“Catching” a Clean Plugging Smog Check Technician

We are always concerned about specious allegations levied by the Bureau of Automotive Repair in regards to “investigations.”

Specifically, we’re talking about clean plugging – the new and improved method of attempting to revoke a technicians license without any investigation what so ever.

Here’s how it works.

The Bureau goes to the computer in Sacramento, pulling the data from a particular facility. They then look for anomalies in the data to determine if someone has been clean plugging.

Here’s how they allege to “know” someone is clean plugging:

There are two types of codes the Bureau is allegedly able to pull from the vehicle via the OBD II uplink. The idea is most techs engaged in clean plugging will assure the vehicle does not have any “hard codes” that would illuminate the check engine light. However, under module 9, the Bureau alleges they are able to pull “soft codes,” also known as pending codes with the uplink.

Here’s how they catch a “clean plugger.” The soft codes do not illuminate the check engine light. It takes another cycle to confirm the presence of an issue and therefore illuminate the check engine light.

The Bureau purports to be able to pull pending codes when plugged in. The Bureau then purports to know every manufactures Diagnostic Trouble Code data in the form of Manufactures Manuals, All Data, and Mitchell books.

I don’t need to tell you about the incompleteness of these resources.

Some preliminary information about the incompleteness of diagnostic trouble code information available to the public is available here:


The fact of the matter remains, no one, save for the manufacturer, has the complete diagnostic trouble code information.

As some of us may be aware, some time ago, the EPA’s Clean Air Act required disclosure of the same diagnostic trouble code information available to franchised dealerships be made available to independent repair facilities.

In theory, this would grant independents the same access to DTC information as the dealers. This, however, was easily circumvented.

As we know, each manufacturer has created a manufacture specific scan technology, VW Vag, Nissan Consult, etc., which every franchise dealership is obligated to purchase as a part of their respective franchise agreement. New scanner? New purchase for the dealership – often at a friendly discount.

Contained in this magic box is the complete diagnostic trouble code database, which is crouched in “intellectual property” and “secrecy” of the sacredness of manufacturer “proprietary information.”

Needless to say, the released DTC information to the public is hardly comprehensive.

This of course is intended to drive troubleshooting to the dealership, creating the appearance of the “incompetent independent” who forces you to take your car to the dealership for anything above an oil change. This in essence, will drive traffic to dealerships service centers, a lucrative cash cow of the dealership.

The ancillary casualty of this expose is that the Bureau is now using “the bible” of DTC information, the manufactures specific manual, to suggest that it is the be all end all of DTC information.

The problem is, it isn’t.

Only the manufacturers have the complete diagnostic trouble code information – and they aren’t giving it up anytime soon.

So without any investigation, no surveillance, no undercover runs, no rechecking of vehicles to verify the lack of trouble codes, relying solely on a module pulling data that is irrelevant to the passage of the Smog Check Inspection, utilizing incomplete Diagnostic Trouble Code data information, the Bureau is shutting down facilities and taking away technician licenses.

All in the days work at the Bureau of Automotive Repair . . .


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