What’s Involved in a Safety Inspection?

Posted Friday, Mar 25, 2022

Drivers often don’t think of how safe their vehicles are until a problem arises. Unfortunately, by the time they realize there’s a safety issue, it may be too late.

Depending on the state in which you live, periodic vehicle safety inspections may be required.

Why is a Safety Inspection Important?

There are many things that affect the safety of a used car or truck. You may think that you can tell how safe your used car or truck is just by driving it, but this is not always the case.

Many of the areas that affect the safety of your vehicle are not always obvious or simply unknown to the average driver. You don’t want to risk your vehicle’s safety components malfunctioning because they are meant to trigger during extreme events. They are meant to keep you safe. If you ignore this area, your safety problems can manifest at the worst possible time and put your life in danger.

Regular inspections keep drivers informed of the condition of their cars. If a vehicle fails inspection, it should be repaired immediately.

Failing a safety inspection can result in fines or a disqualified registration in states that require them. Even if your state doesn’t require an inspection, it’s good to have your vehicle checked by a competent technician at regular intervals.

We recommend that you have your vehicle inspected every six months. October and April are designated as National Car Care Months and are great semi-annual checkpoints to get cars ready for the winter and summer driving seasons.

This also allows you to spot other issues that your vehicle may be suffering before they turn into bigger problems.

What’s Involved in a Safety Inspection?

Estimates suggest more than 30,000 parts make up the average vehicle, and perhaps a few thousand parts directly affect safety. When you really think about that, it’s a lot of areas that could fail on a vehicle!

As stated earlier, you may feel that you can figure things out on your own, but can you really figure out which of the 30,000 parts is failing? If even some professionals make mistakes, you attempting to do it on your own is just asking for trouble.

Professional technicians follow a standardized checklist. In states that don’t require periodic inspections, the checklist may be more general but they still have a system that allows them to pinpoint and address potential issues.

Here are some common safety inspection items and how they can fail.


Headlights fail if they are inoperative or have cracked lenses. Lamps also will not pass if they are incorrect, have different colors, or if the lenses are excessively fogged.

Auxiliary Lights

Taillights, turn signals, marker lights, hazard lights, license plate lights, brake lights, and reverse lights fail if they are inoperative, have cracked lenses, are an incorrect color, or are too dim.


Tires fail if their average tread depth is lower than 1/32” or any cut exposes the wires. Tires also will not pass because of dry rot, bubbles, shifted belts, or other damage like cracks on the wall or warps.


A windshield will fail if there are any cracks directly in the driver’s vision. It also won’t pass if there is sufficient scratching or pitting obstructing the driver’s view.

Pro Tip: When left unattended, a small chip on your windshield can spread and lead to a massive crack. If you have a small chip on your windshield, it may not be necessary to replace the entire thing. Many times you can get a professional to seal the chip and stop the spread!


Wipers fail if they streak or chatter, or are missing. Wipers also fail if the washer fluid jets don’t spray sufficiently to clean the windshield.


Mirrors fail if they are cracked, broken, or missing. Many times they can also get a burn that obscures visibility.

Seat Belts

Seat belts fail if they are frayed, don’t latch, fail to retract, or if the auto-locks don’t engage.


Brakes fail if there is metal-to-metal contact between shoes and drums or pads and rotors. They also won’t pass if the booster is inoperative, if there are brake fluid leaks, or if the brake pedal travels more than halfway to the floor. Keep an eye out for any vibration felt while braking as well. This could be an indicator that your rotors are warped.


The horn fails if it is inoperative or too quiet. A horn that sounds like a toy won’t get you out of a sticky situation, but it may just annoy the driver’s around you during rush hour!


Steering may fail if joints are too loose, too stiff, if there are any power steering fluid leaks, or the electronic component is failing.


Suspension may fail if shock absorbers are leaking, if there is excessive bouncing, or if anything is clicking, popping, or grinding as the vehicle turns.

It’s good to know that state inspection requirements are the absolute minimum and that the list above may not be the same for all states. For example, while most state inspections require a minimum 1/32” tire tread depth, rain requires at least 3/32” and snow at least 5/32”.

You may think that this is excessive, but you need more grip as conditions on the road worsen.

At home, the average DIYer should be able to inspect many of these things, but it’s good to note that that doesn’t replace a proper safety inspection conducted by a professional. If your state requires safety inspections, by following this checklist any safety issues can be fixed before it comes due or problems surface.

If you need our help ensuring your vehicle is safe, give us a call and we’d be happy to set an appointment so we can inspect your vehicle for you!

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