An NYS Car Inspection Checklist

Airbag deployed after traffic accident
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An uninspected car's brakes fail, and it rear-ends the car in front of it. Fortunately, no one is hurt, but the property damage is substantial. States strive to keep our roads safe, and one of the ways they do so is with regular vehicle inspections to reveal problems such as faulty brakes. Most states, including New York, have annual mandatory safety inspections to make sure that only roadworthy cars are the ones on the road.

Seat Belts are Required for Cars Manufactured After 1965

New York State requires seat belts in automobiles. For cars produced from 1969 to present, working seat belts for each seat are mandatory. Two front seat belts are required for cars manufactured between 1967 and 1969, one of them for the driver, and one seat belt is mandatory for every passenger place in the car. For cars manufactured from 1965 through 1967, two front seat belts, including one for the driver, are required. Cars manufactured before 1965 are exempt from seat belt requirements. The inspector will verify if your airbag light is working properly. He will tell you of his findings as a courtesy, because a working seat belt light has no bearing on whether your car will pass inspection.

Comprehensive Brake Inspections Keep Motorists Safe

The brake inspection is comprehensive. The inspector will remove at least one front wheel for the brake inspection. Items examined on the brake system are brake pedal reserve, brake pedal fade and proper operation of power brake unit. The inspector will make sure there is no leak from the brake master cylinder and that the cylinder has the right amount of fluid. Also included as part of the brake inspection is the condition of disc brake pads, thickness of drum brake lining and condition of brake drums and rotors, as applicable. The inspector will check for leaks on all brake hoses and lines, and he will assess their condition. The technician will then check for brake equalization, that is to make sure the car isn't pulling to one side when stopping. The parking brake is also examined to make sure that it is functioning properly.

Steering, Front End, Suspension, Chassis, Frame & Wheel Fasteners are Checked

During this part of the safety inspection the technician will first check the condition of the front end. This includes the steering system which he checks for excessive play in the steering wheel, and check for tightness, excessive wear or looseness in parts, including the idler arm.

Next he checks the steering column, wheel bearings, bushings, cross shafts, gear box, steering and pitman arms, drag link ends, center control arm, and tie-rod ends.

If your car has power steering the inspection of the unit is to make sure it is operating properly, no steering fluid is leaking and the power steering belt is in good condition.

Part of the suspension inspection include examining shock absorbers to make sure that none are missing or broken and all are properly mounted.

Also included in the inspection are the springs and torsion bars for sagging or broken springs, and a broken, disconnected or missing or bent stabilizer bar or torsion bar.

Inspection of the chassis/frame for severe rust at suspension attachment points as well as breaks and cracks is part of the inspection. Also inspected are wheel fasteners to make sure none are missing or broken.

Tires Must Meet Minimum Standards

All tires except the spare tire are inspected. The inspector will check for tread depth, which must be at least 1/16 inch at the most worn spot of the tire. He will also check whether there are breaks or cuts in the tire greater than 1 inch. The inspection includes identifying any bumps, knots or bulges, if there is a restricted-use label on the tire. Although he will also check tire pressure it is simply to verify that the tire pressure is within the manufacturer's specifications; incorrect tire pressure is not a cause for inspection failure.

Lighting Must Operate and Be Properly Mounted

The examiner will inspect lighting to make sure it is of an approved type, operates properly, is appropriately mounted and that all lenses on the car are not broken. Parking lamps, side marker lamps and other flashing turning lamps mounted on the side of the vehicle are not inspected.

Windshield And Other Glass Must Pass Inspection

A vehicle will fail inspection if it has a crack of 11 inches or longer in the area of the windshield cleared by the wipers is not permitted. The inspector will also check if all other windows have safety glass or rigid plastic and are in serviceable condition.

Windshield Wipers And Blades, Horns and Mirror Checks Round Out the Vehicle Inspection

Wipers must operate as designed and have blades in good condition. Similarly, the car's horn must function properly, and its mounting must be secure.

All mirrors are inspected to make sure that they are mounted correctly without any cracks, discoloration or breaks. The mirror inspection relates to the year the car was made. Cars manufactured in 1970 and afterward must have an inside mirror and a left outside mirror or both left and right outside mirrors. Cars manufactured in 1968 and 1969 must have left-mounted outside mirror. Cars made in 1967 or earlier must have either an inside mirror or a left outside mirror.

Fuel Leaks Will Result in Failing the Safety Inspection

Any car with a fuel leak that results in pooling or dripping will fail.


  • New York's mandatory safety inspections are designed to ensure vehicles' seat belts, brakes, tires, windshields, front end, frame, lights, mirrors, horns and other components meet minimum safety standards.

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