Reply to "Engine replacement"

I received an answer from the CA CARB people today regarding two owner scenarios. It seems engine modifications are covered under CA code VC 27156. Below are the two scenarios and the CARB board reply.

Dear Sir or Madame:

My question is what specific CA code(s) controls the following scenarios.
Also, what, if any, are the consequences to a vehicle owner in the scenario.
What if any corrections might need to be made? Under what conditions could
or would a police officer have the right to inspect and cite if able, the
owner of such a modified vehicle? Are these potential enforcements (if any)
common or basically ignored by officers?

Scenario #1 Mr. Jones has a vehicle manufactured between 1971 and 1974 legally sold
new in CA. Scenario #2 A gray market car not sold new in CA, registered in another
state manufactured between 1986 and 1989.

In both cases the owner decides to remove his OEM engine and replace it with
a 500hp hot rod engine with no attempt to maintain any original emission
equipment. Since he is smog testing exempt he feels he has no potential
adverse consequences with this modification.

#2 Grey market car, legally registered in another state intended for CA.
Can the car be registered in CA and under what conditions.

I am under the impression that owner #1 is in violation of the CA law and
returning the engine to OEM specifications would be required.

Could you please advise me on this matter.


California Vehicle Code Section 27156 applies to all vehicles subject to either CARB or US EPA certification regardless of whether they are tested under the current Smog Check program or not. Over the years there have been several changes to California's Smog check program, but no changes has been made to VC 27156. Since car #1 was CA certified it must maintain its original emissions control system or follow the requirements for Executive Order modifications or the current engine change policy to remain in compliance with VC 27156. Vehicles receiving citations under this VC code section must be cleared by a state referee test station regardless of the model year of the vehicle.

As for car #2, CA Health and Safety Code section 44202 requires all 1975 and newer Direct Import (greymarket) vehicles to obtain a CA Certificate of Conformance at a CA certified lab in order to be registered in California. Since this is a performance based requirement, the engine the vehicle owner chooses to use in the vehicle is not an issue since the test will prove compliance (or failure) with the emission standard for the year of the vehicle. It is in the owners best interest to select an engine and emission control system capable of meeting the standard and that is durable. This is because once the vehicle passes the Direct Import (lab test) the selected engine and emissions control system becomes the "certification package" that must be maintained, and is prohibited from being modified as with any other CA certified vehicle. In other words the "hot rod" engine can be used in the greymarket vehicle provided the end result is a vehicle which passes the direct import standards for the model year for the vehicle.

As for the issues and policies regarding enforcement of emissions regulations on individually owned and operated vehicles outside of the regular smog check program I would recommend contacting the California Highway Patrol or your local police department. Should you have any questions or need additional assistance please contact us at (800) 242-4450.


Subject: engine replacement
From: "Percy Hill"