Once again, California lawmakers have decided that they’d like to make it more difficult to own tuned vehicles within their borders. Thanks to a change in the state’s biennial Smog Check program, any vehicle without factory installed software, or a comparable California Air Resources Board (CARB) legal tune on the ECU, will automatically fail the mandatory emissions check. This isn’t coming in the distant future either, as the modified testing rules for ECU tunes will take effect at California Bureau of Automotive Repair testing stations starting July 19.
The team over at Car Bibles were the first to discover this depressing bit of information tucked away in the frequently asked questions section of the California Bureau of Automotive Repair’s website. The section on modified ECU tunes reads as follows:
The Rules For ECU Tunes:
Beginning July 19, 2021, vehicles with software not provided by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or approved through a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Executive Order (EO) will fail Smog Check.
Before your vehicle will pass a Smog Check, you must have the vehicle’s software restored to the OEM software version. Once the software is restored, have your vehicle reinspected by a licensed Smog Check station. Note that vehicles initially directed to a STAR or Referee station must return to the same station type to complete the inspection process.
Not The End of The World …Yet
Now it is important to note that this doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for our California-based readers. There are CARB legal ECU tunes out there that have been approved by the state, thanks in part to the work that gets done by SEMA and their partners. That said, non-approved software is going to start causing problems. If your build allows, you’ll have to reinstall your stock software ahead of your Smog Check. If your car is modified beyond what the stock software can handle, you’ve likely got a more involved process to go through before testing.
I mean, it’s not like shops charge a lot of money to install new parts and software, right? I’m sure it won’t be an issue to have them taken off and reinstalled yet again.
Modifying and tuning vehicles has been part of the enthusiast ownership experience for generations. It’s what birthed the hot rod movement, inspired automakers to build muscle cars, and spawned the likes of the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s also a major business in California and other states, and one that’s already facing pressure from automakers.
Some tuning companies, such as Specialty Vehicle Engineering, have modified certain packages sold in most other states to be fit for California and other CARB states. The latest example is the Yenko SC Silverado California Edition. And instead of 800 horsepower seen in the standard Yenko Silverado, the California Edition has 710 horses instead.
We understand that California is quite strict when it comes to environmental policies, but this can be seen as yet another power grab a list of recent mandates that have happened in only a few years. Governments across the globe are already telling us what kind of vehicles we are going to be able to buy. Now they’re making it even harder to customize the ones we’ve got in tangible ways. That’s a shame.