Texas State Car Inspection Checklist

by Jerry Romick Google

    The state of Texas requires all passenger cars to have a comprehensive annual safety inspection. Cars that are registered in any of 17 metropolitan counties, and are 2 through 24 years old, are also subject to annual emissions testing. The fee for testing varies based on the county in which the car is registered and the type of test required. New residents to Texas must have their cars successfully inspected before they can register the car in Texas. Both the inspection and registration must be completed within 30 days of moving to Texas. Before testing begins the owner must prove financial responsibility or proof of insurance.

    Inside the Vehicle

    On the inside the car the inspector checks the operation of the horn and windshield wipers. He inspects the mirror for proper mounting and view to the rear. The inspector then determines if there are seat belts and that they are in working order. The inspector turns on the turn signal indicators to make sure that they are working and the headlights to determine that they turn on and that there is a working high beam indicator.

    Road Test

    An inspector drives the vehicle to check the steering and make sure the vehicle doesn't have excessive lash, then that it will make a full turn without jamming. The brakes must have sufficient pedal reserve and stopping ability and the parking brake must have proper holding power.

    Under the Vehicle

    The inspector looks under the car and examines the tires, wheels and rims for tread depth, visible cuts and defects. Next he inspects the brakes for any leaks or defects. If the car is required to have a catalytic converter the inspector will check to be sure that it's there and that it doesn't have any leaks. Finally, he inspects the exhaust system's condition, including the mounting brackets.

    Outside the Vehicle

    If the car has tinted windows the inspector determines that the tint meets current legal standards. He checks windshield wiper blade condition and, if the car is required to have them, the outside mirrors. The lights are next on the inspector's list, and he checks them all for operation and condition, including head and taillights, brake lights, turn signal indicators and license plate light.

    Under the Hood

    After popping the hood the inspector checks the master brake cylinder for fluid level and leaks. He'll also inspect that required emissions systems are present, the exhaust system is in proper order and that the manifold doesn't have any leaks. The inspector checks the steering system belts, fluid level and determines that there are no leaks. He then inspects the mounting and wiring of the horn. If the car is a 1955 or earlier model he checks the engine number.

    Completing the Inspection

    At the end of the inspection the inspector checks the car's VIN and records the information on the inspection station report. If the vehicle fails the inspection the inspector will explain why. If the vehicle passes he'll remove the old sticker and issue the new one.

    If the Vehicle Fails

    Texas offers free re-inspections of vehicles that fail a safety inspection, if the owner has the necessary repairs done and returns to the original inspection station within 15 days of the original test.

    Emissions Testing

    Cars registered in any of the 17 counties within four metropolitan Texas areas -- Dallas-Ft Worth, Houston, Galveston and El Paso -- must pass an annual emissions test. The type of test is determined by the age of the vehicle and the metropolitan area in which it's registered. Texas uses three types of emissions tests. Vehicles 1995 and older in the El Paso area receive the Two Speed Idle test, while vehicles of the same age in Dallas-Ft Worth, Houston and Galveston receive the Accelerated Simulation test. All vehicles from 1996 and newer are tested using the On-Board Diagnostic test.
    The ASM test uses a dynamometer and measures emissions under simulated driving conditions. Vehicles fail this test for excessive hydrocarbon, carbon monoxide or oxides of nitrogen levels. The TSI test directly measures tailpipe emissions at both high and low idle. Excessive hydrocarbons or carbon monoxide cause a vehicle to fail this test.
    The On-Board Diagnostic test uses a scan tool that plugs directly into the car's on-board computer and downloads information pertaining to the emissions system and components to determine if they are working properly. Before connecting the testing device the inspector determines that the "check engine light" comes on when the ignition is turned to the "on" position and goes out when the engine is started.
    Vehicles fail this test due to catalytic converter failure, a faulty gas cap, out of specification fuel metering, incorrect ignition timing, malfunctioning injection system, faulty thermostatic air cleaner, mis-routed vacuum lines or a faulty PCV or EGR system.

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