Passed Smog - 1996 Lexus ES 300 Long-Term Road Test

1996 Lexus ES 300 Long Term Road Test

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1996 Lexus ES 300: Passed Smog

March 13, 2013

1996 Lexus ES 300

We're getting ready to sell this old guy and we had to get a smog test before we did the deal. We were a little nervous about whether it would pass, what with all the "issues" we've had lately (mass air flow sensor, check engine lights, O2 sensor etc.). So it seemed prudent to change the oil first and do a little highway driving. One smog test expert explained that long drives are helpful because it allows the catalytic converter to heat up enough to burn up all of the oil residue left from the inevitable "blow-by" in an older engine.

Highway driving is my specialty and with the ES nice and hot I brought it into ACA in Long Beach, Calif. They weren't the cheapest shop, but they were perhaps the nicest smog guys I've ever dealt with. While they were doing their thing, I had some Awesome Sushi (actually that's the name of the place) across the street. While the last piece of raw fish was wriggling down my throat my phone rang with the news: "You passed." The smog test was $71. The sushi was $12. It took one hour.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor, @ 154,000 miles


  • yellowbal yellowbal Posts:

    In California, do they just hook up the OBDII and visually check for components and smoke? You can do that at home with a cheap OBDII scanner before bothering to schedule a smog check.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    How does the "smog" check work? Your comments about heating up the cat make it sound like this is a tailpipe test.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    $71 for a smog test??? Yet another reason I will NEVER live in California.

  • zhangrenhou zhangrenhou Posts:

    If you drive a car that runs on diesel in California, you're exempt from the smog test.

  • In california a smog test involves the 'blowback' procedure - Since smog levels are so high to begin with, the ambient pollutant levels have to be subtracted from the exhaust pollutant levels. This is accomplished by putting a probe into the cold-air intake as well as the exhaust outlet. Exhaust gases are aspirated and an initial analysis is performed on the hot pollutant levels. Another technical challenge is that certain pollutants only become detectable once they cool down to atmospheric temperatures, but they also quickly undergo 'deposition' and fall out of solution if the gas mixture isn't circulated continuously. To remedy this, after hot analysis, the exhaust gasses are rotated centrifugally in a sealed, nitrogen-flushed chamber until they can be cold-analyzed. This procedure isn't cheap, which is why you see price tags above 70$

  • It's interesting to note that with the more stringent requirements for fuel mixture regulation and catalytic converter design, exhaust gasses are often actually CLEANER than the ambient air

  • da_wave da_wave Posts:

    I personally think that this has been a great project car for Edmunds, and I've enjoyed the series very much - I'll be sorry to see it go. What will you guys be asking for it?

  • Well, my ES300 I bought at around the same time as yours has been wonderful. Just did the 75,000 maintenance for $239. Love the bi-xenon HID lamps and the car is just right. Comfortable, reliable, cheap to operate, and nothing too fancy/tech-y to break.

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    Well it was nice to see you guys attempt to live like lower income drivers and while as many have said before you guys did fail that part of the experiment overall it was decent reading. Maybe the next used car you guys get you can go through a full engine/drivetrain rebuild and your adventures through that. I would suggest a 97-03 Mustang or a domestic pickup truck.

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