Most US states require periodic vehicle inspections. Depending on where you live, these inspections may focus only on emissions equipment or they may include more comprehensive safety checks. For owners of older vehicles, inspections can be nerve-wracking and potentially costly experiences. While these regulations help to keep the environment clean and the roads safe, that can sometimes be cold comfort when faced with an eye-watering repair bill. If a state-mandated inspection is on the horizon for your car, then there are a few steps you can take to prepare and ease the pain.
Learn Your State's Re-Test and Repair Policies
State inspections are rarely free, but many states offer one free re-test when your vehicle fails to pass muster. Some states may also waive re-testing fees if you present a repair bill that proves the total cost of repairs exceeds a certain amount. Before going in for your test, learn and thoroughly understand the policies for your state. If generous re-testing policies are not available, then you should strongly consider fixing any apparent problems rather than bringing your car into a testing center and hoping for the best.
Understand The Inspection Itself
If your state performs emissions-only inspections, then there isn't much that you can do to prepare in advance. Most emissions issues go unnoticed by drivers; although, a check engine light is always an automatic fail. This fact can be frustrating for many people, but the diagnostic system behind your check engine light monitors much of your vehicle's emissions equipment. An illuminated light always means trouble, and so testing centers will reject any car with this light out of hand.
For safety inspections, you will always be able to find a complete list of checked items on your state's transportation department website. Look this list over and pay special attention to maintenance items that you may have been putting off. Do your brake pads need replacement? Is your suspension or steering worn? How is your car's alignment? All of these items are common on state inspection checklists.
Decide Whether To Repair First
In most cases, it is not necessary to fix every small problem on your vehicle before having it inspected. State inspections ensure that your car is operating safely and cleanly, but they are not concerned with minor faults. However, there are several items that you should address to save yourself time, trouble, and the frustration of a re-test:
- Never go to a testing center with an illuminated check engine light; always have the problem diagnosed and repaired
- Replace worn tires if your state performs safety inspections
- You should always address squealing brakes or alignment issues before safety inspections, as well
- Make a note of any structural rust as many states will fail vehicles suffering from extreme rust on the frame or structural components
Inspections can be stressful, but with a little preparation, you can ease your mind and increase the chance that your vehicle will pass with flying colors. For more information, look for a shop that provides auto inspections.