HYBRID versus the California Smog Referee


October, 1999

My *new* B18C powered Civic CX needed to be registered, and in order to do that, it needed a smog test. I didn't want to suffer through the trouble of going from smog station to smog station, trying to find someone who would ignore the engine change. So I decided to take it straight to the CA Smog Ref and get the engine change over approved. I did all the tune up stuff, adjusted the idle perfectly, and made an appointment.

outsideTraffic killed me, and even though I left 10 minutes earlier than I should have had to, I arrived ten minutes late. Too bad for me... not enough time to do the test, he said. But lucky for me there was a 1pm appointment still available. So I left and was back at 12:30. They arrived back from lunch 5 minutes after 1pm, and and began working on my car right away.

Three people worked on my car. One was clearly a trainee, the other a helper. I showed the guy in charge my engine receipt, which stated the year of the engine and the serial number. This eliminated any model year issues. He double checked that the number matched the number on the block. Having the receipt certainly smoothed things over. However, I believe he still checked the database to verify the engine was not stolen.

hood openThe helper was in charge of verifying the smog equipment on my car, mainly the vacuum and fuel lines. He had a book with diagrams and drawings lifted straight from the Honda Helm manuals. To make it a bit easier, I showed the helper where every line and part was. You won't always have this option, but since they were a little behind, he let me help him. On a GSR, the IAB vacuum tank that works the secondaries is clearly shown in the diagram, but is hidden under the intake manifold runners. I had loosened mine so I could pull it out easily. When he was searching for it, I pulled the IAB tank out from under the intake and showed it to him. A couple times he traced hoses incorrectly, which was disconcerting. I made sure that every thing was 100% correct before hand, so when he claimed it was wrong, I was able to show him it was right.

snifferOnce they cleared the smog equipment, they moved my car to the dyno. They strapped it down to the rollers, and stuck the sniffer in the tail pipe. I have a big sooty TRUST exhaust and they didn't even flinch at it. Other than the Trust, everything else on my B18C is stock. The trainee climbed on top of my engine and shined a flashlight down to find the cat, the O2, and to trace the O2 wire to see that it was connected. This freaked me out, because I have a B16A down pipe and cat, not the GSR parts. The GSR cat has the O2 sensor in the cat, while the B16A pipe has the O2 before the cat. But they only checked to see that they were there and did not refer to their book for comparison. Their emissions diagram does show, although somewhat poorly, that the O2 sensor is supposed to be in the cat. I felt that I got lucky on this one.

They dyno tested it twice. I don't know the results of the first pass, versus the second pass, but I believe my results were from the second. Perhaps the second run was just for the trainee. They tested the gas cap between runs.

on the rollers

small stickerThey told me matter of factly that I had passed and went to the computer to print out my sticker. They gave me a print out. I barely passed. High numbers. Perhaps the cat is old, or the B16A down pipe places the O2 in bad location. No wonder the tip of my Trust is sooty. Doesn't matter though, because I plan to get a JDM R header and hi-flow cat.

I can't tell you how good a feeling it is to have that sticker in my car. Legal. All legal. YEAH BABY, ALL LEGAL! I think the grin was permanently stuck on my face that day. I drove straight to AAA, completed the registration, picked up my plates and my year 2000 sticker. And I have been daily driving it ever since.


#1 Pick your engine model and year. Its safest to pick the actual year of your engine, but regardless, the engine year you state must be the same year or newer than your car. For example, 95 Integra GSR, or 95 Del Sol VTEC, into a 88-95 Civic.

#2 Make sure your engine configuration and vacuum line configuration match the US Helms manual of the engine you claim to have. Nothing should be missing and everything should be as shown in the manual. And the locations of the parts need to be very close to the manual. In other words, if you are converting a 96 GSR engine to 95 spec, you must be certain you get all emissions parts right. If you have a Japanese engine, you still need to make sure the emissions parts and hoses match the US version you are smogging as.

#3 A receipt for your engine can smooth things over, if its a US engine.

#4 Make sure your car is running clean: new plugs, plug wires, cap and rotor. Good O2 sensor, and a good cat are essential.

#5 Don't bother trying to pass a stolen engine.

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editing by Mike Perry

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