What Is the Limit on Rust Hole Size to Pass a Pennsylvania Auto Inspection?

By Miranda Miller - Updated March 15, 2018

Pennsylvania doesn’t specify a limit on rust-hole size in vehicles, but state auto inspectors look at your vehicle’s body and chassis to determine whether carbon monoxide could enter the car and possibly kill you, your passengers and other drivers.


If you think rust holes may prevent your car from passing a Pennsylvania auto inspection, have it inspected before your inspection sticker expires. You can have it inspected up to three months ahead of time and continue driving your car until the sticker expires, even if you need to have it repaired. If, however, your sticker expires March 31, 2018, and your car fails inspection on March 31, you cannot drive it until you make the necessary repairs.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines carbon monoxide as an odorless, colorless gas that is produced when fuel burns. Carbon monoxide poisoning causes flu-like symptoms, including sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, coughing and disorientation; it could also cause death.

How Has Carbon Monoxide Killed Drivers?

In 2016, a 56-year-old Pennsylvania man died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a snow plow threw so much snow onto his car that it blocked his exhaust pipe and prevented him from being able to open his door. In 2014, two Cochranville high school students died one Friday night when a hole in the exhaust system allowed carbon monoxide to leak into their car.

What Does Pennsylvania Law Say About Rust-Hole Size?

Pennsylvania lawmakers have attempted to prevent carbon monoxide-related deaths by forbidding residents from driving cars with holes in the frame that permit exhaust fumes to enter the interior. State laws command auto inspectors to make sure the floor pan doesn’t allow exhaust fumes to enter the car. That being said, inspectors can approve a car with minor problems, but will caution the owner to fix those problems before they get worse. This is why rust-hole size isn’t limited to a particular millimeter or centimeter. The location of a rust hole plays a role in how much carbon monoxide can enter the vehicle. Few items on the state’s inspection checklist result in a flat pass or fail grade, but the presence of a rust hole can alert auto inspectors to check other areas of the car for problems.

Did Your Car Fail Inspection Due to Rocker-Panel Rust?

If your car failed inspection due to rocker panel rust, chances are good that it’s a newer vehicle. Rust holes could be patched with strips of fiberglass in the 1950s and '60s because the body and frame were separate, but that’s no longer the case. Today, rocker panels, which you swing your legs over every time you get in and out of your car, are part of and critical to your vehicle’s structural support, so the only way to fix them and prevent carbon monoxide from entering the interior is to replace them.

About the Author

Miranda is a Cleveland-based content writer and magazine writer.

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