emissions related repairs or regularly scheduled maintenance items unless it is the direct cause of the emissions failure. Non-reimbursable items include, but are not limited to:

  • Additives
  • Air filters
  • Batteries
  • Body repairs
  • Brakes
  • Charging and starting system
  • Completing OBD II drive cycles (The station may allow the consumer to complete.)
  • Cooling system flushes
  • Coolant hoses
  • Fuel
  • Fuel filters
  • Glass repairs
  • Heating ventilation and air conditioning repairs
  • Injection flushes (except as recommended by the manufacturer for emissions-related repairs)
  • Locking gas caps (unless it is the only available option)
  • Maintenance items (except those that are the direct cause of the Smog Check failure)
  • Motor and transmission mounts
  • Mufflers
  • Oil change and oil filters
  • Oil and fluid top-offs
  • Oil leaks
  • Oil treatments
  • Radiators
  • Repairs performed after the vehicle is certified
  • Repairs performed without the consumer's authorization
  • Safety-related equipment (e.g., air bags, seat belts)
  • Suspension
  • Tailpipes
  • Tires
  • Top engine cleaning (except as recommended by the manufacturer for emissions-related repairs)
  • Transmission flushes
  • Water pumps

4.12 What are my options if the repairs exceed what BAR can pay?

You have the following options if repairs on your vehicle exceed $500:

  • You may continue with the repair process and pay for additional repair costs yourself.
  • You may be eligible to retire or replace your vehicle. You may also want to consider other options possibly available to you.
  • You may be eligible for a one-time repair cost waiver. You may speak with your STAR test-and-repair station about the waiver option or contact the Smog Check Referee Program at (800) 622-7733.

5. Top Three Reasons Why Applications Are Deficient

5.1 What can I do to help ensure my application is complete and gets approved when I submit it?

To help expedite the processing of your application, you should ensure that you and your vehicle meet all eligibility requirements.

5.2 What are the top reasons BAR determines applications are deficient?

Here are the top three reasons why applications are deficient:

  • Vehicle has not failed a “biennial” Smog Check inspection

    To be eligible to receive repair assistance through CAP, your vehicle must have failed its “biennial” (every other year) Smog Check inspection as indicated on your DMV registration renewal notice. If a vehicle fails a Smog Check inspection due to a change of ownership, the applicant does not qualify for financial assistance for emissions-related repairs through CAP.

  • DMV registration fees are past due

    BAR will verify whether you have paid all registration fees due to DMV when processing an application. If the vehicle’s registration sticker is expired at the time you submit your application, you will be required to pay outstanding DMV registration fees.

  • Applicant has not submitted documentation verifying household income

    To receive financial assistance toward emissions-related repairs, the applicant must meet household income requirements. Please refer to the eligibility section of this FAQ regarding these requirements. Failure to submit documentation regarding household income often serves to delay the processing of an application.

5.3 What happens to my application when BAR determines that it is deficient?

BAR will mail you a deficiency letter identifying any outstanding issues preventing the processing of your application. BAR will reevaluate the application upon receiving the documentation associated with the deficiency. A reevaluation can take up to a week to complete. Since participation in CAP is based on the availability of funds, BAR strongly encourages applicants to address any application deficiencies in a timely manner.

5.4 Does BAR have any other suggestions for me before submitting my application?

You can assist BAR in promptly processing your application by doing the following:

  • Promptly mail documents verifying your current household income or receipt of government benefits, if requested;
  • Complete all vehicle information required in Section 3 of the CAP application; and
  • Check the box in Section 1 of the CAP application indicating your interest in repairing your vehicle.

6. Top Five Reasons Why Applications Are Denied

6.1 I understand BAR processes thousands of CAP applications annually. Can you tell me the top five reasons why BAR has denied applications in the past?

Here are the top five reasons applications are denied participation in CAP:

  • Vehicle’s registration sticker has been expired more than 120 days

    BAR will review DMV records to verify that you are applying within 120 days of your vehicle’s registration sticker expiration date. If the vehicle’s registration has been expired more than the allowable 120 days, you are not eligible to receive assistance through CAP.

  • Vehicle’s registration has lapsed more than 120 days during the previous two years of the vehicle’s current registration expiration date

    BAR will review DMV records to verify that the vehicle has been continuously registered as operable during the two years prior to the current registration date. If the vehicle’s registration has a total lapse in the previous two years more than the allowable 120 days, you are not eligible to receive assistance through CAP.

  • Vehicle is undergoing a change of ownership transaction

    If you are in the process of purchasing a vehicle and the vehicle title has not yet been issued in your name, you are not eligible to receive assistance through CAP.

  • Applicant is not the registered owner of the vehicle with title issued in their name

    The name appearing on the CAP application, the vehicle’s registration, driver license, and income documentation must exactly match DMV records. Even slight variations in a name may result in BAR denying the application.

  • Applicant previously received assistance for the same vehicle through CAP

    BAR will review participation records to verify that you have not previously received assistance for the same vehicle through CAP. If you want to verify if your vehicle previously participated in CAP, you may contact BAR at (866) 272-9642.

6.2 None of the five denial reasons above apply to me or my vehicle. However, I am still uncertain whether my vehicle meets all CAP eligibility requirements. Can I contact BAR and have an agent help me to determine whether my vehicle qualifies to participate in CAP?

BAR considers a variety of factors in determining an individual or a vehicle’s eligibility to participate in CAP. These factors are based on regulations. BAR can determine eligibility only by evaluating a completed application. Call center agents cannot determine your eligibility over the phone.

7. Questions

7.1 Where can I obtain more information about CAP?

You may contact BAR at (866) 272-9642. Agents are available to answer calls Monday through Friday from 8:10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for state holidays.

7.2 Where can I obtain a CAP application?

To have an application mailed to you contact the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., excluding state holidays. You can also obtain and submit an application online.