What Does a State Car Inspection Check for?

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An untold number of vehicles won’t pass an emissions test or smog check in their state. That’s one reason why most states have implemented mandatory inspections.
But state car inspections don’t just check for emissions standards, they check for a number of safety issues as well. So, what happens if your car fails a state car inspection? Here’s the low-down on vehicle inspections.

What Does a State Inspection Check?

To help prevent car accidents, most states require a state safety inspection at some point. Although each state determines which parts of a car must comply with their criteria, it’s mostly components that affect your ability to travel safely on the road.
State safety inspection checks like those required in Massachusetts often include:
  • A VIN and license place check
  • Brake inspection
  • Exhaust system inspection
  • Steering and suspension inspection
  • Horn, mirror, and light operation check
  • Tire condition inspection
  • Body and undercarriage check
  • Safety equipment inspection
Some states require that your car passes a smog check, too. In fact, more states require emissions inspections than safety inspections! This is to improve air quality and reduce environmental pollution from tailpipe emissions. Emissions tests typically include:
  • An On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) Test to analyze emissions component information, read diagnostic trouble codes, and ensure the OBD system is functioning properly in a readiness test.
  • A sniffer test where actual tailpipe emissions are measured.
  • An opacity test that measures the darkness of its tailpipe ‘smoke’.

Is a Smog Check Required?

Whether or not a smog check is mandatory for your car depends on where you live. Not only are there differences between states, but many cities and counties within the same state have different smog check requirements.

Is a Safety Inspection Mandatory?

For nearly all the states, a vehicle safety inspection is required to register your vehicle initially. For some, annual or bi-annual inspections are required to renew your car registration in the state.
Currently, only a handful of states don’t require vehicle safety inspections, including Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, South Carolina, and South Dakota. Six states only require inspections on out-of-state vehicles: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

My Car Failed an Inspection. What Do I Do?

If you’ve had your car tested and it failed, you’ll need to have repairs performed to bring it back into compliance. Unless your car is under warranty, those repairs will be at your own expense. Keep in mind that certain emissions components like the catalytic converter typically have a longer warranty period than your new vehicle limited warranty.
Common emissions test failures include parts like the oxygen sensors that regulate the air-fuel mixture, a faulty exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve, an engine misfire due to lack of maintenance, a failing catalytic converter, and emissions controls including a loose or leaking gas cap.

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