Numerous states besides
California require that new cars must meet California emissions
standards. This potentially impacts every owner and buyer of new
or late model used cars as well as the DIYers and professional mechanics
that work on them.
Below are answers to some of the most common questions:
- Are there still US federal emissions
standards? Yes, states can choose to specify cars either meet Federal/EPA or California (CARB) emissions standards specifications. The emissions standards usually vary by model year, so check your state's emissions guidelines.
- How can I tell if a car is a California
spec car? Look at the VEHICLE EMISSION CONTROL INFORMATION
label clearly displayed in the engine compartment. It meets California emissions specs if the label says “California emission standard
(CARB certified)”, “sale in all 50 states (50-state
certified)”, or “sale in the northeast”. The
VEHICLE EMISSION CONTROL INFORMATION label is also where you will
find "Engine Family" or "EFN" numbers.
- I do not live in California or one
of those emissions states so why do I care? Used cars from the California spec states could show up for sale
in any state. New states are steadily joining the California spec
list. If the car is a California spec car then it might eventually
need California spec replacement parts or service.
- Why are some of the replacement catalytic
converters listed in the RockAuto.com parts catalog described
as being for California emissions equipped models but “not
legal for sale on vehicles licensed in the state of California?” Since January 1, 2009, California requires that aftermarket catalytic
converters sold in California have special California Air Resource
Board (CARB) certification and labeling. An exhaust manufacturer
may have built a catalytic converter that meets or exceeds California
emissions standards, but they have not yet received CARB certification
so their catalytic converter cannot be sold in California.
- If a catalytic converter meets California
emissions standards but does not have CARB certification then
can it still successfully be installed on California spec cars
outside California? Yes.
- I live in California. Will a new (manufactured
after January 1, 2009) catalytic converter that meets California
emissions standards but does not have CARB certification still
enable my car to pass state emissions tests? No. The
catalytic converter meets California emissions standards so the
vehicle’s exhaust will likely pass emissions tests. But
the vehicle should still fail because the test includes a visual
inspection of the exhaust system. CARB certification requires
special CARB numbers be stamped into the body of the catalytic
converter. Without the CARB label on the new aftermarket catalytic
converter, the state inspector will fail the car no matter how
clean the exhaust is. Catalytic converters made before 2009 or
newer ones without CARB certification still have a date of manufacture
stamped on them per Federal/EPA requirements.
- Will this get less or more complicated
in the future? It might get less complicated if the California
emissions standards are adopted by all the states or if car manufacturers
decide to only make California spec cars. But it could get more
complicated if other states besides California are allowed to
come up with their own emissions standards or if California or
other states write new regulations similar to the CARB certification
for replacement catalytic converters.