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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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Old 02-02-2015, 10:28 AM
edjack edjack is online now
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Location: San Jose, CA
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CA residents - new OBD emissions test for 2000+ vehicles

Ed in San Jose '97 540i 6 speed aspensilber over aubergine leather. Build date 3/97. Golden Gate Chapter BMW CCA Nr 62319.
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Old 02-02-2015, 10:33 AM
ModernRocketry ModernRocketry is offline
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Mein Auto: 2003 525i, 2000 Corvette
I've already endured this new test --
Pretty straight forward. No more roll test.

If you SES light is on, you should find out why -- most likely it will fail the new smog check.
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Old 02-02-2015, 11:49 AM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Originally Posted by ModernRocketry View Post
I've already endured this new test --
Pretty straight forward. No more roll test.

If you SES light is on, you should find out why -- most likely it will fail the new smog check.
We discussed this test in the California smog thread...
- What you can expect for E39 smog emissions test results (1)

And, if you see an SES, you already failed either the old, or the new test...
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Last week (July 2012) I had a long talk with Mike McCarthy ( about OBD codes in California.

Mike manages the CARB OBD program for California (626-771-3614).

He is a very knowledgeable guy who knows the entire history of FTP drive cycles, OBD test requrements, and smog test laws and regulations.

He provided more detail than I could handle (most of which went over my head), but, it's important to note that the legislature voted to allow OBD-only tests in California, but, the infrastructure won't be in place by January next year - and most likely won't be in place for a while.

Mike said 31 states do smog tests but California had to fight the EPA to do decentralized tests. The EPA wanted centralized tests - so California implemented the 'hybrid' system of 'test only' stations and 'test-and-repair stations' to meet the EPA requirements of centralization. For the past year, they have been rating smog test & smog test-and-repair stations, giving each a STAR rating.

Today, every two years you have to get a smog test at either a test-only station or at a test-and-repair station. But, he said, fraud is rampant, so they're going to mail you a note that requires you to go to a station with a high rating. The system isn't in place, but an example would be a five-star rating where in order to register, you can only go to a five-star rated test station. They are doing this to cut down on fraud.

Another thing he told me is that a California dyno smog test cycle is NOT the BMW FTP test, nor the federal FTP-75 test (details at It's a special shortened California-only version of the drive trace that works well on a dyno.

Mike also mentioned that it takes two cycles for a CEL to go on (first one gives the pending DTC); and it takes 3 complete drive cycles for the CEL to go out.

For more information, Mike suggested I contact

EDIT: For information on the OBD readiness monitors, I called the Department of Consumer affairs 800-952-5210 where you can actually talk to 'former mechanics' who are now 'technical advisors' or 'consumer assistance representatives' for the state of California who will discuss with you your smog test questions.

At the Department of Consumer Affairs, I spoke with "Marvin" who explained that, in California, a 1996 to 2000 vehicle can pass smog with 2 monitors not ready but that a 2001 to current vehicle can have only 1 monitor not ready and still pass smog tests. He said many technicians still fail the car because they want to have high STAR scores.

In addition, Marvin said that new OBD tests will check your air conditioning because they assume if your ac isn't working that you're leaking freon into the atmosphere just like they check your fuel system, again assuming vapors will leak out into the atmosphere. So it's not just engine emissions that are being monitored.
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
I called Mike McCarthy again at 626-771-3614 who said the OBD test machines are currently in beta testing.
He hopes they will pass their tests soon, in which case they can be sold to the test stations.
He hopes that will happen before the end of this year.
He also confirmed that cars can pass California smog with either one or two incomplete registers, depending on their year (as described in the quote above).
He did say that soon, the older (1996 to 2000) cars will be limited to one unset monitor (which can be any monitor other than the fuel evap test); and that the newer cars will be limited to zero unset monitors.

Mike also explained that many people go to the BAR refereee when a smog test station refuses to run the test due to unset monitors.
They just call the BAR referee, who, for free (except the $8.75 for the certificate), will smog check the vehicle at a local community college via a scheduled appointment.

With your license plate, name, and address, you can schedule a free smog-check referee appointment by calling 800-622-7733x1(English)2(agent) and telling them that you have unfilled registers, and nobody will smog you. The local college here where they do that free smog check is Evergreen Community College, and an appointment takes about a week (in my experience). Total cost is $8.25 for the certificate (the smog check, which normally costs around $60) is free.

Since I lost my registration, I called BAR at 800-952-5210x1(English)x0(representative)x1(smog) who simply asked for my license plate and told me that I had to go to the STAR & TEST ONLY stations.
It bothers me that California is so screwed up that they make US pay for their silly system; but it is what it is, and I, as a single person, can't do anything about it.
The only good news out of all this is that the OBD tests are coming soon.

I don't know of any DMV price list for smog stations, but, there is this BAR web site which will list them out by zip code, e.g.,

Here, for the record, is the DMV site explaining a couple components the lousy system (but, in reality, it's a system put together by bureaucrats who don't know how to put systems together without the public paying through the nose for their inefficient system):

I called some local STAR-certified smog check stations to find hours & prices (sorted by price, out the door, including the $8.25 certificate):
  • $48 408-371-6430
  • $50 408-356-4188
  • $50 408-374-0140
  • $50 408-227-1575
  • $60 408-871-9484
  • $85 408-399-3927
See also:
- How to identify all BMW computer-specific OBDII DTC diagnostic fault codes (1) & how to better understand the key EPA federal test procedure (FTP) concept of the BMW SES "drive cycle" (1) & how to diagnose a typical BMW E39 engine misfire (1) or a sporadic-temperature-change cold-engine intermittent misfire (1) (2) & what you can expect for E39 smog emissions test results (1) & obtaining the pending or diagnostic trouble code (DTC) using free or freeware scans (1) [except in California or Hawaii (1) (2)] or where to get the cheapest reasonable OBDII scanner in the world (1) (2) or a better overall scanner (1) or the best BMW diagnostic tools (1) (2) (3) & a template of what to tell people from the Republik of Kalifornia who need to do an OBC diagnostic scan (1).

EDIT: The bimmer passed smog tests at the referee station (total cost, $8.25), and, they didn't even check the registers!

Please read the suggested threads and add value, either by pictures or by descriptions, so the next person stands on your shoulders.
See also: E39 Bestlinks & How to easily find what you need
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