How To Understand and Pass State Vehicle Inspections

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    Not every State has Vehicle Inspections and the type of inspections your State may have will probably vary dramatically from the others around the country. Never the less it is something that many of us have to go through on an annual basis.

    One of the Worst things about inspections is when you fail for something very simple. Maybe you have a taillight out that you didn’t know about and that will require you hitting the store and buying the part then installing it and heading back to the DMV for a simple run through.

    Honestly I recently got hit by a Taillight but the thing is there was nothing wrong with it. I drove down the the local parts place to pickup a set of bulbs and asked the counter person to come out for a second and check which one was out for me.. He said they were all working! That really gets to me because I knew there wasn’t a problem but it seems the inspection guys at the State inspection Garage were simply screwing with me. This happens and it can happen for something as simple as a light or they can screw with your emissions test and make you fail. They know all the tricks to get a car to pass or fail and believe me its true because I am still certified as an inspection mechanic in the State I grew up in.


    What is the Vehicle Inspection procedure like?

    Like I said above each State is a little different on the actual things that must be tested and how they go about testing them.

    When I was a Mechanic we did the inspections at local garages. You could bring your vehicle to the Shop that you normally got work done at and they would have a licensed inspection mechanic go through all the steps and issue you a new Inspection Sticker.

    In the State that I currently reside in the State has regional Stations where you drive your car through and they do a rudimentary test of your car with an emphasis on the superficial and emissions. They started doing State Run inspections because local shops were ripping off people however like I said the State Mechanics are just as bad or worse because they think its a game. They will fail you to meet a quota and to protect their job where a local shop fails you to sell you parts.

    Having been part of the system I don’t like either situation but if a local shop fails you then you can always drive down the street and have another shop pass you. I had to do that once and that was while I was a mechanic. Inspection mechanics are not suppose to sign their own inspections. I guess you can understand why.. because they would simply pass their own vehicle no matter what was wrong with it but on the other hand it puts you back in the system.

    Shop run inspections normally take longer than State run inspections because they actually inspect the suspension, exhaust system and other parts of your vehicle. They will put your vehicle up on a lift and pull one front and one rear break and measure the thicknesses of your breaks. They will also visually inspect your suspension,frame and other parts for safety and will normally perform tests with specialized tools to get an accurate understanding if the parts are wearing. When they do emissions the mechanic will normally run your vehicle up on a dynamometer specifically designed for testing emissions when the speed of the car is at 55mph. No you can’t get the base horse power and torque measurements on these devices they aren’t for tuning race cars.

    In a State inspection you will drive your vehicle through a testing lane that passes through a long building. The first stop of the inspection will test your lights, wipers, general outside condition of the vehicle for major damage. They will then insert a emissions test probe in your exhaust to read the output on older cars or read your computer for any faults. Once you have passed through that test you will be told to drive your vehicle at a fast pace and stop on a special floor mat that has sensors in it. The mat is suppose to test your suspension and breaking ability but actually it does a very poor job at this because it only tests the physics of stopping distance. You could have major problems with your breaks and suspension and still pass this test or you could be light on your break foot and fail it.


    How to prepare for a Vehicle Inspection

    Whether you are having a state or local shop do your repairs there are lots of things that can save you money, time and headaches if you follow a few simple steps.

    The first thing you want to do is clean your car if its dirty. Just imagine being an inspection mechanic and if you see one that looks clean you are going to feel that it is better taken care of and maybe not be too hard on the little things. It doesn’t mean you will pass if something is wrong but they might grab a bulb off the shelf or a discount set of wiper blades just for the fact you didn’t bring a nasty stinking yucky car in for them to deal with first thing in the morning.

    After you clean up your car you want to have someone help you do a walk test and check all of your lights. This is really easy to do.

    Start at the drivers front fender and put on your headlights and high beams and left hand turn signal.

    Walk clockwise around the car and check the turn signals on the drivers side of the car remembering to check the fender turn signals or ones in the bumper. Check your headlights and parking lights and then do the same in the opposite direction with the right turn signal on.

    Drop the headlights to low beam and check there is no difference and those lights light independently.

    Now you have to check your license plate lights, your reverse lights and your brake lights. With a helper have them stand to the rear of the vehicle about 10 feet away and out of line of the car in case you have problems. Put your car in park and check the break lights on both sides and if you have a rear window light check that. Now have them check your license plate lights and finally with your foot on the brake place the car in reverse. The car does not have to be running but it can be.

    Once all your lights are working the next thing to do is check the glass in the car. Walk around the vehicle and make sure there are no cracks in the glass. Any crack does matter the size or location will not let you pass. Now check the operation of the drivers side front window. It should go up and down easily to the full extents. Finally test the windshield wipers  by starting the wipers without water on the windshield they should still make a pass across the windshield and this tests the motor. Next hit the windshield with a bit of water to test the washer pump. If you have rear wipers normally they do not need to work for inspection but they might ask you depending on your State.

    While you are in the car check to make sure that your seat belts are all there and work. This is important if you have just bought a car. They must all be there and work to pass. The same is true for your airbag so if you have a dashboard light for it you will need it serviced.

    Next rev the engine to 2500RPM and keep it at that for a minute. You want the rpms to be steady and not vary. If you can not keep the RPMs at a steady level you may need to service your injectors, intake or other engine part such as a vacuum line leak.

    Next you want to check your tires. First make sure that there is even wear on the tires and there are no deformations of the tread like cupping or exposed metal from the radial cords. You can measure the depth of your tires with a penny. You insert the penny into the tread you want it deep enough that you can’t see the top of lincoln’s head BUT most people get that wrong so just ask a mechanic when getting gas.

    Next is a test drive. You want to drive your car down a road with no one else on it and the road should be flat. You can also test in an empty parking lot. Get up to about 25mph and try a hard stop. The car should not pull to the left or right and it should not hop. Then drive the car on a flat surface and let go of your wheel and make sure the car does not pull to either side. The first test is for your brakes and the second test was for your suspension. If you have a slight pull to either side that is not as important as if your car pulled hard enough that you had to compensate. Most cars will pull slightly on standard roads because the road surface has a built in angle to shed water when it rains.

    If you have not been having problems with a check engine light coming on you still might want to pull your battery positive cable for 5 minutes. This will reset your computer. As long as you don’t have a check engine between then and the time you are tested at a State Emissions Facility you have a pretty good chance of passing.

    Final Note

    I would never try to cheat emissions by using fuel additives. That like trying to cheat a drug test at work by drinking lemon juice. Its just not going to work.

    The fact is you really shouldn’t be trying to cheat inspections but on the other hand you don’t want some mechanic or State employee screwing with you.

    If you go through the steps above and you fail and you know that brake light was working 10 minutes ago then.. might be time to call over a manager. Then again that rarely helps you just end up having the employee defended and then they remember who you are.

    I am not really sure how to deal with these people maybe anonymous complaints a few weeks after your visit might help if the owners or supervisors are honest… yeah heh thats funny isn’t it.

    good luck.


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