Wednesday, August 31, 2011

California Smog Laws: Going Exempt

I love driving off-road in my Jeep. The thing climbs like a goat on crack and its size and wheelbase allows me to traverse a wide variety of trails. I do, however, have two problems with the rig: it’s a six-cylinder, and it has to be smogged every other year. Poop on both counts.

Now, I’m all for a clean environment and everything, but having to smog my vehicles is really getting to be an expensive pain in the arse. First off, there’s the smog fee itself. If the government wants me to smog my vehicles so bad, why don’t they pony up the money for it? They make the rule and the cost falls on the consumer. Second, if it doesn’t pass, I have to buy expensive things like catalytic converters or oxygen sensors and hope it’ll pass the next try. I don’t like it one bit.

Therefore, it’s very possible that I’ll be paring down my fleet in the near futures to include only pre-1976 automobiles. No computers, no catalytic converters, no mess of wiring and hoses. And no six-cylinders. I’ll take a ’72 Dodge with a 360 in it any day over a gutless 4.0 liter straight-six that has to be smogged.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of guy, and that includes working on my vehicles. If something goes wrong, I do not want to break out a code scanner so that an on-board computer can tell me what’s happening with my vehicle. With an older vehicle, it’s almost always obvious where the problem is coming from. Parts are a load cheaper, too, and you can actually get to them without having an engineering degree.

Now, many of you may be thinking that older vehicles aren’t as reliable, and that they nickel-and-dime us to death. Sure, if you try and keep a thirty-year-old car on the road you are going to have maintenance. But, when’s the last time you completely rebuilt an engine and replaced all its crappy, Pep Boys components with quality ones? That, I feel, is the ticket. I mean, if you keep replacing remanufactured water pumps and alternators with $30 remanufactured units, they aren’t going to last long. Purchasing quality components will surely keep the vehicle running longer.

Anyhow, my plan to only drive pre-smog vehicles goes into effect immediately. It may actually save me a bunch of money in the long run, because if I score an old Dodge 4x4 truck that can pull the Jeep to trails, I can register the Cherokee for off-road use only (sometimes called “Green Stickering here in CA) and still not have to smog or insure it. Double-win in my book.

Older cars and trucks aren’t for everybody, that’s true, but they are definitely for me. I still have my ’68 Plymouth, and it’s being rebuilt slowly but surely as I write these words. Now I need to replace the station wagon with a late-sixties MOPAR one and find an early ‘70s Dodge truck. Can’t be too difficult. Wish me luck!

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