New York is one of fewer than 20 states that require periodic vehicle-safety inspections. In the mid 1970s, 31 states required vehicle inspections. The number began to dwindle after Congress, in 1976, removed the federal government's authority to withhold funds for highway construction from states that do not require inspections. New York also performs emissions tests on most vehicles. Emissions tests are performed under the authority of the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act and take place at the same time as safety inspections.
New York state law mandates that vehicles must be inspected at least once every 12 months or whenever they are registered to a new owner. Vehicles must pass safety and emissions standards in order to be driven on public roadways. Different requirements are in place for motorcycles and trailers.
Licensed inspection stations have to perform a requested inspection within eight days of the request. Inspection stations must be licensed by the state, display an official sign and employ a certified motor vehicle inspector to perform the inspections. If a vehicle fails an initial safety or emissions inspection, the owner may do any necessary repairs himself or have them performed at a registered repair shop. The vehicle owner does not have to return to the initial inspection station to have his vehicle inspected a second time.
Brakes and Tires
The inspector must remove at least one front wheel to inspect the vehicle's brakes. To pass the inspection, the brake pedal must have one-third reserve and hold for one minute without fading. The inspector examines power brake units for proper operation and the master cylinder for leakage and correct fluid level.
Bonded brake linings need a thickness of at least 1/16 inch, while riveted linings must be 1/32 inch or thicker over rivet heads and cannot have loose or missing rivets or lining. An inspector tests the condition of disc brake pads, brake drums and/or rotors.
The inspector looks for leaks from the brake drums and/or rotors and checks the brake lines and hoses for proper support, restrictions, chafing, cracks and leaks. He also inspects the components and operation of the parking brake. The inspector tests the brakes to ensure that they can perform a straight stop without significant wheel pull.
The inspector visually inspects the tires for any fabric break or cut that is larger than 1 inch in width or length, as well as for visible knots, bumps or bulges. He measures the tire-tread depth in the two adjacent major tread grooves showing the greatest wear to determine that they are at least 1/16 inch deep. The inspector also measures the tire pressure and advises the vehicle owner if the pressure is not at the manufacturer's recommendation. Insufficient tire pressure is not cause for failure. He does not inspect the spare tire.
Steering, Front End, Suspension, Chassis, Frame and Wheel Fasteners
The inspector checks the vehicle's steering wheel for excessive free play and the power steering system for operation, leakage and belt condition. She examines all steering linkages for tightness, binding or looseness in any of the parts and for excessive wear. She checks the shock-absorber mountings and looks for broken or missing shocks. She also inspects the chassis or frame for breaks or cracks and severe rust at suspension-attachment points, and she checks wheel fasteners for broken or missing parts.
Windshield, Wipers and Blades, Other Glass
The inspector ensures that there is a windshield and checks its condition. Any crack that is 11 inches or longer with any part of the crack in the area of the windshield that is cleared by the wiper is cause for failure. All other windows must be made of approved safety glass or rigid plastic and must be in good condition.
Windshield wipers must operate properly and the blades must be in good condition. The inspector does not check rear-window and headlight wipers.
Headlights -- both low and high beam -- taillights, directional signals, license plate lights and turn signal indicators must be of an approved type and mounted and operating properly without broken or missing lenses. Vehicles from model year 1966 and newer must be equipped with working hazard warning lights, and 1969 and newer vehicles must have working backup lights.
Lights not inspected include side-marker lamps, parking lights and any additional flashing, turn lamps that are mounted on the side of the vehicle.
Inspectors check the vehicle's horn for mounting and operation. Fuel leaks that cause pooling or dripping are cause for failure.
The inspector examines seat belts for proper anchoring and operation. On 1965 and 1966 model-year vehicles, there must be two front seat belts and one must be in the driver's position. Two front seat belts -- including one at the driver's position and one seat belt for every other seating position in the vehicle -- are required on vehicles from model years 1967 and 1968. For model year 1969 and newer vehicles, one seat belt per seating position is required.
The inspector checks the condition of mirrors, looking for proper mounting and cracks, breaks or discoloration. One mirror, either inside or a driver's-side exterior, is required on vehicles from model year 1967 and prior. Model year 1968 and newer vehicles must have a driver's-side exterior mirror. Vehicles from model year 1970 and later are required to have either a driver's side exterior mirror and inside mirror or an exterior mirror on the both the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle. Driver- and passenger-side exterior mirror are required on any vehicle with a permanent obstruction of the view through the rear window.
New York uses two different types of emissions tests, depending on the vehicle's weight and age. Vehicles from model year 1996 and newer that weigh 8,500 pounds or less undergo an On-Board Diagnostics Version II Inspection. Using this type of test, the inspector determines the test results of the vehicle's onboard diagnostic system and examines the check engine light for operation and illumination.
The second type of test is the Low Enhanced Inspection, which is used on all vehicles from the model year 1995 and older, through and including those that are 25 years old, and weigh 18,000 pounds or less.
New York emissions inspectors determine that vehicles have all of the required emissions-control components and that they are properly connected, including the presence, condition and fit of the gas cap. Inspectors test the catalytic converter, exhaust gas recirculation valve and positive crankcase ventilation system on all models that are equipped with these components. Vehicles from the model year 1984 and newer must have an air-injection system, evaporative emissions control, fuel-inlet restrictor and thermostatic air cleaner that are all in working condition.
Certain passenger cars and light trucks are exempt from New York state emissions testing. These include those that are two model years old or less, vehicles that are 26 years old or older or those that are registered with historical plates. Electric-powered vehicles are also exempt. Most diesel engine vehicles are also exempt, except those weighing 8,500 pounds or more that are registered in any of the nine counties in the New York metropolitan area.
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