Smog Check & Emissions FAQs

At Tristar Automotive we want to make your automotive service or repair experience as simple, and hassle free as possible. Below are some frequently asked questions we encounter. If your question isn’t listed below, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Service team at (707) 571-8866.

What is the Smog Check Program?

The smog check program is the State’s attempt to improve the quality of air we breathe. Basically, the smog check program is designed to identify and repair or remove vehicles with high emissions.

How often does my vehicle have to be tested?

Your vehicle must be tested every other year (biennial basis). A smog check is also required when you sell your vehicle and it is more than 4 model years old. Some vehicles may require a Smog Check at a Test-Only or STAR Certified smog station.

What is a Test-Only station?

Just as the name implies, a Test-Only smog check station is licensed to perform smog tests and nothing more. If your vehicle fails a smog inspection at a Test-Only station, state law will not allow them to perform repairs.

What is a STAR Certified station?

STAR Certified smog stations are licensed Smog Check stations that have met and uphold rigorous performance standards as established by the BAR. STAR Certified stations perform smog checks and repairs at the same location – facilitating the process for the consumer. STAR smog stations may also repair vehicles qualifying for financial assistance under the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP).

What is the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP)?

A financial assistance program available to consumers meeting certain income requirements and whose vehicle has failed a biennial smog inspection. Qualifying individuals may receive up to $500 toward the cost of repairs. There is a $20 co-payment.

How can I Retire my vehicle?

The cost of repairing your vehicle to restore it to operable condition, may exceed the value of the vehicle. You may chose to retire your vehicle from operation with a dismantler who is contracted with the BAR and receive up to $1,000 for the vehicle.

Does my vehicle have to fail a biennial smog inspection before being retired?

No. Most vehicles can be retired at any time.

Where may I obtain a CAP application?

CAP applications, as well as additional information regarding the smog check program may be obtained at www.smogcheck.ca.gov.

Are government-owned vehicles subject to the Smog Check Program?

Federal, state, county, city, and special district agencies that own or lease passenger vehicles or light duty trucks are subject to the provisions of the Smog Check Program.

What is OBD II or On-Board Diagnostics?

OBD II is self-diagnostic equipment that is incorporated into your vehicle’s on-board computer and monitors all aspects of emission system’s performance. When a malfunction occurs the “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” message is displayed on the vehicle’s instrument panel. The OBD II also stores information that can be retrieved and analyzed by qualified technicians utilizing OBD II capable scan tools.

Where may I voice a complaint regarding testing or repair service?

Concerns may be voiced by contacting the Department of Consumer Affairs at (916) 952-5210.

New & Leased Car Warranty FAQs

I have a new car, do I need to take it to a dealership for maintenance to keep my warranty valid?

No! We provide factory scheduled maintenance at rates which are far more competitive than the dealerships. Call us for complete information.

What do I have to do to keep my car or truck’s warranty in effect?

Make sure your vehicle is serviced at the intervals specified in your owner’s manual or warranty booklet and keep clear records of your vehicle’s maintenance. Be sure to include the date, parts installed, vehicle identification number, and mileage recorded on the invoice.

My car is a leased vehicle. Am I still responsible for maintenance?

Yes. If your you vehicle is leased, you are responsible for all maintenance and repairs required to keep the vehicle in good working order as outlined in the owner’s manual.

What parts should be replaced and at what intervals should these services be performed?

Check your owner’s manual for the information you need regarding specific parts and service intervals. Make sure to read it thoroughly and note any exceptions or severe service notations. Warranties are there to protect the consumer, but you must follow the requirements.

What if my new car needs repairs other than regularly scheduled maintenance?

The choice of where to have your car serviced and repaired is yours. However, you will probably have to take the car back to the dealer for any repairs covered under warranty. Thoroughly check your warranty to be certain which repairs are covered.

Routine Maintenance FAQs

When should a timing belt be replaced and why?

A timing belt controls the timing of your engine’s valves. Your timing belt should be changed every 50,000-70,000 miles, however every manufacturer is different. Consult your owner’s manual to determine the correct replacement interval.

Does brake fluid need to be changed at regular intervals?

Brake fluid should be flushed periodically to keep corrosion under control. Why? Brake systems are hydraulic and use brake fluid which is hydrophilic, meaning it can absorb moisture from the air. Once the hydraulic system has moisture in it, corrosion takes place and brake components fail. This procedure is not expensive and is included in many preventative maintenance schedules.

How often should antifreeze be replaced?

Antifreeze should be replaced every two years due to oxidation and deterioration of important additives. These additives lubricate the water pump and protect metal parts from rust and oxidation. They also help keep coolant hoses soft and flexible. Today we can recycle and clean old antifreeze, replacing the additives. Antifreeze is very toxic and not environmentally friendly so recycling makes good sense. The engine’s thermostat should also be replaced every 2 years to keep the engine operating temperatures in the proper range.

Are aftermarket parts as good as original equipment parts?

Some are manufactured by the same supplier and may even be warrantied longer than original equipment parts. Aftermarket parts supplied by NAPA meet or exceed manufacturers’ specifications.