Car Inspection Checklist: 10 Tips to Pass Your Car Inspection

May 05, 2023

A man pouring motor oil into an engine.

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Car inspections are simple procedures, but they’re essential for your vehicle’s health and the safety of everyone around you. They ensure its emissions are acceptable and its main components are in good working order. Follow these tips to learn how to pass a car inspection and keep your vehicle safe.

1. Know Your State’s Laws

Each state has unique laws for car inspections that every citizen should know. Some require a full safety inspection annually regardless of your driving record, while others simply encourage residents to inspect their own vehicles. Some states even have different requirements for specific counties or districts.

Certain vehicles, such as EVs, classic cars, collector vehicles and motorcycles, might be exempt from inspections, depending on the state. Generally, you should get an annual or biannual check, regardless of state or local laws, to keep your car in good condition.

2. Appreciate the Consequences

Nobody will force you to get an inspection. You have to take the initiative and seek a trusted mechanic. You might be able to avoid getting a check for a few years, but if a police officer notices your sticker has expired, you will face costly fines for noncompliance. Some states will even deny your car’s registration renewal.

If your vehicle fails an inspection, you won’t face any legal repercussions the first time. However, you must pay for the necessary repairs, which might be even more expensive than the fine. Either way, your negligence will have serious consequences.

3. Clean the Interior

Start by cleaning your car’s interior and removing all the trash. A clean and organized vehicle shows you’re a responsible car owner and improves your chances of passing the inspection. Conversely, a cluttered and messy interior shows you’re lazy and inattentive. The inspector could also fail you if the mess interferes with your driving, such as having garbage on the floor that could get under your brake pedal.

4. Test Your Steering’s Alignment

A steering test is one of the most important parts of a car inspection. You must ensure your steering wheel functions properly and that other components, like the shock absorber and ball joints, are in good condition. You should get a realignment before your inspection if your car slightly pulls in either direction.

5. Make Sure Your Seatbelts Work

Seatbelts are one of the most overlooked car parts, which is sad considering that 51% of people who died in car accidents weren’t wearing them. That’s why inspectors take them so seriously. Your seatbelts must work without issue. If one of them malfunctions — even one in the backseat — you won’t pass the inspection. 

6. Get an Engine Tuneup

Passing a car inspection will be a piece of cake if you take good care of your engine. Get a tune-up to make sure everything is working properly before your appointment. These items will be repaired or replaced:

  • Emission levels
  • Bad spark plugs
  • Spark plug wires
  • Oil and oil filters
  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Fuel lines
  • Coolant hoses
  • Serpentine belts

Your car’s emission levels are extremely important. Aside from confirming the vehicle’s safety, the secondary purpose of an inspection is to ensure they aren’t releasing too many pollutants.

7. Check Your Lights

Ensure all your lights — headlights, taillights, brake lights, high beams and turn signals — are bright and powerful. Clean them to make them shiny again if they’re too dim or foggy. If one of the bulbs is out, you can easily find a replacement at your local auto parts or hardware store.

8. Clean Your Windows and Mirrors

You also need to clean your windows because visibility will be a crucial component of your car inspection. If it’s difficult to see the road because your windshield or mirrors are too dirty, you won’t pass. Nothing inside or outside the vehicle should impact your visibility while driving. Don’t fail the inspection over something this simple.

9. Reinflate or Replace Your Tires

Next, check out your tires. Inflate them to their required PSIs and replace any tire with uneven tread or other signs of damage. The inspector probably won’t fail you if your tires look uneven, but you might as well change them now instead of risking a failed inspection. 

10. Gather Your Insurance and Registration Info

Gather your insurance and registration documents before taking your car in for inspection. This simple last step will make everyone’s lives easier. You and the inspector can seamlessly review your car’s information and finish the assessment in 20-30 minutes. 

Pass Your Car Inspection With Flying Colors

Knowing how to pass a car inspection is a simple matter of responsibility. If you take good care of your vehicle inside and out, you should pass a safety or emissions check with flying colors. Keep these 10 points in mind and you’ll get through the inspection in the blink of an eye. It might be a hassle, but it’s for the well-being of yourself and every driver around you.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.