Car Safety Inspections and Your Ride

Car safety inspections are procedures mandated by various government authorities to ensure that all vehicles on the road meet a set of safety standards. These inspections can include checking a vehicle’s safety features, mechanical condition, and emissions output, depending on the specific requirements of the authority conducting the inspection. They’re designed to minimize accidents caused by vehicle malfunction and to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles.

car safety inspection
Car safety inspections often include emissions testing.

States that Require Vehicle Safety Inspections

The following U.S. states require periodic vehicle safety inspections:

Illinois (only in specific areas)
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
West Virginia

It should be noted that these requirements can change, so it’s always best to check the current regulations with your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) or equivalent agency.

Requirements of Vehicle Safety Inspections

While the specifics of vehicle safety inspections can vary from state to state, several common elements are typically inspected:

Brakes: The vehicle’s brakes must be in good working order.

Tires: Tires must have a certain amount of tread depth remaining and be free of significant damage. For instance, in Virginia, tires must have at least 2/32 inches of tread left, otherwise it is rejected.

Lights: All vehicle lights (headlights, tail lights, brake lights, turn signals) must be functioning properly.

Windshield & Windows: Windshields and windows should not have cracks or other damage that can obstruct the driver’s view.

Seat Belts: All seat belts should be in good working order.

Steering and Suspension: These systems should be functioning correctly without excessive play or wear.

Exhaust System: The vehicle’s exhaust system should not have leaks and should meet the state’s emissions requirements. Emissions testing typically involves checking the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics (OBD-II) system for codes indicating that the engine is not burning fuel efficiently or that the catalytic converter (which helps to break down harmful pollutants into less harmful substances) is not functioning properly. In some states, a tailpipe probe might also be used to measure the actual amount of pollutants being released by the vehicle.

Mirrors: All mirrors should be intact and provide the driver with adequate visibility.

Horn: The vehicle’s horn must work correctly.

Fluid Leaks: There should not be any significant fluid leaks.

Again, these requirements can vary, and additional items might be checked depending on your location.

Best Ways to Keep Track of Car Safety

There are several effective strategies for staying on top of car safety:

Annual Reminders from the State: Some states send reminders when it’s time for your annual safety inspection. This is a helpful way to ensure you’re meeting the state’s requirements.

Following the Maintenance Guidelines in the Owner’s Manual: Your vehicle’s owner’s manual will provide a maintenance schedule for various components of your car. Following this schedule can help keep your vehicle in top shape and pass safety inspections.

Working with a Trusted Mechanic: Regular check-ups with a mechanic you trust can ensure that essential repairs are handled before inspections. They can also provide you with insights into potential issues that might need attention before your next inspection.

Vehicle Safety Inspection Apps: Some apps provide reminders about upcoming safety inspections and maintenance tasks.

Setting Personal Reminders: Setting reminders in your digital calendar or physical planner can also be a reliable method of remembering upcoming inspections or routine maintenance.

Regular Self-Checks: Simple, routine self-checks, such as checking tire pressure, fluid levels, and light functionality, can also help maintain vehicle safety and readiness for inspection.

Prioritize Car Safety

Vehicle safety inspections are pivotal in promoting road safety and environmental sustainability. Familiarizing yourself with your state’s specific requirements and adhering to proactive maintenance can ensure your vehicle’s compliance and longevity. Ultimately, maintaining a well-serviced vehicle contributes to a safer driving environment for all.


Periodic Vehicle Inspection/Diesel Emission. Illinois Department of Transportation.

19VAC30-70-500. Tires, wheels, rims. State of Virginia.

(2023, May 19). The 10 Best Vehicle Inspection App Picks for 2023. Safety Culture.

See AlsoIIHS Finds Back Seat Passenger Safety Lacking in Most Midsize SUVs

Photo Attribution

Inset image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Story photo under license from Adobe Stock.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

Leave a Reply