Celebrating the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s 50th Anniversary
Established in 1972 to protect consumers through regulation of the automotive repair industry, the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) is proud to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Since its creation following enactment of the 1971 Automotive Repair Act, BAR has protected consumers from unethical and unlawful business practices in the automotive repair industry and empowered Californians through consumer assistance programs. Legislation passed in 1984 made BAR the administrator of the California Smog Check Program and, as such, BAR has implemented programs to reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality.
Over the years, BAR has worked tirelessly to develop and improve programs vital to the protection of consumers and the environment and to strengthen regulatory functions to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace. Through the dedication of its employees and work with its various stakeholders, BAR continues to innovate and adapt programs and services in tandem with increasingly sophisticated automotive technology.
“Born out of the need for consumer protections in repair transactions, BAR has grown to be a defining force in automotive repair regulation, consumer advocacy, vehicle safety, and emissions testing not only in California, but throughout the United States and abroad,” said Bureau Chief Patrick Dorais. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff and engagement by stakeholders, BAR will build on its 50 years of accomplishments and continue to meet future challenges.”
In the most recent decade of its 50-year history, BAR has had many successes in promoting consumer protection, advancing the Smog Check Program, and reducing vehicle emissions. Some highlights include:
- Smog Check Program Enhancements – In 2013, BAR restructured the Smog Check Program. The restructure included three new license types, improved inspection standards, and implementation of the STAR Program, which certifies high-performing Smog Check technicians and stations to better protect consumers and help the state meet required emissions reductions.
- Mobile Automotive Repairs – Regulations adopted by BAR in 2017 help consumers more easily identify and verify the license of a mobile automotive repair business prior to enlisting their services. The regulations require mobile businesses to include identifying information in all forms of advertisements, both online and on the business vehicle.
- Electronic Estimates and Authorizations – To advance the use of information and communication technologies, BAR adopted regulations in 2018 to allow electronic estimates and authorizations in auto repair transactions. Consumers can authorize electronic estimates for repairs to their vehicle conveniently by text message or other electronic communication.
- Auto Training Opportunities – In 2019, BAR established the Cars for Schools program, which provides retired vehicles to public high schools, community colleges, and regional occupation programs throughout the state to enhance hands-on training for students preparing for careers in the automotive repair industry.
- Licensure Resources and Assistance – BAR implemented various expedited licensure resources and assistance options benefiting military members, military family members, refugees, asylees, and holders of special immigrant visas.
- Vehicle Safety Recall Awareness – BAR partnered with CARFAX and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation to incorporate vehicle safety recall information into the Smog Check Program in April 2020. Consumers are notified when their vehicle has open recalls at the time of inspection; recall details are printed on the vehicle inspection report provided to consumers after each Smog Check. BAR also partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 13 vehicle manufacturers to mail letters to nearly 1.3 million vehicle owners in California affected by Takata air bag recalls. The number of air bag recall repairs in California increased by 64%.
- Consumer Financial Assistance – Emergency regulations adopted by BAR in 2020 increased the state’s contribution toward emission repairs under the Consumer Assistance Program from a maximum of $500 to $1,200 for eligible consumers.
- Auto Shop Locator – The Auto Shop Locator, launched in 2020, is a mobile-friendly web application that allows consumers to perform location-based searches of licensed automotive repair shops. Consumers can filter their search results by the type of services needed, including Smog Check, brake and lamp inspections, and categories of automotive repair such as auto body and transmission repairs. The locator also clearly identifies licensees that are on probation or the subject of a pending disciplinary action by BAR.
Although much has changed since BAR’s beginning, the mission to protect and serve Californians remains the same. BAR looks forward to ongoing and future collaborative efforts to develop new ideas that build upon its already successful endeavors to strengthen regulatory functions, increase consumer protection, and help clean California’s air.
Consumers are reminded that in all automotive repair transactions, an auto shop must provide an estimate and obtain authorization from the consumer before beginning any repairs, obtain additional authorization if additional repairs are needed, and provide a final invoice describing all repairs performed and parts provided in terms the consumer can understand. Prior to authorizing any repairs, consumers are encouraged to ask the business to clearly explain what repairs are being performed, why those repairs are needed, and the estimated cost. Consumers can use BAR’s Auto Shop Locator to easily find licensed shops providing auto repair and other services in their area. To verify the license of an auto shop or professional and check for possible disciplinary actions, visit search.dca.ca.gov.