Help for those lost in the smog: Getting ready for ECARS

Michael Cullen, legal intern, 452 Air Mobility Wing, holds a $50 bill symbolizing the potential cost of having a vehicle smog checked. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Michael Cullen, legal intern, 452 Air Mobility Wing, holds a $50 bill symbolizing the potential cost of having a vehicle smog checked. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- The Employee-vehicle Certification and Reporting System, or ECARS, will soon be at March Field. This is an Air Force program that will ensure the base aligns with Clean Air Act, section 118(d), which requires vehicles operated by federal military and civilian employees (not contractors) on Federal facilities for 60 or more days per year, be in compliance with the emissions standards. The new guidance will apply to the vehicle inspection and maintenance program area where the facility is located and affords members the opportunity to actively participate in helping improve the environment and health of personnel stationed here at March.

Smog inspections, or enhanced tests, are required unless your vehicle is of the following:

1. a hybrid or electric

2. gasoline powered 1975 year model or older

3. diesel powered 1997 year model or older

4. diesel powered with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 14,000 lbs

5. natural gas powered with a GVWR rating of more than 14,000 lbs

6. a motorcycle, or

7. a trailer

If a vehicle fails a Smog Check, it must be repaired and retested. If repairs prove too costly, members have access to options that can be found on various California government websites.

The Consumer Assistance Program provides qualified consumers who fail a Smog Check inspection, up to $500 in financial assistance towards certain emissions-related repairs, according to Major Deric Prescott, Staff Judge Advocate. In order to qualify, an applicant must have a household income that is less than or equal to 225 percent of the federal poverty level, as published in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. To obtain an application, go to www.smogcheck.ca.gov or call the Department of Consumer Affairs' Consumer Information Center at 1-800-952-5210.

In addition, the CAP program allows consumers to retire a qualified vehicle and receive $1,000 or $1,500, if the consumer meets low-income eligibility guidelines -- the same guidelines and website apply.

Both of these programs will issue a letter of eligibility to qualified applicants, with specific instructions on how to repair or retire their vehicle.

Lastly, a Repair Cost Waiver can be requested through the Referee Network, which is available if a consumer already had some repairs performed, but cannot afford any future repairs. The repair cost minimum is $450 and a licensed smog technician, in a licensed smog station must have made all repairs. To make a Referee appointment call 1-800-622-7733.

Helpful link:

Overview of financial options: http://www.autorepair.ca.gov/01_Consumer-ctivities/01_GettingSmogged/index.html.