Smog Check Undercover Vehicles Are Like “Secret Shoppers” With Serious Biases

You’ve probably heard of secret shoppers. Companies will many times hire people to visit a business with the intention of investigating the quality of service and goods. Understanding how a company’s “boots on the ground” customers see them is normally a good thing for the business.a pair of keys and gavel for an auto repair and SMOG shop issues

The basic responsibilities of a secret shopper are to observe the shops’ location, follow an assigned task, pay attention to details and make a report. The experience for the staff should appear to be a normal one. In the area of retail, a mystery shopper might help a company find out where they are excelling and where they can make improvements. In the end this can be a very positive experience.

Yet, when it comes to regulatory agencies, a “mystery shopper” working for the Bureau of Automotive Repair can cause more harm than good. For instance, let’s look at the situation around SMOG check undercover vehicles. Instead of looking for a smog shop to do something right, a BAR investigator typically pays more attention to what they believe the technician is doing wrong. And the undercover car is the avenue to get evidence of that wrongdoing, not to fairly access the SMOG testing and repair process. This experience for the smog technician isn’t normal since the abnormalities in the “mystery car” are not typical to find. It’s like a covert operation in the SMOG testing and auto repair community!

Yes, it’s the purpose of the Bureau of Auto Repair to monitor and enforce compliance in the automotive repair industry, but an undercover car can be designed to set SMOG technicians up to fail at their job.

It’s no mystery what an undercover vehicle intends to do

These covert vehicles aim to catch a technician violating regulations. And our legal team have been in court many times showing how that’s done. This is one reason why the BAR undercover car program is so controversial. For instance, most of the problems under the hood of these cars are intentionally hidden from the normal view of a technician. Meaning technicians are being put in a position to inspect the car in a way they normally don’t. We believe this is entrapment and have proven it in court during past cases.

Subtle modifications and hard to inspect anomalies are part of these BAR cars mode of operation. Here are a few tell tale signs of a smog check undercover vehicle;

  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) labels are missing. These are essential for compliance.
  • The Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN does not have a testing history.
  • Look for modified components like loose spark plugs and timing errors. If the timing is off that could be an indicator this is an undercover car.
  • Taped parts are used to conceal alterations, pay attention to this.
  • If a heater hose is used for PVC (positive crankcase ventilation) this is not normal.
  • Checking for disconnected parts may be normal procedure, but be extra diligent.
  • Hidden cameras are inside to collect data, gather evidence and document violations.

While a smog check undercover vehicle is being serviced, the mystery shopper is engaging with the technicians to evaluate their professionalism and customer service skills. They are also peppering the technician with questions to analyze their honesty about the situation. This is all meant to catch subpar smog stations and auto repair shops in fraudulent practices and protect customers. It’s also to ensure the shop complies with state regulations.

It’s a good thing when a BAR smog check undercover vehicle ends up in a substandard auto shop. They can save customers from dangerous issues such as unknowingly accepting counterfeit or non-compliant parts during repairs. Or by helping customers avoid smog check fraud ( by shady operators. This part of their job is what they do best, identify unsavory and unregistered or salvaged vehicle businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the practices of a smog check undercover vehicle can also entrap honest technicians. Sneaky tactics that do not reflect a normal car testing can create a biased atmosphere for a high-standards SMOG testing shop. This is one reason why the BAR autos are called trap cars!

If you’ve been trapped by a mystery car, contact us. Our legal team will handle the legal proceedings for any accusation and corrective actions the Bureau of Auto Repair is charging you with. To review how we deal with smog check undercover vehicles, take a look at our video;

And make sure while your managing smog checks to keep an eye out for suspicious issues under the hood of a “secret shopper” car!


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