What Are California's Emissions Standards?

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California is one of the most heavily populated states in the country. There are more vehicles on the road there than almost anywhere else in the country (statewide). Because of this, the state has had to adopt very strict emissions standards that are actually much more comprehensive than those instituted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Automakers have started designing their vehicles to meet these standards, even if they’ll be sold somewhere else in the US. What are California emissions standards?

A look at designations

There are three tiers to California emissions standards. These denote emissions regulations in the state as they’ve changed over the years. Note: LEV stands for Low Emissions Vehicle.

  • Tier 1/LEV: This designation means that a vehicle meets the California emissions regulations through 2003 (applies to older vehicles).

  • Tier 2/LEV II: This designation means the vehicle meets California emissions regulations as enacted from 2004 through 2010.

  • Tier 3/LEV III: This designation means that the vehicle meets the state’s emissions requirements from 2015 through 2025.

Other designations

You’ll find a host of different emissions standards designations in use (they’re located on the label under the hood of your car). These include:

  • Tier 1: The oldest designation, found primarily on cars manufactured and sold in 2003 or earlier

  • TLEV: This denotes that the vehicle is a Transitional Low Emissions Vehicle

  • LEV: Stands for Low Emissions Vehicle

  • ULEV: Stands for Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle

  • SULEV: Stands for Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle

  • ZEV: Stands for Zero Emissions Vehicle and is only applicable to electric cars, or other vehicles that produce no emissions at all.

You’re likely to encounter these designations on vehicle labeling all over the US because automakers were required to manufacture a specific percentage of vehicles to meet California emissions standards (whether those vehicles were ultimately sold in California or not). Note that Tier 1 and TLEV designations are no longer in use, and will only be found on older vehicles.


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Carlos

27 years of experience
319 reviews
Carlos
27 years of experience
Kia Optima - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Riverside, California
Second time Carlos has come to my place and hooked it up. First to diagnose and replace a starter then break pads, both done fast and perfect. Easy work for Carlos.
Toyota RAV4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Garden Grove, California
Carlos was awesome! Not only is he an expert, he's fair, honest, and goes above and beyond. I would hire him again, no question. Thanks, Carlos!

Gustavo

16 years of experience
139 reviews
Gustavo
16 years of experience
Ford F-150 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - New Braunfels, Texas
Very friendly and explains things if you are interested. I will continue to work with Gustavo any time I need auto work done - this is my second time out for a different car and will book him for my third car. Already have recommended Gus to my friends.
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - San Antonio, Texas
An amazing mechanic very hard working and fast. Very helpful with suggestions and comments on better maintenance of my car.

Robert

21 years of experience
62 reviews
Robert
21 years of experience
Dodge Challenger - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Fort Worth, Texas
On time, professional, very knowledgeable on vehicles and maintenance issues. Robert took the time to show the condition of parts and explain what did or did not need to be replaced or repaired. He is the best kind of mechanic and not someone who would scam a customer into more costly repairs. I had requested a brake pad replacement and Robert showed me that 3 of the 4 pads were in good condition and would not need replacing and even checked the rear pads for condition. I would highly recommend Robert because he is very ethical in his treatment of customers and because he is also a Veteran! GW

Roberto

8 years of experience
29 reviews
Roberto
8 years of experience
Land Rover Discovery Sport - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Scottsdale, Arizona
Roberto was very professional and courteous and did a great job on my brake replacement. I would recommend him for all services!

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