What is a Car Inspection in North Carolina?


In order to operate a vehicle on North Carolina roads, not only must you have a valid driver’s license, you must also have completed (and passed) the North Carolina Vehicle Inspection. This inspection helps to ensure that all vehicles travelling on the road are in good condition and safe to operate and that their motors and exhaust comply with current local regulations regarding vehicle emissions. As such, the Vehicle Inspection in North Carolina is comprised of two parts:

Vehicle Emissions Inspection

While not all counties in North Carolina require vehicle emissions inspection, those that do make it a requirement in order to maintain a valid registration. Failure to comply will result in your registration being suspended and fines will ensue. Vehicle emission testing is designed to ensure that a vehicle’s emissions are within the current regulations thus helping to limit the pollutants in the air. The test takes just a few minutes and if your vehicle passes, you will be cleared to drive, and no further action will be required. If your vehicle does not pass, you will be required to make necessary repairs and once completed, bring the car in to test the emissions once again to ensure the repairs were indeed successful.

Vehicle Safety Inspection

A vehicle safety inspection is a little more detailed and it will include a variety of tests on all aspects of the vehicle. This test is designed to make certain that any vehicle travelling on North Carolina roads is safe for both the driver and other vehicles on the road as well.

The North Carolina Vehicle Safety Inspection will check:

  • Brakes – Brakes are one of the most vital safety aspects of a vehicle and the inspection will test that the brakes are working sufficiently to slow down and stop the vehicle.
  • Headlights/brake lights – All outside lights must work, and the casings must be free from cracks.
  • Car horn – The car horn must be audible from 200 feet away and the wiring must be intact and free from frayed ends.
  • Tires – Car tires must be in good condition, displaying at least 2/32-inch tread depth
  • All windows and windshield – All windows and the vehicle front and back windshields must be free from cracks and if tinted, must follow current laws regarding window tinting shade.
  • Windshield wipers – Windshield wipers must be free from obstruction and in working order.
  • Steering – The steering wheel and steering mechanism must be in perfect working order.
  • Rear view/side view mirrors – Rear view mirror and side view mirrors must be free from cracks.

While some may view the requirements of an annual vehicle inspection a hassle, the fact is, these inspections help to make the roads much safer for all drivers and the air cleaner for all North Carolina residents and visitors. Compliance is quick and easy and there are over 7500 locations within the state of North Carolina that are authorized to inspect your vehicle. If you plan on driving in North Carolina, make sure your car is in perfect working order, comply with the inspection requirements, and enjoy your time on the roadways of the great state of North Carolina!


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