New Way Forward for Diesel Tuners and Enthusiasts in California

By John Stewart for

It’s no secret that California diesel owners and performance parts manufacturers nationwide have been frustrated with the California Air Resources Board. Since 2000, a Catch-22 situation has existed for aftermarket diesel tuning and airflow-improving products. Diesel tuning parts were not approved for use in California, and even if the parts were engineered to work without affecting emissions, there was no reasonable way an aftermarket manufacturer could prove it.

A process is now in place that will allow diesel performance parts manufacturers to certify their parts for use in California. That's good news for diesel enthusiasts.

"It means that aftermarket manufacturers now have the ability to certify their parts in California on trucks built between 2000 and 2010 and henceforward," said Gale Banks, a manufacturer of diesel performance parts based in Azusa, Calif. “Manufacturers now have a clear path to legality, when there was no path to legality before."

The certification process involves a chassis dyno test similar to the one used by original equipment manufacturers, called the Federal Test Procedure, plus a similar but higher-power test called a USO6. Aftermarket manufacturers can conduct both tests without huge costs.

Nationally, diesel emissions have been loosely controlled until recently, and in California, diesel vehicles were not included in regular smog testing. But starting in January 2010, the state began to test diesels on a regular basis and whenever a registration is transferred.

Now that California is conducting regular inspections of diesel pickups, owners and installers who modify their trucks may find themselves out of compliance with smog regulations that have been in place since 2000.

The testing is conducted by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Those who fail will be required to return their vehicles to an acceptable condition, and go to a referee station for approval.

BAR’s testing consists of a visual inspection, an OBD-II check and a smoke test. If standard smog equipment has been removed or if non-exempt parts are installed, the vehicle will fail.

Exempted parts are add-on or modified parts that have passed the CARB test. If the part or modification is shown not to increase vehicle emissions, it is granted an exemption to emission control system anti-tampering laws. This exemption, called an executive order or EO, allows the modification to be installed on specific vehicles. Every EO part or modification has an assigned number that can be verified by smog check stations, BAR referee stations or by CARB.

The arrival of a workable procedure to gain EOs touches off a scramble among diesel tuning parts makers. According to Banks, manufacturers have until June 30, 2010, to apply for exemptions for parts sold in California. Once the applications are received, it will take CARB about a year to issue EOs. However, CARB will put those parts on a list of acceptable gear so that vehicle owners won’t fail the emissions test while the application is pending.

For the diesel aftermarket, the stakes are high. The California aftermarket is estimated at 20 percent to 25 percent of the total performance market. "California comprises more than the population of Canada, and has a bigger economy," Banks said. “It’s also a car-culture state. So no matter what you do in the aftermarket, California is the most meaningful state."

Severe penalties may accrue for manufacturers that do not apply for exemptions. "There are definitely penalties for the seller, and there are definitely penalties for the manufacturer, said Banks, who represents the diesel aftermarket as a board member at the trade association SEMA. "They’re pretty stiff, let’s say $5,000 or $10,000 per offense. If you’re selling tuning stuff, 4,000 or 5,000 units a year in California, you could be out of business in a heartbeat. So there is huge legal jeopardy for all concerned."

Even so, the new agreement comes as a relief to the diesel aftermarket. "The reality is, they were killing diesel performance in California," said Banks, who had been working with CARB and local and state government since 2002 to bring the exemption process to a workable state. "Our recent expenditures — testing, legal, to establish this first test in the new era, and then pass it — since 2002 is over $600,000. About $150,000 of that is since last October.

“They were dragging their feet for eight years,” Banks said. In the end, it took meetings with a long list of elected officials in Sacramento to make progress on the subject.

Individual diesel truck owners who are running aftermarket equipment in California may need to call the manufacturer to find out if there is an EO in California of if one has been applied for. "They really ought to call the manufacturer to find out what they are doing," Banks advised. "I can tell you if it’s Banks equipment, they’re going to be covered, but otherwise, you need to call the manufacturer. Don’t call the dealer, don’t call the installer — he doesn’t know if the manufacturer is getting their legal house in order."

Diesel truck owners can visit CARB's website, to find completed EOs. Owners can also go to the Bureau of Auto Repair’s website, where you can look at part numbers and manufacturers who have submitted an EO application.


It's funny they actually think we care about being legal up here in NORCAL.

Why exactly would they charge the manufacturer a fine for each product they sell? I thought that if a vehicle was built for racing or offroading it didn`t have to meet any emmisions standards as long as it is not operated on public roads. They basically made it illegal for these products to be developed and sold if they adversly affect emmisions. Seems a little harsh. But hey, this is still progress.

I wonder if the Govenator still has his Hummer H1's and other assorted diesel engined toys?

Glad to be up North where we have no emission laws. Just take off the dpf and egr and away we go.

yooo deezel ownahhhs vill half tooo geev uup yooor stankii truukss.

LMAO @the govenator has spoken

Snowman, if you take a dpf off and get stopped they can fine you, you tampered with the emissions system by cutting the dpf off, and all it would take would be a jerk of a rcmp/DOT to nail you....

I'm not so worried about this. I'm sure my diesel performance parts will be good enough to keep me in good standing.

corporations dumping pollution is ignored, the aquaducts draining the mountains and lakes fresh water is ignored, ocean overfishing is ignored, immigration laws are ignored, many cars are not registered OR INSURED ignored, school underfunding ignored, so - FINE THE PRIVATE CITIZEN WITH THE NON-COMMERCIAL TRUCK! that will fix it all! so if you live in tahoe for example- the cali side you cant drive a diesel, nevada, arizona, utah - NO SMOG REQUIREMENTS AT ALL! quick fact - 3% of all CO2 is caused by ALL MANS' POLLUTION - the rest is volcanos and plant decay. Here we go again ANOTHER SILLY VICTIMLESS MEANINGLESS UNENFORCEABLE LAW! create another gestapo task force polluting and burning more fuel circling the hood looking for diesels!!! 60,000 new supercharged superpolluter cop cars a year already! F.U. SACRAMENTO! I'm just trying to save money by getting better gas mileage and not blow my tranny towing. ARREST THE VIOLENT CRIMINALS AND TAX THE MILLIONAIRES, the rest is hypocritical B.S. imho

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