California is starting to crack down on unapproved ECU tunings today. Here’s why
Since 2013, California’s government position has been that a vehicle’s software is part of its factory-fitted emission control devices and that the owner manipulates the emission controls by modifying the software on the vehicle as if he were removing the core from the car’s catalytic converter.
The biggest change is that the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (CBAR), the agency overseeing the smog check process, has now officially started enforcing the existing regulation.
It seems that consumers could be an unfortunate victim in California’s ongoing war against polluting automakers and aftermarket companies who willingly violate the EPA’s Clean Air Act or their own approved regulations. CARB, in particular, sees its trust in automakers as shaken – something that apparently stems from the study commissioned by CARB that uncovered Volkswagen’s infamous Dieselgate scandal in 2014.
“Since the early days of computer-controlled vehicles, software has always been an important part of the emission control system,” said a CARB spokesman The drive by email. “That’s why we have always been very clear with the industry that it is their responsibility to obtain an EO to ensure that their modifications are legal for their customers. After OEMs broke our trust with their software fraud, there was ample evidence that we were going to use all available tools “to make sure everyone obeyed the rules, including the aftermarket.”
Some aftermarket companies like Cobb and APR tackled this problem head on looking for CARB approvals for their respective software products. However, getting CARB certification itself is a whole process that may be too expensive for new businesses or individuals looking to tune their own vehicles.
What this means for the future of driving in California and other states adopting CARB standards is really unclear. Now the companies that refuse to participate and their ignorant consumers are seemingly persona non grata.
Aftermarket tunes will find their way back into the state and onto the ECUs of non-compliant cars. How California will approach this development is still unknown, although it seems that the race for a non-incineration future could be the biggest player in ridding the state of offensive cars.
California politics may seem quite jaded, but the internet (the internet) is rife with misinformation on the subject. Facebook groups are being overrun with enthusiasts fearing their cars will fail before OBD-II, and those with standard tunes are confused about what to do next.
CBAR has compiled a list of frequently asked questions, but getting the information into human readable format is tricky, which is why we have compiled a comprehensive list for you to read here.
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