California Emissions

How come my car has California emissions, when I don’t live there?

By: Charles Pantano, Eastern Catalytic

Even if you’re not located in California, you may have California emissions-equipped cars come into your shop. Here are some facts that you need to know when dealing with the exhaust systems for California cars that are registered outside of California:

When it comes to vehicle emissions, there are two regulating authorities: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which governs the Federal law throughout the country and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which governs emission laws in the state of California and 13 additional states that follow CA emissions laws. However, only California applies its stringent regulations to the use of aftermarket replacement converters.

So what kind of converter can you use as a replacement in the other 13 states? With so many variables, it may be difficult to know unless you can determine if a vehicle was built to meet federal or CA emissions. Get the picture?


CA and EPA systems may be different

Both of these systems are listed for a 2000 Nissan Maxima. However, only the one below fits a CA emissions vehicle. It has three 02 sensors and a different configuration.

A common misconception is that a Federal converter can be used on any vehicle not registered in California. However, this only applies to vehicles with Federal systems. If the vehicle has a California system, it must use a converter made for that system. While the converter does not have to legally meet CARB aftermarket emissions standards, it must meet the “mechanical” conditions of the system. This is important because the converter configuration, length and O2 sensor locations may be different in the CA car. If you order the wrong part, you could be looking at a service delay and may be even a restocking fee.

Vehicle emissions systems labels

To properly determine whether the vehicle requires a CA or Federal converter, you should check the vehicle’s emissions system label.

Typical label identifying a California System

Typical label identifying Federal System

Emissions label locations

Emissions label locations

The vehicle’s emissions system label can usually be found on the front radiator support, the strut tower plate, or under the engine hood.

Charles Pantano is the Certification Program Manager at Eastern Catalytic a leading innovator and world-class manufacturer of catalytic converters. Eastern offers a full range of catalytic converters for universal, direct-fit, manifold, diesel, and heavy-duty applications.