As a consumer you do not always have the ability to know what your car will need other than the visual items that you can see but here are some things to keep in mind prior to going to the state inspection station.
Look at your tires to check the tread depth, turn your wheels to the side and look for inside and outside tire wear, run your hands over the surface of the tire and see if they are wearing evenly. If there is more wear on either the inside or outside, chances are that your car is out of alignment, if the tires treads are the wear bars in three locations, your tires will most likely fail state inspection. Use a Penny to gauge the tread depth, if you can see Lincoln’s Head, they are too low on tread and will most likely fail.
Check all of your lights, have a family member operate all of the lights to confirm if any bulbs are not working. Look at the tag lights (these lights illuminate the license plate) this is often overlooked by the car owner, they must be in working condition and are very inexpensive replacements. Check the reverse lights, marker lights (the orange ones located on the sides of the vehicle) brakes lights, including the third brake light. Also condensation in the headlight assemblies that affect the light pattern can cause you to fail as well. Making sure all bulbs are in good working order can save you from a rejection sticker at the inspection station.
Make sure the mirrors are not cracked or missing, the horn works and works correctly (not muffled) and if you hear a loud exhaust noise from under the car that is not normally there you may want to get that looked at before you go for inspection.
Another overlooked item is the seat belts, check to see if they work properly and latch. Check that the drivers window works, the other ones do not have to but this one does.
Now for a confusing one: lights on the dash. These go back and forth depending on the State Police manual. As of February 2014, the ABS (antilock brake system) light CAN be on, The Airbag light has to come on for a bulb check then go OFF. The parking brake light has to work when the parking brake is applied and the high beam indicator has to work.
These are some of the items you can check in your driveway before taking you vehicle in for a Virginia State Inspection.
Here are some state inspection items that are more easily checked at a shop:
Suspension system. At Steve’ s Auto, we do a free inspection of these items every time you bring your car in for service with us. If you see any fluids in your driveway, take note of the color and get it checked out. If your rack and pinion is leaking (this is your steering component) you will fail inspection.
Ball Joints and other suspension items are also part of a state inspection. Even though as a consumer you cannot tell if they are bad, there are some tell tale signs to listen for. Clunking coming from the front end is a good indication that they may be getting worn out. Loose tie rod ends are also a wearable item and it does affect your alignment and tire wear as well.
Brakes are also one of the items the state inspector will be looking at. If you have noticed any squealing or grinding you may need brakes, have a pre-brake inspection done so there are no surprises when you go to get it inspected. It requires removing at least 2 of the wheels and getting a measurement of thickness on the pads and rotors to determine if it will pass. The state legal limit is 2/32nds, if it’s below the 2/32nds specification, it will fail.