With any luck, your car will pass its smog check on the first try, allowing you to pay your car registration and get that coveted sticker. But, one question is usually somewhere in your mind: "What do I do if it doesn't pass?"
Cars today -- and even those built 10 to 20 years ago -- are pretty good about letting you know when something is wrong. The dashboard lights often serve as not only warnings that something needs attention but also that your car needs those repairs before its next smog check. Technically, if no dashboard lights are on, that's a great sign. But still, it's normal to be a bit nervous, and knowing in advance what you might have to do can set your mind at ease as you wait those fateful 10 minutes for the test to be over.
First, the tech at the smog check place will give you a report that shows what the tech found. You'll see what worked well and what needs repair. And don't panic -- sometimes the smallest thing can make the test go pear-shaped.
For example, if the car has just sat in your driveway for most of the past two weeks, it might not do so well on the test. As a matter of basic preparation, you want to drive your car consistently at faster (e.g., freeway) speeds for a couple of weeks before the test.
Next, take that report to the repair shop of your choice. Sometimes the smog check place does repairs, but wherever you have the repairs done, it should be someplace where the repair techs know what they're doing and where you feel comfortable having the work done. The techs will look at the report and discuss the timing and pricing of the repairs.
If it turns out that the failed test was due to something that was actually wrong (and not just leaving your gas cap off or something similarly simple), you'll have a set period of time in which to get those repairs done and then bring the car back to the smog station.
The Second Inspection
This is the re-test. One of two things will happen. You'll either pass, in which case, breathe out, go renew your registration, and then go get a treat. Or, you'll fail again, in which case you should check with your state about waivers or second-chance repairs. The smog station will know the rules for the state, so you won't be left adrift.
States are generally good about understanding failed smog tests. That's why you get time to repair the problem instead of having to junk the car. As nervous as you may be about the test, don't worry. There is always a solution. For more information, contact a smog testing service such as Smog King.