Once in a while we have a new customer come in who wants to get their BMW serviced because of a check engine light. We start diagnosing and pop the hood then see some extra equipment under the hood of the car. Then we realize that it is a California emissions car and the check engine light is on for some reason related to the special emission systems. This is going to get complicated real quick.
California emissions BMW cars come with extra equipment and are more complicated and electronically sensitive to anything relating to the fuel delivery and exhaust management. When you start your car in the morning the computer makes your car run rich (add extra fuel) to warm up your catalytic converters to get them hot enough to work at optimal temperature. This system is not fast enough for California emissions cars which have a secondary air injection system that pumps air into your exhaust to get your catalytic convertors hotter faster. The catalytic converters are also special to take advantage of this system and cost a premium when they need to be replaced. The evaporative emissions systems are also more complicated requiring more premium components.
When purchasing a used BMW, we recommend looking for the “Vehicle Emission Control Information” sticker in the engine compartment stuck in the underside of the hood and if it states “California SULEV”, which stands for Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle then you have a California emissions compliant BMW and you can expect it to have more complicated emissions control components.