Retrofit program to cut old car emissions by 60 percent

Older, more-polluting vehicles account for about 30 percent of all smog-forming emissions in San Diego. New technology can change that.

unique program designed to help 1975-81 vehicles that fail smog check is now underway. The program retrofits these vehicles with a new technology upgrade kit that reduces smog-forming emissions by 60 percent. The kit consists of an exhaust manifold feedback computer to control the air/fuel mixture and a three-way catalytic converter. The kit was developed by Neutronics Enterprises of Rancho Bernardo, contractor for the project, and is funded by the Air Pollution Control Board.
A total of 1,350 cars will be modified, reducing mobile source emissions in the region by more than 57 tons over the next three years.
"This retrofit program provides the first real alternative for older cars that fail smog checks to be upgraded to reduce air pollution," said Supervisor Ron Roberts, chairman of the San Diego Air Pollution Control Board and a member of the California Air Resources Board. "Other air districts throughout the United States and automotive people from around the world are interested in this program because it efficiently reduces older vehicle emissions for a relatively low cost."
The cost per pound of emissions reduced is between $4.50 and $5.50. The cost of the smog check program is $6 to $7 per pound of emissions reduced.


The retrofit involves replacing the old two-way catalytic converter with a new three-way unit that also reduces nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emissions that contribute to smog formation. Three-way catalytic units were not required on cars until 1982. A computer is also added to maintain an ideal exhaust gas mixture so the catalytic converter operates efficiently.
The value of the retrofit is $500. The cost of the kit will be paid by the Air Pollution Control District from the vehicle registration fund. This $617,500 retrofit program is one of ten local projects to receive a grant from the District's vehicle registration fund. Car owners may be required to spend up to $150 in tune-up and repair costs to qualify for the upgrade kit.
Since the new catalytic converters will fail if the car is unable to achieve complete combustion, the vehicle must first undergo a mechanical inspection to determine if it can be retrofitted. Examples of mechanical problems that need to be fixed include bad rings, bent or burnt valves and ignition systems that misfire.

Is this for you?

Persons whose 1975-81 cars and light duty trucks have failed smog check and are interested in an upgrade should call 674-2252 for information on locations authorized to do retrofits. Cars that fail smog check are not eligible for the Air District's old vehicle buyback and crushing program but could be eligible for this program.
A pilot demonstration project funded by the District two years ago involved 13 cars in a rigorous protocol test that resulted in the upgrade kits receiving California Air Resources Board certification and Bureau of Automotive Repair approval.