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Matthew Wright

Did Your Car Fail Inspection?

By July 15, 2012

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Anyone who drives a car with a serious number of miles on the odometer has probably failed a state safety or emissions inspection. There are so many variables including who is evaluating your vehicle that can determine a pass or fail. If your car has recently failed, it's a good idea to check with your state to find out what to do next. I put together a database of links to your state DMV's inspection information, Check out the list and be armed with information before you decide what your next move will be.
July 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm
(1) craiger says:

I’ve lived in New York State for 47 years, they have had one of the nation’s most rigorous inspection laws for all that time. One thing I have learned is if you know cars and your car fails and you don’t think it should, don’t fight city hall.

Ask around and find another inspection shop who will be more reasonable. I had a rusty 1995 Ford Escort. The body rot underneath was pretty bad. It failed at one shop for body rot in the area where the rear trailing arms attach to the undercarriage.

I spent a lot of time MIG welding in new 14 gauge sheet metal and I reinforced that area beyond what I thought was necessary. Brought it back to the first shop and they still refused to pass it. Two options: sell the car for scrap or find a way to get it past inspection.

Brought it to another shop, the guy took a quick look at my repairs and he said it looked real sturdy and he’s seen a lot worse which passed inspection. They passed my car with flying colors.

Moral of the story, there’s a huge variation in shops around the state. Don’t take no for an answer if you know cars and know what you are doing is safe and reasonable.

Ain’t it fun dealing with Big Brother?


July 25, 2012 at 10:28 am
(2) Ron D- says:

Some years ago my 10 year old Dodge D50 pickup failed the emissions inspection in California due to a burned valve. After getting a valve job done I was required to take it to a special State-Operated inspection station 30 miles away for retesting. At the inspection station the car in front of me was an older Honda. An extended discussion was going on as the inspector said the Honda failed inspection because a decal on the inside of the hood showing, IIRC, the proper timing was faded. The owner explained that he had written Honda in the US and Japan and they no longer had those decals available. “Sorry” said the inspector, “Then it’s time to scrap the car.” The inspector agreed that it passed the emissions test and had no other defects, but without a better decal it failed. While testing my pickup the inspector was still grumbling about the Honda he failed and commented to me that California’s DMV had estimated that 20% of the cars on the road each year needed to be scrapped and he was just doing his job, seeing that 1 in 5 cars arriving for re-inspection failed. He seemed genuinely irritated that the guy with the faded decal didn’t understand that. My pickup passed and I was relieved to move out of California before the next inspection was due.

August 1, 2012 at 2:02 am
(3) craiger says:

Ron D,
That story doesn’t surprise me. I hate states with the Big Brother mentality who think they are saving the planet by getting your car off the road, especially when as you imply, it’s really in safe operating condition.

Even if that Honda owner couldn’t get a replacement sticker for under the hood to show factory timing, why not go to the library, check out the factory shop manual and show the inspector the page with the specs he wanted? That’s what I’d have done. I can’t believe the original sticker has to be present to pass emissions inspection. What about cars where the hood was replaced after an accident, or where pressure washing to clean the engine compartment blasted the sticker away?

There’s usually more than one way to skin a cat. If all else failed, rather than scrap the car assuming it’s worth keeping, I’d drive to another state inspection station and take my chances with another inspector who hopefully didn’t have a fight with his wife that morning.

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