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Old 03-13-2003, 01:26 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Fairfax County, Virginia
Posts: 856
1989 300SEL not passing updated California emissions test

My friend's 1989 300SEL, with about 160K on it (no oil burning, runs very, very well and is maintained quite well by a very interested husband and a competent independent shop) recently failed the California emissions test ... I don't know which category of emissions was the problem ... we did not connect well on the technical issue.

She took the car to three places - two indies and one dealer and got the same response ... "your car won't pass the new rules in California." Her numbers are actually lower than three years ago, but new rules put her below the line. There is nothing wrong with her numbers .... just rules change ...?

Can someone enlighten me what this means? Have they toughened up rules without grandfathering? She was told at all three places that the car likely has little value in California because of this ...

If this is true, what can she do to modify her engine (change timing, use additives, change thermostat to hotter, etc) that might get her back above the line?

Should I buy it and take it back to Virginia with me? It is nearly flawless with new transmission, tires, chromed wheels, etc.

Thanks for any advice!
George Stephenson
1991 350 SDL (200K and she ain't bent, yet)
former 2002 E320 4Matic Wagon - good car
former 1985 300 CD - great car
former 1981 300 TD - good car
former 1972 280 SEL - not so good car
a couple of those diesel Rabbits ...40-45 mpg
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Old 03-13-2003, 10:25 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: SoCal
Posts: 1,303
The lack of technical information makes it impossible to answer. You need to ask the testers what concerns them. How do you know the car tests lower now than it did three years ago? If it failed emissions, this means it doesn't. The same parameters are measured as specified when the vehicle was manufactured. Your friend would have been given a printout with all the information.

As far as I am aware, the only thing that has changed with the new testing procedures is the requirements that a dynamometer setup be incorporated, and that a 'test only' facility be used on vehicles above a certain age (if so ordained by the DMV). Since results are transmitted directly to the DMV, cheating is much harder too.

Finally, if the issue is an incompatibility between the CIS engine management and testing procedures, mediation needs to be done with an appeal to CARB, and there would be a lot of interest in this case.

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Old 03-13-2003, 03:25 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 20,114
From what little I've read, they changed the testing procedure, not the emissions limits. Now there's a dyno test, not just a 2500rpm idle test.

Why would that change anything? Cars like that have been tested using Smog Check II in LA and Sac county for years?

91 300SE
87 300SDL
83 300SD
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Old 03-13-2003, 07:46 PM
sergio's Avatar
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5
I don't want to advertise here but I think that this is a good cause.
If its combustible is gasoline, try to fit an Ecotek device in the engine. If your friend's problem is lowering emissions, this valve could do miracles. I tested one by myself.

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