In Massachusetts inspections are conducted at licensed garages by licensed inspectors. Safety
inspections are required every year; while, emission testing is done every-other year as long as
the plates on the car have not changed.
Myths about car inspections
1. You are allowed to drive your car with a safety rejection sticker for 60 days.
Unlike emission only failures, it is illegal to operate a car that has failed its safety inspection.
With a safety rejection you can get pulled over and your car towed. You have 60 days from the
initial failure to bring the car back for a free retest. With an emissions only failure you can drive
the car for 60 days.
2. If I fail in June, and go back for a retest in August I will get an August sticker.
Nope, stickers are printed with the date of the original failure. If you failed in January and went
for the retest in December you would still get a January sticker.
How to pass a car Inspection
I have been inspecting cars in Massachusetts for over 10 years. Here are some hints that
improve your chances of getting a passing sticker on your first try.
1. Have an oil change done 1 month prior to having your inspection done at the place you
intend to have your car inspected at.
Most oil changes come with a free safety check, which includes lights check, fluid check and
suspension check, tire check. You are actually killing two birds with one stone you probably
needed an oil change and you have just had a free safety check by the same people who will be
inspecting your car. It is important to note these free safety checks are not as thorough as an
safety inspection, but based on my experience most of the cars I have rejected had small issues
that could have been resolved at an oil change. For example lights that are burned out, washer
fluid that is empty etc… Also the technicians know you and they will be more likely to side in
your favor, when a judgment call arises.
2. Take your car to the car wash, vacuum it out.
To you this may seem unrelated to an inspection, but if your car looks like it has been
neglected, a tech is more likely to find something wrong with it.
3. Be polite to the inspector/ technician.
If you are pompous and arrogant the inspector will search real hard for something to fail you
on. If you are polite the inspector in most cases will try to make sure your car passes even if
that includes doing a little repair in the inspection bay. Like a first date first impressions are
everything, never honk at an inspector to get their attention. When you arrive at the station
get out of your car and go to the counter and ask for an inspection.
4. If your car fails, again be polite and make sure you understand why it failed.
If your car ends up failing the inspection, and you followed the above advice, there is a safety
problem that cannot be repaired in the bay. This will happen from time to time, it is important
to stay calm and listen to what the technician is telling you, so you fully understand why your
car failed its inspection. In most states you will get a free retest after a failing your initial test,
so don’t sweat it.
In Massachusetts if your car is a 1995 or older it is not required to pass an emissions test. Car
1996 or newer must pass an OBD II emissions test. Basically the inspection machine reads any
trouble codes from your cars computer, if there is a trouble code in most cases your car will fail.
Here are some tips to avoid failing this portion of the test.
1. If for any reason you disconnect your car battery or your battery goes dead, do not go in
for an inspection until you have driven the car at least a week or 200 miles.
When your car battery goes dead, or is disconnected your cars computer codes will be erased.
This is an automatic emissions failure, as the computer needs to reset.
2. Never try to take power from the OBD II plug to power a stereo.
This will prevent the OBD II plug from communicating with the inspection computer and it will
fail the test.
3. If your check engine light is on, you will fail the emissions test.
Your check engine light turns on when there is a code in your cars computer. If this yellow light
is on your car will fail the emissions test. When you bring your car in for an oil change have
your repairer fix the emissions problem. Make sure you drive the car for at least a week or 200
miles as after a computer repair is done.
How to do an at-home inspection
Most people want to know “How can I test my car to see if it will pass an inspection at home.” I
have listed some tests below that you can do at home, these are not all of the tests but a large
portion of them.
1. Check all the lights. Have someone sit in the car and run through all the lights. Left,
right, 4-ways, brake, reverse, plate light. Check the horn, does it work?
2. Put the e brake on and put the car in to drive, if the e brake hold the car at 1200 rpm, it
3. At night pull your car up to a building approximately 10 feet away. If the headlights are
even and you can see the beams you are probably in good shape. Make sure there is no
moisture in the lenses and they are not foggy.
4. Make sure all your mirrors are on the car, and not torn off.
5. Make sure your tires are inflated, and the tread is not hitting the wear bars.
6. Don’t have customized exhaust on that makes the car louder.
7. If you put tint on make sure to the final percentage is above 35%.
8. Check for rust holes in car.
9. Make sure the wipers and washers work and the wiper blades are not torn.
10. Make sure you do not have any cracks in the windshield.
11. Don’t raise or lower the car more than 2” from factory specifications.
12. Make sure your gas cap is still on the car.
13. Make sure there are no sharp edges. Remove towing hitches.
14. While the car is running is the check engine light on? If it is off you are most likely ok for
What to do on the day of inspection
Buckle all of the seatbelts together.
Make sure you have a copy of the cars registration handy.
Make sure the registration is not expired.
Don’t wait till the end of the month if possible to avoid lines.