Every other year that you renew your vehicle registration, you must obtain a "smog certificate"―a printout of your vehicle's emissions test results. You must register your car within 90 days of your emissions inspection. If your car fails the smog test, you'll be unable to register it until you make repairs, retest and pass the inspection.
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The top THREE most common reasons for failure:
Incomplete Computer Monitors: A battery replacement or loss of charge , can cause the onboard computer to loose memory. Once that has happened, the readiness monitors must be reset, so the emissions systems can be monitored. This is probably the most common reason for smog test failures on 1996 and newer vehicles.
Fuel Evaporitive System Fault: The EVAP or Fuel Evaporative Emission Control System prevents gasoline vapors from the fuel system and tank from being released into the atmosphere. Something as simple as a defective gas cap can cause this system to fail.
Faulty Electrical Connections: Electrical connections, over time can become corroded and/or loose. It's surprising just how many times a bad electrical connection can cause high emissions and/or a Check Engine Light to illuminate.