North Carolina requires annual automobile inspections for all cars and annual emission testing for cars more than three years old.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation's Division of Motor Vehicles regulates the inspection of vehicles throughout the state. There are 7,500 inspection stations in 48 counties in North Carolina. Vehicle inspection is required before registration on vehicles less than 35 years of age. As of April 2017, the cost of a vehicle inspection is $13.60 and the cost of emission testing is $30. Required inspections must be completed a minimum of 90 days prior to the renewal date. Failure to do so will result in your renewal being blocked.
Automobile Inspection Checklist
The safety equipment checklist includes headlights, parking lights, tail lamps, beam indicator light, license plate light and brake light.
Signals that are inspected include directional and horn signals. The inspection checklist includes the windshield wipers (not rear wipers), rear view mirrors, foot brake and emergency brake. Foot brakes are inspected without removing the tire unless a metal-on-metal sound is heard. The inspector must remove the tire and check the brake linings. Other items on the checklist are the steering mechanism, tires, exhaust system, clearance lights, reflectors and window tinting. Certain manufacturer tinting is allowed.
Items that can be tampered with are listed on the vehicle inspection form. These include the catalytic converter, air injection system, PCV valve, unleaded gas restrictor, exhaust gas recirculation, thermostatic air control, fuel evaporation control, oxygen sensor and gasoline tank cap.
As of Nov. 1, 2008, North Carolina no longer issues inspection stickers. Instead, inspection records are recorded electronically with the Division of Motor Vehicles. Vehicle inspections can be made up to 90 days before the registration is due. The owner is given the State of North Carolina Vehicle Inspection Receipt/Statement. If a vehicle fails inspection for safety or emissions, the owner has 30 days to make the necessary repairs and have the vehicle re-inspected at no cost.
Besides basic inspection for automobiles, buses, trucks and tractor-trailers are required to have special lighting that includes reflectors, clearance lamps and brake lights.
The motorcycle inspection checklist includes brakes and headlights, tail lamps and the brake light. The motorcycle's license plate light and horn should be in working order. The tires, rear-view mirror, exhaust system and steering are also inspected.
Emission Testing Checklist
North Carolina no longer requires annual emissions tests for vehicles that have been produced within three years of the current inspection year and have less than 70,000 miles on the odometer. Other vehicles require an annual emissions test.
An emission testing is different than the tampering inspection. It deals directly with the functioning of the items, rather than the items that can be tampered with. Vehicles bought in a county that lacks emission testing but used in a county that observes the On Board Diagnostic, or OMB, testing must be inspected within 60 days.
There are different devices on the checklist for exhaust and emission-control devices. Listed items are the air pump system, catalytic converter, oxygen sensor, unleaded gas restrictor, thermostatic air cleaner, PCV valve, EGR valve and the evaporated emission system.