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How to Prepare Your Vehicle for a State Safety Inspection

BY: Larry Witherspoon Jr.
A mechanic checking a vehicle's tire tread during its safety inspection.

No matter where you live or the type of weather you get throughout the year, keeping your vehicle safe should be at the top of your to-do list. One of the best ways to do this is by regularly following your car’s recommended maintenance schedule, especially during the frigid winter months, as it can help you to prevent unwanted breakdowns.

Staying up-to-date with routine maintenance can also help when taking your car in for your state safety inspection. 

What Is a State Safety Inspection?

A state safety inspection is an annual inspection of the key safety points of your vehicle. This helps to ensure your vehicle is safe to drive on the road legally. It is also usually needed to register your vehicle. Depending on your state regulations, you may receive an inspection sticker at the inspection station when your vehicle passes, or you will provide proof of a passed car inspection to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to receive your vehicle registration. 

Some states may require an emissions test, which is an inspection of your car’s exhaust system to ensure it functions properly. Some aftermarket exhaust or muffler modifications can cause your vehicle to fail emissions testing. If your catalytic converter is failing or if you have a hole rusted in your muffler, you could also fail your emissions inspection.

A state safety inspection will look at other components and systems such as:

  • Exhaust System – to check proper function and to conduct emissions testing
  • Airbags – cars with missing airbags will fail their inspection
  • Windshield Wiperswindshield wipers must be in good condition
  • Turn Signals – turn signals must operate correctly 
  • Seat Belts – seat belts must operate correctly and tighten accordingly.
  • License Plate Lights – license plate lights should be functional
  • Brake Lights – brake lights must function correctly when brakes are applied
  • Tire Tread Depth – tires must not be worn down past wear indicators
  • Window Tint – window tint must be within the legal limit for your area
  • Gas Caps – gas caps must be present
  • Mirrors – mirrors must be intact and operational
  • Parking Brake/Emergency Brake – parking brake must be functional

How to Prepare Your Vehicle for Inspection

Preparing our vehicle for a state vehicle inspection is quite easy. However, this will depend on whether or not you have been keeping up with your car’s routine maintenance. To get your vehicle ready for a safety inspection, you will need to check over your vehicle to ensure all safety points are in good working order. Checking your state’s inspection requirement list can help you get a good outline of what you need to check. If you cannot find a vehicle safety inspection checklist for your state, check over the following:

  • Ensure there are no check engine lights or diagnostic trouble codes
  • Check that your wiper blades are in good condition
  • Check your headlights, tail lights, blinkers and flashers for proper operation
  • Check your tire tread depth to ensure it’s within proper specifications (often listed in your owner’s manual or on the tires themselves)
  • Check the operation of your car horn

You will also want to make sure that you have a valid license and active auto insurance when you go to have your vehicle inspected. The inspector will usually get into the driver’s seat and drive your vehicle around to inspect the operation of various components. 

It is suggested that all vehicle owners perform their own pre-inspection to save time and money when taking your vehicle to have it inspected. By identifying issues that would otherwise cause you to fail your inspection, you will have more time to get the issues resolved. With an Advantage auto protection plan from Endurance, you can have peace of mind knowing your vehicle is prepared for its next inspection service. Each Advantage package comes with comprehensive breakdown coverage and up to $3,500 in regular maintenance services, including up to three oil and filter changes, engine diagnostic exams and more, including state safety inspections. Not only that, but each Advantage package also comes with several other special, one-time services like cooling system maintenance or a replaced battery, helping you with even more coverage and savings. 

What Happens If My Car Fails a Safety Inspection?

If your vehicle fails inspection, you will be given 15 days to have the vehicle repaired and brought back for another inspection to avoid having to pay for a new test. If your vehicle fails due to a light being out or a missing lug nut, you can easily remedy the problem and return it to have it tested again. For more complex issues involving components such as a power steering system or fuel system issue that is throwing a check engine light, you will need to take your vehicle to a certified automotive repair shop or ASE Certified technician to complete the repairs quickly. 

If your vehicle fails a safety inspection twice, there may be certain consequences, depending on which state you are in. Some vehicles may be marked if they have violated or failed to meet a certain standard. This mark helps law enforcers to identify a “bad vehicle,” which is sometimes referred to as a “lemon.” You may also be fined for not passing a safety inspection a second time. This is used as a deterrent to ensure your vehicle is up to safety standards every year.

Get Your Vehicle Ready for a State Safety Inspection with Endurance

In order to keep your vehicle prepared for your annual safety inspection, it is vital to keep it properly maintained. By choosing a protection plan such as Advantage, you can get protection from unexpected breakdowns for selected components. With Advantage, you will get great benefits such as oil changes, tire rotations, and alignment checks included in your plan. You will also receive yearly engine diagnostic exams and state safety inspection services, as well as several other special, one-time services.

Endurance customers will also automatically be given access to additional benefits such as 24/7 roadside assistance, which come standard when purchasing any Endurance plan. Not only that, but each purchase will also make you eligible for an entire year’s worth of Endurance Elite Benefits, including perks such as key fob replacements, collision discounts and up to tow tire repairs or replacements.

Request a free, no-obligation quote today to get more information about any Endurance protection plan and visit the Learning Center to find more DIY tips and other helpful articles.

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