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California to roll out mandatory motorhome emissions testing

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Got a big diesel motorhome? What’s big? A motorhome that tips the gross vehicle weight scale of 14,000 pounds or more. The diesel pusher in our photo easily tips over the scale. If you do, you may be in for a rude awakening. California is readying a rollout of mandatory motorhome emissions testing requirements. They’ll go into effect in July 2023.

Not a California resident? Don’t sigh in relief just yet. As it stands, even folks visiting the Golden State with a “heavy duty vehicle” are subject to some rigorous testing. All of it could slow your entry into the state.

Tailpipe intrusion courtesy of CARB

The genesis of this new tailpipe intrusion comes from a 2016 law. Created under Senate Bill 210, its purpose was to cut air pollution. The aim is to reduce the amount of nitrous oxide and particulate emissions “from non-gasoline heavy duty vehicles … that operate in California, including out-of-state vehicles.”

We initially thought the application of the law was to commercial rigs. Sorry, privately owned recreational vehicles fall under the law and the new rules. The rules come straight from the state’s Air Resources Board (CARB). It’s the same agency that has caused more than one gas can owner to hurl naughty words when dealing with eco-conscious fuel containers.

CARB recently released a 52-page draft of their regulatory concepts. We sifted through the legalese and technotalk and put together a synopsis of what we thought would apply to mandatory motorhome emissions testing. What will it mean for both California owners and those who’d like to visit the state? We ran our thoughts under CARB’s nose.

Summary of the new system

Here’s a summary of how the new system will work. That is, at least in terms of how CARB staff envision the matter at this point. Heavy-duty vehicles, including 14,000-pound-plus motorhomes that run on anything other than gasoline will have to submit to mandatory inspections. You did note that little detail, right? Even if your motorhome runs on, say, “alternative fuel,” if it runs on anything other than gasoline you’re in for the testing. Well, there are a couple of exceptions here. If you’re so advanced that you’re running strictly on electricity or hydrogen fuel cells, you’re off the hook.

OBD-based

The testing system is based on the use of a rig’s OBD (on-board diagnostics). That’s the computer diagnostics port that whiz-bang technicians can plug into and tell you just how expensive your repair visit will cost. An authorized test facility employee would plug into your OBD.

The system will test to make sure your emission control system is operating correctly. If everything checks out, you’ll get a note on your electronic record stating you’re good to go. However, if you flunk the test, you’ll be required to get the problem fixed and re-tested within 45 days. Skip out on the repairs or the re-test, you can be subject to citations. Keep repeating this behavior, you could find your motorhome in the impound yard. Incidentally, the state envisions a network of test stations across the state. Most likely they’ll be at truck stops and other heavy-duty rig repair shops.

But don’t show up for the mandatory motorhome emissions test with a fault-showing OBD. You’ll be automatically flagged as being out of compliance. What if your motorhome doesn’t have an OBD port that the test gear can hook up to? Then your rig is subject to an opacity test and a “visual inspection.” The opacity test means your tailpipe emissions are analyzed. Essentially, how smoky is the stuff coming out of your tail pipe? If it’s too smoky, you lose. Time for a repair.

Or a visual inspection

Robert Couse-Baker on flickr.com

A visual inspection means the technician peers under the hood, as it were. They’ll be looking at emissions-related components. They’ll take a hawk-eyed look at the emissions control label. You’d best not have removed it or defaced it.

And the inspector will also be looking closely at your dash panel. So if he sees that your “malfunction indicator light,” otherwise known as the “check engine” light, is lit, you’ll get a correction-required notice. Got any “aftermarket parts” installed? If they could affect emissions, they’ll need to bear the stamp of approval of CARB. Does that affect aftermarket power chips? We’re not clear on that yet.

The nitty-gritty

In practice, how does this testing work out? For RVs registered in California, this mandatory motorhome emissions testing will be an annual requirement. That doesn’t necessarily mean hunting down an approved emissions test site, getting an appointment, and waiting in line. “Telematics” systems that connect to your OBD port can remotely transmit the data to the state.

What about non-residents? As the draft is currently written, non-residents aren’t cut any breaks. Your motorhome would require a test on entry to the state. However, CARB tells us, “Staff is considering an exemption from heavy-duty I/M [inspection and maintenance] for motor homes registered outside of CA when used only for personal use.” The keyword here is “considering.” Just when and if staff will write in the exemption remains to be seen.

Non-resident inspections

If non-residents do draw this exemption, they’ll be free from some other issues that California RVers will be stuck with. What’s that include? If you own a motorhome that meets the specifications of the law, you’ll also have to obtain an electronic account with the state, and register any rigs you own that meet the specs.

Once inspected, you’ll get a certificate for your motorhome, provided it passes inspection. You’ll have the privilege of paying for this certificate. And the cost? CARB tells us, “Staff expects to have pinned down the cost of the compliance certificate by the end of 2021.” If non-residents don’t get the potential exemption, they’ll be expected to pay for the certificate, but the state assured us they’ll pay the same as a California resident.

Are there any other surprises in this mandatory motorhome emissions boogaloo? Paying to dance is bad enough. We hope we’ve covered all the bases. The big issue for non-residents will be – will they/won’t they get an “exemption.” Already the RV industry is pushing for it to happen. And if California’s economy wants tourist dollars, odds would seem likely it will happen. But as with anything other than death and taxes, nothing is certain.

Photo: thormotorcoach.com

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Nathan
4 months ago

Well I thought about visiting California for the desert races or the dunes, but out of all the 50 States, California basically saying an F U to tourist I’ll avoid that state completely!!! I’m personally from Florida and don’t give a {bleeped} about emissions I’d rather have a fully deleted truck than an electric car that pollutes more in the manufacturing process of lithium ion batteries!!!!!!!! Even a deleted diesel is cleaner than a electric car, that is if you don’t run a smoke tune. California and the EPA want to take away our trucks and our motor sports I’ll never visit CA count me out!!!!!!!

Lynn Wagoner
6 months ago

When the carmaker gives you a lifetime warranty on poorly designed DEF systems then I’ll put that crap back on the truck…maybe. There’s nothing like being stuck 500 miles out in the boonies and have a CEL come on and then limiting your speed to 5mph due to crappy emissions systems, all while pulling a 40′ fifth wheel.

Kenneth Fuller
6 months ago

Another tax, another reason NOT to visit California.

BigD2047
6 months ago
Reply to  Kenneth Fuller

Definitely

Marc
6 months ago

Guess there is yet another reason to never darken California’s borders.

Jargo
5 months ago
Reply to  Marc

That means fewer RVs jamming up the mountain roads and belching diesel. RV tourists don’t bring in as much in terms of tourist $ (no hotel rooms, fewer meals in restaurants) so it’s not a big loss for California. Also, if your RV can’t pass emissions testing, you should really be concerned about your own health, as this will affect you and your loved ones more than anyone else. Take care of yourself !

GeorgeB
6 months ago

Being born, raised, worked, retired in CA, I sold out last fall. They have the most oppressive State government in America, totally run by one party ideologs. The Gov is a perfect example of the elitist who say ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Being on the opposite political side, I moved to a State that believes in a government that represents its people.
Californians will comply rather than vote these clowns out of office. Others will register Class A’s in AZ, NV, OR. One commenter here says the smog testing costs $35 and no big deal. First, I never got away less than $60. Second, my new State has $0 testing and unlike CA, the air is clear. Last, she tells us it is unfair to exempt diesel rigs, but fails to say CA exempts beater, poorly maintained vehicles that can not pass the test, so long as it belongs to a lower economic class. Guess that is fair and ‘follows the science’??

Raymond Holtslander
6 months ago
Reply to  GeorgeB

Not!🤣🤣

Mark B
6 months ago
Reply to  GeorgeB

I 100% agree!!!!!!!

Justin
6 months ago

In the same vein, there is a proposed law in oregon to ban the sale of diesel fuel in the 3 counties surrounding portland from 2023. It’s not expected to go anywhere, but this is the thinking of the progressives in the large cities on the west coast.

Ann
6 months ago

Cars and light trucks (including pickups and smaller motorhomes) already have required emissions testing in California and a number of other states as part of the registration process. I have to take my Sprinter based MH to get smog checks every other year when the registration is due. It isn’t a big deal. It costs $35 and takes 10 minutes at a shop down the street from my house. I’m not sure why anyone thinks bigger motorhomes should get a pass. Because they’re bigger and pollute more?

Forcing out of state vehicles to be tested seems weird, though.

Dennis G.
6 months ago
Reply to  Ann

We live in Silicon Valley, and our short class-A gas RV cost $120.00 to smog, at a shop in Campbell. Very few smog stations can handle a 30′ long RV, nor do they care too.

BigD2047
6 months ago
Reply to  Ann

Must be the one unicorn shop in CA that only charges $35.00. What’s the name of the shop? There is a mandatory fee from the state of $8.25 just for the certificate. $60 is about the minimum I’ve found for my visual only check on my 07 Duramax.

Phil Atterbery
6 months ago

The article states OBD2 based testing. If true, that excludes my 2005 Cummins ISB 300. As most of you know, the EEC system is accessed from a J1939 7 pin port under the dash or in the rear access door.
I guess I’ll have to ask my SIL to visit with us in Reno NV after 2023. CA keeps this up, I’ll not cross Donner Summit.

Ray J.
6 months ago

A lot of California residents will possibly sell their motorhomes rather than comply!

Cheryl Bacon
6 months ago
Reply to  Ray J.

Or just park and register them in another state. They will use their toad to get to RV.

Bob M
6 months ago

When the enforce the emissions inspection on non residents. Just boycott traveling and vacation there. Residents should just vote environmental politicians out of office.

Joe Goomba
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob M

Vote em out of office, so we can continue to destroy the earth. Great plan!

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

Joe, nobody is “destroying” the earth.

BigD2047
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

If you believe that you should sell all of your motor vehicles today.

Mark B
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

Do you seriously think that the Ca. politicians are going to save the Earth? One state in one country on the entire planet? 🤔

Marvin Harbin
6 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

We have been trying for years but there are too many of those who believe this is good living along the coast. JMO

JEB
6 months ago

Just another reason to not enter that State and give them my tourism dollars.

Ronald Whited
6 months ago
Reply to  JEB

Amen!

Cheryl Bacon
6 months ago
Reply to  JEB

Exactly. We already avoid CA, so not a big deal. There is plenty to see in North America. If we get the urge to go to Disneyland, we will just drive from NV.

Ed D.
6 months ago

C*****fornia has been off our radar for quite some time already. Why would anyone support a State with their tourism dollars, that freely allows illegals to infest their state and reward them with tax payer dollars. C*****fornia has already seen a huge exodus from their State. As far as those running the state, you just can’t fix stupid! I feel sorry for those that do not live in the large cities there. They have to endure all of these ridiculous regulations.

Vic
6 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

You get what you vote for.

Ed D.
6 months ago
Reply to  Vic

While that is true, you have to understand that C*****fornia has the vote harvesting and gives Drivers licenses to illegals. That is why they are brought into the larger cities like L.A., S.F. and S.D. I would bet that the majority of “Legal” Californians (outside of the largest cities), are not voting for these socialist individuals. So they are forced to put up with all of it! Not by their own choosing.

Morrie J Estrada
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Agree, so very true.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Spot on, Ed. We stay out of CA every chance we get, which is ALWAYS! 

Ed D.
6 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Good thinking Tom!

Ronald Whited
6 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Agree!!!

Gray
6 months ago

If California grants exemptions to out-of-state diesel motor homes, I’d expect lawsuits from California owners claiming unfair discrimination. And if all coaches regardless of state of registry are flagged to exit for mandatory stops & inspections (at commercial truck weigh stations, the most logical existing sites) then one might expect a huge migration of California-registered coaches to Nevada for re-registration and storage. Nevada, seeing a good thing, should grant instant registration for out-of-state coach owners. California owners registered in Nevada can drive their toad to their stored coach and go north, east, or south for their RV adventure. West? Forget it! California has made itself out of bounds.

Bureaucrats tend to forget that angry folks can move and vehicles have wheels. People tend to be like grapes: squeeze ’em too hard and they might squirt out of reach.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Gray

My Nevada USED to be a great state to live in, but no more. Our illustrious Governor is a rubber stamp of California’s Governor. What Newsome does, so does Sisolak. Lately we’ve been looking at Texas as a possible move. Too many Californians have moved to Nevada and brought their California thinking with them – thus turning Nevada into California East. I am heartbroken by what our state has turned into. At 75, I really don’t relish the idea of moving – anywhere, but the way things are going, I’m almost ready to sign up for the first flight to Mars . . .  😢   😠   😩 

Morrie J Estrada
5 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I agree Tommy. My DIL lives in Gardnerville

Jesse W Crouse
6 months ago

Guess any trip to California I was thinking of just got canceled. How do they want a pre 2007 diesel motor home to comply with 2021 emission standards? Wave a magic wand at it?

Gman
6 months ago
Reply to  Jesse W Crouse

You got till 2023 so you cancelled for naught.

Harold W Coffield
6 months ago
Reply to  Gman

By 2023 you won’t be able to afford fuel to go to CA!

Ed D.
5 months ago
Reply to  Gman

Why support a city that obviously, doesn’t want you and your rv there?

Brian
6 months ago
Reply to  Jesse W Crouse

I read the whole article and I didn’t see where it said you would have to comply with current emissions standards, unless I missed it?

Last edited 6 months ago by Brian
BigD2047
6 months ago
Reply to  Brian

Then what standard will they use to fail a coach? My 04 has no emissions equipment to be checked. Yet I’ll be required to have it “tested”

Seems more like another tax than anything else.

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