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Jan 27, 2023

California Emissions Testing For Nissan Skyline and other Direct Import Vehicles

R32 on the FTP dyno getting emissions testing for California
R32 on the FTP dyno getting emissions testing for California

California has its own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), separate from the federal agency.  The California agency is call the Air Resources Board (ARB), or sometimes the California Air Resources Board (CARB).   The ARB has the authority to set emissions standards in California.  Even though vehicles over 21 years old are EPA exempt for import, if you want to register a direct import car legally in California, you have to meet the following requirements. 

1967 model year vehicles and older - no modifications and testing are required to register the vehicle in California.

1968 model year to 1974 model year vehicles - California does not recommend the purchase or importation of these years of NON-USA vehicles, even if currently registered in another state. These vehicles require compliance with USEPA requirements in effect on the specific date of 11/15/1972. This provision when written, was considered by the California legislature as a gradual phase-out of very dirty "non-collectable" types of imports, as this specific requirement was understood to become increasingly difficult to meet. Today, this requirement, while not impossible to meet, would require testing expenses and modifications that far exceed most vehicles value and would make little sense from a collectors standpoint to attempt. The limited exemptions that could have applied to individuals moving to California were closed by VIN 2017-15 (Direct Import Vehicles Update)  Contact the DMV for more information.

1975 model year vehicles to the present - (EXCLUDING any vehicle obtained by a California resident within two years of its date of production) require a "Certificate of Conformance" issued by the ARB after a successful laboratory test. This test is administered to the same standards required of new vehicle manufacturers, and for the model year of the vehicle . However, unlike new vehicle manufacturers, as an individual you are not required to meet the full range of additional testing and equipment standards such as On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) requirements, durability testing, low emission fleet averaging, or Zero Emissions Vehicle testing (LEV and ZEV requirements). So while these standards reference what a manufacturer must do, when required by the Direct Import requirements they apply to individuals importing a used motor vehicle.

Motorcycles and heavy-duty engines - (used in trucks and buses) are required to comply with CA or USEPA from the date of manufacturer, no after-the-fact modification is permitted for products first sold outside the US market.

Diesel vehicles - 1979 model year and older vehicles with original-equipment diesel engines are exempt from Direct Import lab testing requirements. Please note that any vehicle converted to operate on diesel fuel is subject to lab testing requirements if it is a 1968 model year vehicle or newer.

For a vehicle sold in California, there are 21 steps to bring the car into compliance.  Something as simple as a small, nearly undetectable vacuum leak can make a vehicle's emissions fail. Electrical system components that are 25 years or older can fail, and deteriorate with time. We can have a vehicle that appears to be running completely fine, but emissions fail.  Too lean will fail, and too rich will fail. 

  1. Vehicle is sold, customer pays for vehicle

  2. Vehicle is inspected and reviewed

  3. Modifications to put to stock, or service are performed

  4. Car is taken to the lab

  5. Lab intakes the vehicle

  6. Lab modifies vehicle which can include catalytic converters, oxygen sensors, evap canisters

  7. Lab runs a pre test smog on vehicle to inspect the emissions output

  8. If everything is fine on the pre test, then the car is scheduled to go to the FTP dyno

  9. If the car has any issues with the pre-test then it is inspected, repaired, and parts are replaced. 

  10. The car will go back to get pre-tested again, and the cycle will repeat until it has met the required standards. 

  11. Once the pre-test is done, the car is scheduled to go on the FTP dyno test. That test requires the vehicle to be prepared, cold, and then is driven over an 11 mile drive cycle.

  12. The vehicle is then shut down, hot soaked, then there is another 11 mile drive cycle.

  13. All emissions coming from the vehicle are tested, and must meet a set of requirements for the year of the vehicle. 

  14. If the vehicle fails any portion, it has to be retested. Only one test can be performed per day, per vehicle. 

  15. Normally when a vehicle fails, it will be several days before the schedule allows the same vehicle to go back on the FTP dyno.

  16. Once that testing is done and passed, the paperwork is submitted to the ARB

  17. An appointment for a California smog referee is scheduled.

  18. The vehicle goes to the referee, the referee inspects the vehicle,  then the referee tests the vehicle. If it meets all of the California smog referee standards, then the vehicle gets a BAR, or Bureau of Automotive Repair label. 

  19. Once the vehicle has the BAR label, it is ready for pick up from G&K. 

  20. Once the vehicle is picked up, an appointment for a California CHP VIN verification can be scheduled

  21. Once the VIN has been inspected, the final checks of the car are done, then the vehicle is ready for pickup. 

BAR label on a Nissan Skyline

Prices for California modification and testing range from $9950 - $15000 depending on vehicle model and condition up to 1995. R32 and R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R are typically $11,000. 1998 and up Nissan Skyline are $15,000. They do not require OBD II for California emissions, and that is noted on the ARB label as seen below. The cars need to be near stock, and in perfect running order.   Please call or email us with specific cost questions. 844-523-2233 or

1996 Honda Integra Type R. This vehicle has gone though California emissions testing, and has gone to the state ref. It does not have, and does not require OBDII to be compliant. 

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