It may seem like inspectors use a magic 8 ball to decide if your car passes. They don’t. (Well, most don’t.) Use this guide to better understand if your car will pass.

Emissions Inspection (Part 1 of 2)

Every gasoline vehicle between 2 and 25 years old with a MGW (Maximum Gross Weight) under 10k lbs must pass an Emissions Inspection every year. NY’s emissions inspection is quite predictable. Great news if you have a diesel, electric, brand new, or classic vehicle: you don’t need this!

Your car must have:

1) No check engine light on.

If you recently had a repair or cleared the codes, you must drive the car for up to 3 days before your car’s computer has run all the tests. If you clear the codes and immediately get the car inspected, it will fail even if the check engine light is off. Don’t remove the bulb or tape over it: the computer is smarter than that.

2) All the original emissions components.

Unless you’ve modified your vehicle, or sold your catalytic converter for scrap money, you’re good!

Safety Inspection (Part 2 of 2)

Safety is the part of inspection that gets more complicated. This covers what you need so passengers are safe and the car doesn’t fall apart while driving. However, it also it covers what many people forget: the car must be safe to operate and for other drivers to operate around.

Your car must have:

1) Brakes that stop you when you step on them!

     A) No brake fluid leaks and a solid pedal

If there are any visual indications of a leak or if hoses are cracked, it will fail. If it’s too hard and doesn’t stop or too soft and the pedal goes almost to the floor before stopping, you may have a bad master cylinder or air in the lines, and it will fail.

     B) Must stop straight

If the car pulls hard to one side or the other, you probably have a bad or rusty brake caliper and one jacked forearm, and the car will fail.

     C) Good brake pads or shoes

If you have disc brakes, the wear sensor must not be activated, and pads must not be broken or worn to metal. If you have drum brakes, you must have at least 1/16” material if bonded or 1/32” material if riveted.

     D) Good brake rotors or drums

The rotors or drums cannot be cracked or have mechanical damage. This law is not clearly defined or specific about the common surface rust that we get on Buffalo rotors. If the inspector believes it’s unsafe, it will fail.

2) Functional parking brake.

Parking brake cables cannot be frayed, frozen, or broken. The parking brake must hold the vehicle stationary with the engine running at a “slightly accelerated speed” while in gear. If you can pull some killer e-brake drifts in the snow, you should pass.

3) Safe wheels and tires.

On each tire, if any 2 adjacent treads have less than 2/32”, if there is a 1” cut that shows the metal cords, it has bulges or knots indicating a tire failure or internal separation, it will fail. All lug nuts/bolts must be present and intact. No zip ties, bubble gum, or creative repairs to hold wheels on.

4) Secure and safe steering system.

The steering wheel must have normal free play, there cannot be any binding when turning, and all steering components must not have “excessive wear”. Power steering must work, not leak, and have a good belt driving the pump. Though ball joints should be replaced when they have play, loose ball joints do not cause inspection failure.

5) Appropriate body roll.

The suspension springs may not be sagging, broken, or loose. Torsion or stabilizer bars must not have any broken, disconnected, missing, or bent component. The frame, uni-body, and any chassis part must not be “severely rusted”. If bolts or rivets are loose or missing, or the frame is broken, it fails.

6) Safe shock absorbers.

Shock absorbers must not be loose, broken, or missing. But they will pass if they are just leaking.

7) All lights functional.

The only exception here is fog lights: All other bulbs must work as intended and the lens must be DOT approved, the original color, and not broken or missing.

8) A windshield and no tint.

Windshield must be made of safety glass, with no cracks longer than 11” in the path of wiper, no “star” chip over 3” diameter, and no exposed sharp edges. Don’t tint your windows! Very few tints will pass on very few cars. You might think it looks cool, but everyone outside thinks you look like a creeper.

9) Mirrors

Both side mirrors must be securely mounted and not cracked, broken, or discolored.

10) Wipers

Every wiper blade must be secure and not torn or badly worn. There are some weird specifics here, so if the wipers don’t work the way they were designed to clear water when you need them to, they could fail.

11) Horn

Yes, you need a functional horn to tell the driver in front of you at a traffic light to get off their phone and drive. The horn also needs to be securely fastened. Bonus points if it plays La Cucaracha.

12) Seatbelts

This should be obvious but ALL seatbelts need to work as designed, even if you have no friends to ride with you. Surprisingly, your airbag system doesn’t need to function.

13) Closed fuel system

If you’re leaking fuel, you’re wasting money, smelling lots of fumes, and your car will fail.

Visit for the official list of regulations.

STEM Automotive and all other mobile repair shops in NY are not permitted to perform official inspections and put a sticker on your car. But– we can have trained inspectors that can identify things that are likely to fail. STEM offers a complimentary pre-inspection at the time of any other service. That’s right- there is no charge if we’re already there for another service. Just ask!