Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Maintenance October 26, 2017

What to Expect When Your Car is Inspected in Virginia

Ah, the annual car inspection. It’s practically a rite of passage for Virginia drivers. While some bemoan and dread it, it doesn’t have to be a difficult process. If you take some time to learn about what goes into a car inspection and what you can do to prepare before your appointment, this can be an easy annual errand to check off your list.

Although it can seem like a pain, Virginia’s high standards for cars make our roads safer for everyone and they help you maintain your car. Even cars that appear to be in good shape can have hidden problems. When a routine inspection catches them, you can choose to proactively fix a minor problem before it becomes a more expensive one.

Overview of a Car Inspection

The cost of an annual inspection in Virginia is $16, no matter where you go. (If someone tries to charge you more than that, they’re taking you for a ride.) When you arrive for your car inspection, you’ll pull into the bay at the gas station or car repair shop. If you wait until the end of the month, you might need to wait in a line—over 50% of Virginia state inspections occur in the last 10 days of any given month. If you can go toward the beginning of the month, you may be able to save yourself some time.

Once a technician is available, you’ll hand over your keys and car while the technician runs through the inspection. Virginia’s inspection procedure has 24 points, but the whole inspection takes only about 20 to 30 minutes. If your car fails any of the points of inspection, you aren’t obligated to get it repaired by the mechanic conducting the inspection, but they will probably give you a quote.

car inspection

How Virginia Differs from Other States

Virginia’s annual car inspection requirement sometimes surprises newcomers to the state. In Maryland, for example, cars require inspection only once. Chris Price, the service manager at Virginia Tire & Auto of Cascades, said he has seen new Virginia residents come in with cars that haven’t been inspected for years, and they are surprised to discover that their car fails to pass Virginia inspection on multiple points.

What Happens When a Car Fails Inspection

Failing inspection is more common than you might think—1 in 10 of the cars that come through will fail. All it takes is failure on one of the 24 points of the inspection. Just because a car seems to be driving fine doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems under the hood.

Common Causes of Inspection Failure

  • Worn-out brake pads—they must be more than 2/32 of an inch thick
  • Burnt-out light bulbs
  • Worn-out tires
  • Broken windshield wipers
  • Low tire tread depth – they must be above 2/32 of an inch

Chris’s biggest piece of advice for anyone getting their car inspected is, “Don’t be frustrated if your car fails.” While it means your car needs a repair of some sort right away, it might save you a lot of money down the road, before the problem worsened. And it keeps your car, and you, safer on the road.

car inspection

Because many of the problems aren’t noticeable from everyday use of your car, we recommend visually checking some items on your vehicle before bringing your car in for an inspection. If you want to minimize your car’s chances of failing, you can run through our Virginia State Inspection Checklist before you take your car to be inspected.

One example of a larger problem you might not notice yourself is an exhaust leakage. An inspector will thoroughly examine the entire exhaust system, from the engine to the discharge point. In the event that there’s a leak, you may need to get an engine diagnostic or an exhaust system repair, depending on the origin or the leak.

Getting Your Car Up to Standard

If your car fails the inspection, you’ll probably need to visit the repair shop soon after. Virginia Tire & Auto will give you a quote for the needed repairs if they inform you that your car has failed (and explain why), and you can decide whether you’d like to do the repair yourself, take it to another mechanic, or have Virginia Tire & Auto do the repair. Virginia Tire & Auto prides itself on its transparency with customers, giving fair quotes, and will always show you what is wrong with the car if you’d like to see it for yourself.

Keep Your Car Safe and Avoid Tickets

car inspection

Virginia takes car safety very seriously, and as many learn the hard way, the police will actually pull you over and give you a ticket if the inspection sticker on your windshield has expired.

Stay safe on Northern Virginia’s roads and avoid any unnecessary legal complications. Find the Virginia Tire & Auto location closest to you to get your inspection taken care of.

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