August 8, 2005

An Epic Struggle: Part II

Posted in General at 3:22 pm by Ian

So I take the car back to Win and tell him that, though it’s a lovely shade of blue, there’s no way I’m buying the car until it smogs (how wrong I was). As soon as he has it done, I say, I’ll come back down and do the deal. We agree on a price (for after the smog), because I don’t want to have to continue to haggle later, and I definitely don’t want to drive all the way down there again and have him hold out for another few hundred, and I go back to watch my friends play Magic.

About an hour later, I get another call from Win, who offers to let me take the car now, but not pay for it until it passes smog. Then I can get it smogged and deduct the costs of fixing it from the price we’ve already agreed on. Although skeptical at first, I decide that saving the several hours driving time is worth the slight risk of major hassle in this pseudo-sale, and agree. I write up an agreement that specifies what we’re doing and what the price will be, and then I’m on the road in (not) my new Rav4.

On Monday, I take it into my (now ex-) mechanic (for reasons that will become clear as this story progresses), and explain that it failed the check and to figure out what it needs and give me a call. They don’t get to it that day, so I don’t hear from them until Tuesday.

“It only failed one emissions test, and it doesn’t need to pass this test,” says Sam. “We don’t do this test in Santa Barbara.”

And then I learn about Basic Smog and Enhanced Smog. It seems that Irvine requires additional smog testing that Santa Barbara does not, and it only failed a test that isn’t required for a Basic Smog Certificate. So I called up the Bureau of Automotive Repair, which is in charge of Smog Certification in California, to see if I could get the fact that it had passed all the tests it needed to pass to count.

Of course not.

After having the following spirited exchange with a gentleman at the BAR:
Me: So, it only failed a test that’s not required for certification in Santa Barbara. Is there a way to just use that data?
Him: It failed to pass Smog, so you didn’t get a certificate.
Me: Right, but it only failed because they did a test that wasn’t required.
Him: The vehicle has to pass to receive a certificate.
Me: But it didn’t need that test at all. If they hadn’t run the test in the first place, I’d be good to go.
Him: The vehicle has to pass all the tests to receive a certificate.
Me: No, it doesn’t. It says right here that this test isn’t required for a Basic smog area.
Him: But it failed, so you were not issued a certificate.


Having already escalated to both bold and italicized arguments, I tried a different tack, eventually discovering that the reason it would have to be tested again is that the Basic Smog tests are not a subset of the Enhanced Smog tests (even though they test the same thing). At this point, I accepted that it was going to have to be retested. I called my mechanic and told them to do it.

An hour later, I got another call from them. They can’t run the test, you see, because the testing equipment is all electronically linked to the DMV, and the DMV computer refuses to run the test because (you guessed it) the car is registered in Irvine, and any fool knows that Irvine requires an Enhanced Smog certificate.

So, to recap:

  • The DMV claims that you must have a Smog certificate from the seller at the time of the sale.
  • In order to get a Smog certificate, the car must be registered in the physical location that requries that kind of certificate.
  • In order to register a car, you must have bought it first.

Only a government agency could come up with procedures this absurd.



  1. Daniel said,


  2. Katie said,

    That’s awful! What a pain. I hope it gets all worked out, and that there’s not too much more back and forth to Irvine involved for you. I look forward to the next installment of the epic struggle, when hopefully the crisis is resolved. This is almost too much tension for me. 😉

  3. JT said,

    It’s like those old newspaper/magazine serials! When does the collected book get published?

  4. Ian said,

    If only I got paid by the word.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: