Afternoon Newsletter

Free smog tests tomorrow at Merced County Fairgrounds

Vehicle maintenance expenses can be an added and sometimes unexpected expense — especially in a tough economy.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and Valley Clean Air Now (CAN), a nonprofit, will give Merced County drivers the opportunity to receive a free car emissions test and diagnostic inspection on Saturday.

Drivers must have owned their car for at least six months to be eligible for the Tune In & Tune Up Car Clean-up Event.

For the first 525 cars that don’t pass the test but can be repaired, the driver will receive a voucher for up to $500 in emission related repairs at a local Gold Shield-certified smog shop.

“It’s shown to be a successful program in cleaning cars in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Anthony Presto, outreach and communications representative with the San Joaquin Valley Air District.

“This could be the difference between whether a driver can get their car registered or not. So this program helps people drive legally, save gas and drive clean,” Presto said.

He noted that the Department of Motor Vehicles fees pay for the expenses of the event.

Event organizers say drivers should expect a wait of two hours or more, but there will be free food and drinks while supplies last.

This is the third event in Merced in the last 18 months, and organizers expect to be back in the next six to eight months.

Since 2003, more than 2,000 cars have been repaired to state smog standards by the Tune In & Tune Up program, sponsors said.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 11th Street parking lot.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or