Many (but not all) states within the US mandate that cars must undergo periodic inspections, which are usually performed either annually or biennially. If you live in a state that requires these periodic inspections, it may cause you some measure of anxiety when inspection day starts getting close; there are a lot of things that can potentially cause your car to fail inspection, and you may be unsure of whether or not your car is experiencing any of these issues.
Most vehicles that are under 5 years old should pass inspections fairly easily. Some of the common reasons that cause cars to fail inspections are: check engine lights light up, leaking or missing gas caps, missing bumpers, broken lights or mirrors, and issues with the computer system.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at several of the most common causes of inspection failure, as well as some of the other important things you should know before taking your car in for inspection. The better prepared you are for when inspection day comes, the less you’ll have to worry that your car will fail inspection for whatever reason.
Reasons a Car Will Not Pass Inspection
While it’s true that there are a lot of things that can cause a car to fail a safety inspection, most of these things are pretty easy to spot and are relatively easy to deal with. Here’s a quick rundown of several of the more common reasons why your car might fail inspection:
- The engine oil is too old
- The catalytic converter is broken or missing
- The check engine light is on
- The car’s OBD system reports a fault
- The car’s computer has been reset
- The car has a leaky or missing gas cap
- The car’s ignition timing is off
- The car has one or more malfunctioning spark plugs
- The car has broken lights, reflectors, turn signals, mirrors, or windows
- The car’s bumper is damaged or missing
Bear in mind that each state enforces their own laws concerning when inspections should be performed and what criteria will cause you to pass or fail an inspection. Check with your state’s DMV if you need more information about how to pass a vehicle safety inspection in your area.
Will Needing an Oil Change Affect Inspection?
In general, most modern cars only need to have their oil changed about once every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. If you’ve only passed this threshold by a small margin when it comes time for inspection, in all likelihood your car will still pass.
Of course, if you’ve let your car go way too long in between oil changes, this can certainly cause you to fail an inspection. Oil gets thick and sludgy as it gets older, and given enough time it can actually clog up various components or sensors within your engine, which can result in a check engine light and a failed inspection.
Will a Car Pass Inspection After Resetting the Check Engine Light?
If your car is displaying a check engine light but you manage to reset it shortly before taking your car in for a safety inspection, you may receive the unfortunate surprise of having your car fail the test anyway.
This is because your car’s computer needs time to monitor all of its sensors and adjust its diagnostic information accordingly. If you’ve recently reset your check engine light in preparation for an upcoming safety inspection, you should give yourself enough time to drive at least 50 to 100 miles in order for your computer to properly register its information.
What Is the AutoZone Diagnostic? Is It Reliable?
You’re most likely already familiar with AutoZone, and you may also be familiar with the fact that AutoZone offers a free diagnostic check as one of its services. A mechanic will hook a code scanner up to your car’s OBD system and tell you whatever error codes they find.
AutoZone’s diagnostic system itself is generally quite reliable, although the codes you get from them might not tell the whole story. Certain defects might result in multiple error codes, or the scanner might detect one error code with a few potential causes.
The problem is not that AutoZone’s diagnostic system is unreliable; rather, it’s that it’s sometimes a little too basic to be particularly helpful. AutoZone tends to use generic code scanners, whereas dealerships and some other garages use proprietary scanners designed for use with specific vehicle makes and models. Therefore, other places may be able to offer you more precise information about what exactly is wrong with your car (although they’ll charge you more for the privilege).
How Long Does an Inspection Take?
On average, you should expect your vehicle safety inspection to take about an hour and a half. However, this length of time can easily change depending on where you’re getting the inspection done and what areas of your car your state requires to be inspected.
If you want to keep your vehicle road-legal, it’s important that your vehicle is able to pass any safety inspections. This means keeping your vehicle in decent shape while you own it, and being proactive when it comes to maintenance and repairs.
Of course, not only is it good to take care of your car when it’s time for a safety inspection, it’s good to take care of your car in general. A properly maintained car will be more reliable and ultimately stop you from losing money to repairs that would otherwise be unnecessary.