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Sometimes, your car just wants to go out cruising before passing a smog test

Q. We have a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am that my wife uses, but not too often so it sits unused a lot. As the registration was expiring, I took it to a local smog-testing facility. I paid for the renewal and was notified that the engine test had failed. In checking the paperwork from the test station, it said the on-board computer had not completed all of the tests. I was told that vehicles that mostly sit with little driving do not have enough miles to keep the computer completing the tests. The worker informed me that it would need to be driven 50 miles, non-stop with freeway miles, so that the computer could have enough information to allow the tests. Is this normal? Should I just try another test station?

– John Alter, Torrance

A. It is normal – the ol’ Honkster has suffered this fate, too, and you don’t need to go to another test station.

Dave Skaien, the auto repair manager at the Automobile Club of Southern California, said the Grand Am’s “readiness monitors” failed.

Those monitors, he said, help “stop a repair facility from trying to clear the memory, and clear the check-engine light, and get the vehicle to pass a smog test that shouldn’t pass. …

“A lack of use, in and of itself, does not cause the computer to stop completing tests,” Skaien said in an e-mail to Honk. Most likely, the battery lost too much voltage, clearing the on-board computer’s memory.

To re-set the vehicle for the test:

“Over several days, and as partially described by the Grand Am letter writer, the vehicle will need to be driven at approximately 50 mph, steady throttle, not going up or down (a) hill, with the gas tank no more than three-fourth’s full and no less (than) one-fourth full,” Skaien told Honk.

Q. Years ago I contacted the governor’s office (Arnold was governor) to plead with officials to stop producing and requiring front license plates. Many states do not require front plates. Let’s face it, California is a car- and eco-minded culture. The front plates are unsightly and many cars would require new holes in the front bumper. With the cost of producing a front plate being so high, plus the waste of materials – why have one?  I don’t have a front plate on any of our three cars and, if cited, I could cable-tie one on, have it written off, and then remove it. How can we get this law changed?

– Dave Wilkinson, Laguna Niguel

A. Hit up a state lawmaker and get him or her to carry a successful bill to change that law.

The California State Legislature is the boss of the Vehicle Code, so if a driving law irks anyone, don’t blame the local cops, the California Highway Patrol or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Yes, a member of the legislature would need to introduce a bill containing that statutory change,” said Nicholas Filipas, a spokesman for the DMV up in Sacramento. “It would have to pass both houses and (if required) be signed by the governor.”

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk

Source: Orange County Register

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