The state of Maryland does not require annual vehicle safety inspections. However, a vehicle owner wishing to sell or transfer a used vehicle must first have the vehicle pass a safety inspection. New residents to Maryland must also have their vehicles inspected prior to registering them in the state. The state police are responsible for licensing inspection stations, and there are approximately 1,600 stations with about 3,000 licensed inspection mechanics throughout the state.
The Maryland Department of Transportation recommends making an appointment for your vehicle’s safety inspection. It also recommends making sure that the inspection station has the proper authorization to inspect your particular vehicle. Most inspection stations are authorized to inspect passenger cars, light trucks and SUVs with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, and trailers that do not have air brakes and are 20 feet in length or shorter.
Vehicle registration, either in Maryland or another state, is required before the inspection. Maryland does offer a temporary 30-day registration so that vehicle owners may drive their vehicles to and from the inspection. Allow up to 90 minutes for the inspection. While the Maryland State Police do regulate the number of labor hours an inspection station may bill for the test, they do not regulate the station’s labor rate. Each licensed inspection station must prominently display the fee that they charge.
The inspector checks the steering system for proper operation, including the condition of the steering wheel and column, and for excessive free play or binding. The inspector must road test the vehicle for this portion of the test. If the road test indicates problems with the alignment, then the inspector will check that also. The mechanic inspects the tires' tread depth and the wheels to determine that they are in good condition.
The mechanic will check the suspension system, including the shock absorbers or struts, for excessive wear. Using either a road test or a decelerometer, the inspector checks the stopping distance of the brake system. He also checks the condition of the hydraulic system, drums or discs, pads or linings, and linkage. The mechanic also determines that the parking brake functions properly.
The fuel tank must be in good condition, without leaks. Leaks in or improper mounting of the exhaust system, including the manifold, all pipes and the muffler, will cause the vehicle to fail the inspection. Any factory-installed emissions equipment must be present on the vehicle, properly connected and operating as intended.
The inspector checks the condition of wiring and switches, including the battery cables. The horn must be properly mounted and functioning. The speedometer and odometer must be legible and functioning. The mechanic checks that all lights, both original equipment and aftermarket, are aimed and mounted properly.
The driver’s seat must be properly mounted and in good condition. Seat belts must operate and be mounted properly. The inspector will check the gear selection indicator to make sure it operates properly. The driver’s window must be working. Any holes in the floor of the passenger compartment or the trunk will be cause for inspection failure. Inside mirrors must provide an unobstructed view.
Bumpers must be mounted properly and be of the proper height. Fenders have to be in good condition, including mounting and coverage of wheels and tires. Outside mirrors must provide an unobstructed view. All windows must be made from proper materials for their specific location and free of excessive damage. The inspector checks the windshield wipers for proper operation and blade condition. All handles, hinges and latches on doors, trunk and hood must be in good working condition. The motor mounts must be in good condition. The mechanic will examine the universal joints and CV joints for wear or damage.
If the vehicle passes the safety inspection, the mechanic will provide the owner with two copies of a Maryland Inspection Certificate. The owner files the green copy with the Motor Vehicle Administration to title and register the vehicle. The goldenrod copy is for the owner’s records. If the owner is a used vehicle dealer, he must attach the goldenrod copy to the vehicle’s window.
If the vehicle fails the safety inspection, the mechanic will issue a report stating what problem or problems caused the failure. The owner may have the issues resolved at any location, but has to have the vehicle re-inspected by the same mechanic at the same inspection station. If the second inspection takes place within 30 days, and the owner drove the vehicle less than 1,000 miles since the first inspection, the mechanic will only need to inspect those areas that caused the failure. If the mechanic visually detects a new problem, then the vehicle owner will have to have additional repairs and another inspection performed. If the mechanic can visually confirm the repair, then there should not be an additional fee for the re-inspection. But if the inspector is required to lift, jack, measure or test the vehicle to confirm a repair then there may be an additional charge.
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