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

Checking the technical condition of a car with the help of a checked checklist
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Carbon monoxide is 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. When vehicles have rust holes, it can lead to potentially lethal carbon monoxide fumes entering the car. Pennsylvania doesn’t specify a limit on rust-hole size in vehicles. However, 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.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Pennsylvania doesn’t specify a limit on rust-hole size in vehicles. The state auto inspector must use his professional judgment when deciding whether the vehicle is at risk for carbon monoxide leakage.

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. However, the state does not currently specify a maximum permitted rust-hole size. The location of a rust hole plays a role in how much carbon monoxide can enter the vehicle, which is why rust-hole size isn’t limited to a particular millimeter or centimeter in diameter.

What are the Rules for State Auto Inspections?

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.

How Much Rust is Too Much?

Whether the rust is too much is a matter for the professionals to determine. The state auto inspector is permitted to approve a car with minor problems if there is minimal chance of a dangerous carbon monoxide leakage. It's not just carbon monoxide, either – rusty brake lines could cause a serious accident if the damage is not fixed. 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. Where minor problems are present, the inspector should caution the owner to fix those problems before they get worse.

Bear in mind that modern inspection techniques make even minor problems much easier to spot. Cameras can pick up even minor rust spots and definitely will locate areas where owners have tried a DIY rust-removal approach. Those types of temporary fixes may fail in a short time because of the way that rust spreads. It's always wise to take professional advice on how best to fix up a potential problem and get that all-important vehicle sticker.

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.