Car Care Tips

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Safety January 30, 2019

What Will Fail a Virginia State Inspection? What You Need to Know

What will fail a Virginia state inspection?

If you drive a car, then you’re required to pass a state inspection every year. In Virginia specifically, the standards are high when it comes to vehicle safety and emissions. Although this yearly chore can seem like an inconvenience, it’s keeping our roads and families safer.

With that said, it can be nerve-wracking to think about the possibility of failing your state inspection — one in ten do. Although that’s not the end of the world, it’s wise to set yourself up to pass the first time around. There are dozens of areas that technicians inspect, but there are a few in particular that commonly cause vehicles to fail.

Virginia Vehicle Inspection Checklist

5 Things That Will Cause You to Fail a Virginia State Inspection


Worn-out tires are a common cause for state inspection failure. Why? It all revolves around safety.

One factor to take into serious consideration is your tire tread depth. The tread on most new tires is anywhere from 10/32 of an inch to 11/32 of an inch. You will fail your Virginia vehicle inspection when your tread depth is below 2/32 of an inch.

The experts at Virginia Tire & Auto recommend replacement at 4/32 of an inch — at this point, your tires will have trouble evacuating water and can negatively affect stopping distance. Since water cannot be compressed, tires are designed to direct water away through their grooves, so they can remain in contact with the road. The more worn down your tires are, the shallower their channels — and this has a dramatic effect on the vehicle’s ability to stop on wet roads. This puts the driver at risk for hydroplaning, floating, or skidding across the water. For reference, stopping distance on a wet road with new tires (with treads measuring about 10/32 of an inch) is 195 feet. Stopping distance with treads that are 4/32 of an inch is 290 feet and stopping distance with treads that are 2/32 of an inch is 379 feet.

You can easily check your tire tread depth prior to your state inspection by performing the penny test.


Issues with your vehicle’s brakes will undoubtedly put you at risk for inspection failure due to the key role they play in road safety. The following are common brake-related issues that pop up during inspections:

  • Missing or damaged parts
  • Defective linings or drums
  • Leakage or low fluid level
  • Defective disc pads or disk rotors

Of all the items listed above, one of the hardest to notice is worn brake pads. Your brake pads must be more than 2/32 of an inch thick to pass state inspection. To err on the side of caution, we recommend replacing them at 3/32 of an inch. If you hear squeaking or grinding noises when you brake, bring your vehicle into Virginia Tire & Auto for a free brake inspection.

Warning Lights

Your dashboard serves as one of the best indicators of your vehicle’s health. Letting one of those signals go undiagnosed is a surefire way to fail inspection. For example, if your check engine light is on during your inspection, you won’t pass.

Read: Is it Safe to Drive Your Car With the Check Engine Light On?


Broken or worn wipers, misplaced stickers, windshield cracks, and malfunctioning defrosters will send you straight to the repair room and back for another inspection. Did you know that in some cases it’s illegal to drive with a cracked windshield in Virginia?

In order to pass your state inspection, no chip, crack, or pit can be larger than one inch in diameter if it’s located above the three-inch line at the bottom of the windshield.

Virginia State Inspection Sticker Updates You Need to Know

Electrical & Mirrors

If you neglect the parts of your vehicle that don’t get as much attention — mirrors and light bulbs, for example — they’ll surely attract the attention of your inspection technician. If you have missing or broken bulbs and mirrors, you may be setting yourself up to fail.

To help drivers prepare for their yearly vehicle inspection, we’ve compiled a list of the items inspected.

List of Items Inspected:

  • Brakes
  • Parking Brake
  • Lights
  • Signal Devices
  • Steering & Suspension
  • Tires, Wheels & Rims
  • Mirrors
  • Horn
  • Windshield
  • Wipers and Defroster
  • Exhaust System
  • License Plate
  • Hood (and underneath)
  • Air Pollution Control System
  • Driver’s Seat
  • Floor Pan
  • Doors
  • Fuel System
  • Airbag & Airbag Readiness Light

Where Can I Get My Car Inspected in VA and What Can I Expect?

Get Your Virginia Vehicle Inspection at Virginia Tire & Auto

At Virginia Tire & Auto, we offer extended hours to work with your schedule. It’s our priority to ensure that all equipment is functioning properly, so you get back on the road safely.

Find your local shop, and come visit us today!

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