Please Help - Failed Smog Test

I took my 97 Accent GT in to get it smog tested today. The guy said it passed emissions fine, but failed due to some electronic thing that he hooked up on the front left dashboard. Said
it would not communicate with the car properly.
It says on my report: FAILED DUE TO OBD2 Communication problem recommend diagnosis $65.
On the official VIR it says : "FAIL System Malfunction Light"
"vehicle failed the MIL/Check Engine Light due to OBD communications failure"
Everything else is either a PASS or a NOT APPL.
What does this failure mean? (the check engine light was NOT on, so I don't know what the above "system malfunction light" refers to)
What is the best way to proceed? What should I expect to pay for fixing this? Is it something I need a dealer repair place to fix, or can any good mechanic trace it down and fix it?
Any input from you experts would be appreciated! Thanks!
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DanKaye wrote:

I may well be wrong, but it sounds like it's complaining that your "Check Engine" light is burned out. It could be something as simple as a bulb, but you'd have to pop the dash off to get to it.
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It simply means the station's scan tool wouldn't communicate with the car. It's possible your car has a problem, but it's also possible it's a vehicle that some scan tools have difficulty communicating with. I checked for TSBs pertaining to this issue and found none.
I don't know how emissions testing works where you are (California, if I recall), but if independent shops do the emissions testing, you may wish to take your car to a local Hyundai dealer for the emissions test if you can do that. Their scan tool will be able to communicate with the vehicle if nothing is wrong with it. If your check engine lamp comes on for a few seconds when you turn on the key and start the car, all is probably well.
The purpose of checking it with a scanner is to verify that there are no fault codes stored and that the system monitoring tests have run and passed.
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On Thu, 08 Dec 2005 13:05:38 -0500, "hyundaitech"

What's a TSB? Some kind of report on problems with certain cars?

Yes, California.

Independent garages do the testing, here, but I have my doubts as to whether or not a Hyundai dealer would have a contract to do that, as they probably make a lot more money doing other things (like any repair they do, which they inflate the price about 30-50% higher than other garages) I'll call and ask, though. But I would hate to get stuck with them doing the repair, as they will charge me an arm and a leg.

So that would mean there is not a problem with my light, that it is THEIR testing device? or what?

But here's my dilemma as I see it: First of all, I went to this place who promised a free retest, but then they told me that it's only a free retest if I have the repair work done with THEM. So if I don't get the repair done with them, I am out $30-40 more. The other thing is, now I am afraid to re-test with them because maybe their tester is not communicating properly with my car. In which case I need to go somewhere else...
Secondly, the nearest dealer is 30-40 min. away which means if it does not pass there, I would be stuck paying them their exorbitant repair prices to remove the dash and track down the problem...
Also, the complication that if I test again and it fails, a 2nd time, doesn't failing a 2nd time require it to be fixed at a special station or something like that?
My check engine light did come on recently, when a connector for the air flow sensor came loose (about 2 weeks ago), so I doubt the problem is the bulb is burnt out.
IF the problem is indeed that the garage's testing device is not the right one for my car, then I have to go back to another place, not there. But how do I know if the next place I go to does not also have the same problem???
This is turning into a goddamned nightmare. If they're going to require smog tests, then the damned machines should all work correctly! Otherwise, someone like me could spend hundreds of dollars trying to fix a problem that is not my problem at all, but rather the problem of the machine the Station is using.
I'm confused as to how to proceed...
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TSB stands for Technical Service Bulletin. Hyundai has released none pertaining to this issue for your vehicle.
Don't think that going to the dealer means they have to do the repair. If the dealer gets the same results, don't you still have the option of going back to the original facility for repairs? If there is something wrong with you car, it could be an extensive repair, so not knowing the capabilities and expertise of the original shop, I don't really know the feasability of them doing the repairs.
Normal operation for your check engine lamp is for it to come on for a few seconds when you start the vehicle. It's intended to tell you the lamp is working properly. If the lamp goes out, it typically means there have been no failures for at least the last three drive cycles.
Honestly, I can't tell you if a second failure requires a repair at a separate station. Perhaps someone here with more California knowledge can tell you. Or, you could try to contact CARB yourself.
Did the same place that did the emissions check repair the car for the faulty connector? If so, they should have a scanner capable of communicating with your vehicle. Whoever did that repair obviously had the capability of communicating at that time to be able to read teh code. If it's not the same facility, does the place that did your repair do emissions testing? This may be an alternative avenue to seeking the dealer for the emissions test.
Unfortunately, the communication issue is complicated. In 1997, there were several communication protocols that were used. While all cars met the required protocols and generic scan tools were in most cases designed to communicate with all protocols, some tools still had difficulty communicating with some vehicles. This is actually another reason to contact CARB. They should have a list of vehicles that don't communicate well with scan tools and should be able to tell you whether yours is one of those vehicles.
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On Thu, 08 Dec 2005 17:07:43 -0500, "hyundaitech"

Got it.

I just checked. There is no dealer that does smog checks around here, as I suspected. They will diagose the problem for $95 and apply that towards parts and labor. The worst part of this is that the nearest dealer is 30-40 minutes away which means I'd have to drive down there early in the morning on my day off and stay there until they were done. THEN, I'd have to pay to recheck it down there so that if it failed again for the same problem I could take it right back to THEM. Basically this could be an entire day shot to hell, PLUS the money which now includes paying yet another smog check station. Sorry if I'm venting. This is very frustrating. The car runs fine, is running clean according to the emissions test, and yet I have to jump through all these hoops!

Okay, so if it comes on okay, when I start, how could it be that it fails the smog check? I am thinking I may have gotten a false testing/failing from this station.

I called the BAR, they said I can keep testing it and fixing it until it passes, and if it costs more than $450 I can apply for help with the cost, or something like that. God forbid.

No, I WISH it were that simple. The guy who did the faulty connector repair and tune up does not do smog checks.

No, (I could be wrong here, but) I think he just saw the cable disconnected, connected it and saw that it was then running fine. He may have that scanner, though. I'll ask.

They don't do it.

What is CARB and how do I contact them? Do you mean BAR, the California Bureau of Auto Repairs? And if there IS an issue with my vehicle not communicating well with scan tools, what then? Will they tell me a special place to go that does? And will I get my money back from the first place that didn't communicate with my vehicle correctly?
I'm now debating whether to spend a day driving down to the Hyundai Dealer and retesting down there at added cost and time, or just giving my local Mazda guy a chance and then being able to re-test here for free. IF he can do the job it will be a lot easier for me and probably cheaper too. But if he can't then I'm just wasting time and money... Tough choice... Guess I'll call my local guy and just ask him point blank if he thinks he can handle it or if I should take it to Hyundai and see what he says...
Thanks again.
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I thought CARB was the California Air Resources Board, but there seems to be good info from BAR. Unfortunately, my knowledge is very limited and I don't think I can be of much more use regarding who to contact governmentally.
You might try calling the shop that did the connector repair and asking them about whether they used a scan tool and whether it communicated.
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On Thu, 08 Dec 2005 17:07:43 -0500, "hyundaitech"

Found this document (below) on the BAR web site. If this is what you are talking about it appears that my car is not on this list: http://www.smogcheck.ca.gov/ftp/pdfdocs/OBDproblems.pdf
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That looks similar to what I'm talking about. Even if your car isn't on that list, they may still have info that isn't listed there. So if you haven't done so already, you may want to ask them if they know of any specific issues with your car and certain scan tools.
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DanKaye wrote:

Here is a classic example of government bureaucracy. They admit the car is not poluting but still fail it. It's none of their damn business if the OBD2 port is not working.
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Well, it's not quite that simple. This is one of the ways the state makes sure your car hasn't been tampered with and that everything emissions-related is working properly. That's the whole point of the standardized OBD-II connector and system. They can check and see that everything checks out okay.
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