What Is Checked In a Car Inspection

Routine car inspections are an important part of your everyday vehicle maintenance that you should always try to keep current. When you take your car into your local mechanic for an inspection, they will look over all the different vehicle systems and see if they are present. Many mechanics or shops will even offer a quick assessment of a few of the car’s various vehicular systems at no extra cost depending on what service you are getting done.

Even if an inspection is covered under any of the other services performed, paying for full-scale vehicle inspection is a necessary thing that you should be doing. Without getting a vehicle inspection performed, most people won't know if any issues are going on with their car until you experience a failure. The good thing about automobiles is that most parts wear out slowly over time, and few car parts will immediately fail. This is one of the reasons why inspections are so vital, as a good mechanic can usually find an issue with the car much earlier, saving you money and keeping you safe in the long run!

What Mechanics Look For When Performing a Vehicle Inspection 

While shops in various locations around the country will have specific checklists that they follow, the list below will cover many of the main aspects of a vehicle inspection. Many parts of this checklist can be done very quickly, and a high-quality mechanic can run through this checklist relatively fast, while still offering a thorough inspection.

  • Tire pressure — checking to ensure that none of them are going low, suggesting a leak of some sort that could present a potential danger.
  • Tread life left on tires — the tread life refers to how much life remains in a set of tires. It is measured in 32nd’s of an inch, and once they get down to 4/32” or less, they are too worn out to continue safe operation while driving.
  • Oil level — it’s often a good idea to plan an inspection while you are getting an oil change as part of regular maintenance anyways just to be confident that there are no leaks.
  • Coolant level — making sure your engine coolant is at proper levels will prevent overheating.
  • Steering and suspension — this part of the inspection will usually end up with the mechanic aligning the vehicle and checking for any loose or worn out parts. A wheel alignment keeps the tires wearing evenly and stops the car from pulling.
  • Light functionality — all the lights on your car are essential for one reason or another. A mechanic will check your headlights, turn signals, reverse light, taillights, and brake lights to ensure proper functionality.
  • Brake system — one of the most critical aspects of vehicle safety is, of course, the brakes. A mechanic can quickly check the life remaining on various aspects of the brake system, including the pads and rotors, drums and shoes, or calipers.
  • Windshield — Make sure that there are no cracks or chips in it, which can represent a potential safety hazard. Some small chips and cracks can be repaired, while others will require a total replacement of the windshield.
  • Seat belt functionality — Ensure that the seat belts latch and unlatch correctly and ensure they operate as expected during braking.

Benefits Of Having Safety Inspections Done Annually

While there are undoubtedly several great benefits to having safety inspections performed annually, two of the most important ones are failing a required safety inspection by your state and saving money by finding issues before becoming more costly. 

Not Failing a Required Vehicle Inspection

Although some of you may be lucky enough to live in a state where you are not required to submit to an annual vehicle inspection, many others are not so lucky. You have to take your vehicle to an inspection agency to have a yearly vehicle inspection in some states. This inspection is typically almost identical to any other inspection that you’d get at the local mechanic, so if you stay on top of them, you should be okay!

If your vehicle has any issues that they catch at a required inspection, you could face punishment by being out of safety or emission specifications. You could face a substantial fine (sometimes up to even $1,000 or more). But in some cases, depending on what you fail at the inspection, your vehicle could get impounded, and you’ll have to figure out how to get it back and get it fixed up as soon as you can.

Saving Money by Catching Minor Issues Before They Become Bigger Ones

The second major perk of staying up to date on your vehicle inspections is that your mechanic can usually find most issues while still minor. This enables you to fix the problems while small and less expensive before a failing part leads to a catastrophic point.

For example, a bad wheel bearing is usually a reasonably simple diagnosis for a seasoned mechanic to make. If caught early, the bearing itself can typically be replaced by itself before it wears out any other parts or starts causing uneven tire wear prematurely. Not only would this save money in the long run, but it will also keep you much safer. If a part fails on your vehicle, you could lose control of it before knowing what has happened, depending on what it is.