Illegal Software Modifications Detected During Smog Check Inspections

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) certifies new vehicles to ensure that they are compliant with emission standards established by law. CARB also certifies aftermarket parts and systems that can legally be installed without degrading the emissions compliance of the vehicle. Occasionally consumers install software that has not been approved by CARB. The unapproved software can degrade the emissions performance of the vehicle as well as the efficacy of emissions-control components originally installed on the vehicle.

While such modifications have never been legal, certain modifications, especially those related to the software programming of a vehicle's computer(s) have been difficult, if not impossible, to detect during a Smog Check inspection. The Bureau of Automotive Repair will soon update the BAR On-Board Diagnostic Inspection System (BAR-OIS) to identify vehicles with illegally modified software, starting in July 2021. These non-compliant vehicles will fail a Smog Check inspection in accordance with California Code of Regulations, title 16, section 3340.42.2(c)(8). Vehicles that fail a Smog Check inspection due to modified software must have their software returned to a legal configuration in order to obtain a Smog Check certificate. Once legal software is restored, vehicle owners may return to the station of their choosing for reinspection and certification. Note that vehicles initially directed to a STAR or Referee station must return to that station to complete the inspection process.

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