Texas State Car Inspection Checklist

By Gail Sessoms ; Updated June 13, 2017
Hand of car mechanic with wrench. Auto repair garage.

The Texas Department of Public Safety requires that all vehicles registered with the state must undergo annual safety inspections. Some Texas counties have dual inspections that require annual emissions testing in addition to the safety inspection. The DPS provides passenger car inspectors with a checklist of items to be performed during an annual safety inspection in suggested order of completion. The emissions tests performed in 17 of Texas’ 254 counties follow a different protocol.

Financial Responsibility

The first item on the list for a vehicle safety inspection of a passenger car is to check for financial responsibility. The inspector confirms that the vehicle in insured and examines the current registration card and proof of insurance.

Operation and Visibility

The next eight items on the safety inspection checklist are the horn, windshield wipers, mirror, steering, seat belts, brake system parking for vehicles manufactured in 1960 and after, tires and wheel assembly.

Exhaust System

The safety inspection includes a check of the exhaust system regardless of whether the inspection is conducted in a county that requires dual inspection. It also includes the exhaust emission system for vehicles manufactured in 1968 or later.

Lights and Lamps

During the safety inspection, inspectors check the beam indicator, tail lamps, stop lamps, license plate lamp, rear red reflectors, turn signal lamps and head lamps.

Identification Numbers

The vehicle identifying numbers, including motor, serial and vehicle identification number, are checked and noted in the inspection documentation.

Window Tinting

Vehicles manufactured since 1988 are inspected for adherence to laws regulating window tinting and coating. The DPS provides information on state laws concerning the tinting of vehicle windows, window tint label requirements and applying for a medical exemption to tinting regulations.

Gas Caps

Texas checks the gas caps on vehicles that are two through 24 years old. The DPS considers this safety check to be part of the state's efforts to protect its air quality.

Emissions Testing

The DPS requires that certain vehicles registered in 17 designated counties must undergo annual emissions tests in addition to the annual safety test. Gasoline-powered vehicles that are two through 24 years old are among the vehicles that required to undergo this testing. These counties include:

  • Brazoria
  • Fort Bend
  • Galveston
  • Harris
  • Montgomery
  • Collin
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • Ellis
  • Johnson
  • Kaufman
  • Parker
  • Rockwall
  • Tarrant
  • Travis
  • Williamson
  • El Paso County

Texas performs three types of vehicle emissions tests: the accelerated simulation mode, or ASM, the on-board diagnostic or OBDII, and the two-speed idle test or TSI. The type of test used depends on the age of the vehicle and the county where the vehicle is registered or operated. Vehicles manufactured before 1995 are tested using the ASM or the TSI. Texas exempts diesel-powered vehicles and motorcycles from the emissions inspections program.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.