PA State Inspection & Emissions- Tips

June 22, 2016




Sometimes, the state regulations for inspection can be a little bit confusing. At JD's, we like to help our customers as best as we can. So, here are a few tips for getting your vehicle inspected.


Plan Ahead:

  • Typically, inspection stations will try to match the expiration month of new stickers with the old stickers, the registration expiration, or the current date. It is important to consider these things when making your inspection appointment. Inspection stations can write stickers expiring up to two months ahead of the date of inspection.

  • For Example- Your vehicle registration expires in August, and you are going to be on vacation out of the country for most of July and August. You can bring your vehicle to an inspection station as early as June and, if the vehicle passes, the new stickers can still expire in August (of the next year, of course!).


Before your appointment:

  • Documentation- Ensure that both your Pennsylvania registration card and insurance card are valid. This means that the information on the cards matches the information for the vehicle and that the date of inspection falls in the range between the "valid" and "expiration" dates noted on the card. Inspection stations can also accept print out confirmations from the DMV's online registration renewal or "pink slips" from the purchase of a new vehicle, as well as electronic insurance cards.*

  • Check Engine Light- If your vehicle has a check engine light on, it will not pass inspection. If you have a check engine light on and your vehicle needs inspected, you should let your mechanic know beforehand that there is a check engine light on, so that he/she can plan to diagnose and resolve the problem.

*A note about electronic insurance cards: The inspector is not liable for any damages to any electronic device (i.e. cell phones, tablets, or laptops) that may occur while viewing an electronic insurance card.


During your appointment:

  • Areas inspected- The Pennsylvania State Safety Inspection requires the following areas of the vehicle to be checked:

    • Steering/ Suspension

    • Exhaust System

    • Fuel System

    • Glazing & Mirrors

    • Lights, Wiring, & Switches

    • Body Doors & Latches

    • Brake System

    • Tires

  • Any vehicle that does not meet the state safety standards for the above items does not pass inspection.

  • If your vehicle fails inspection, your mechanic should give you specific reasons why it passed. For example: "The state's minimum brake pad thickness is 2/32nds of an inch, and your front pads are at 1/32nds of an inch, so it does not pass inspection." Typically, the mechanic inspecting the car will give the customer a cost estimate to repair the areas of concern (in the example above, the estimate would be for a front brake job).


Emissions Program:

  • For most gasoline-powered passenger vehicles (9000 lbs or less GVWR) in certain counties of Pennsylvania, the state inspection also requires an emissions test. For more information on what the emissions requirements are for your county, please click here.

  • Emissions requirements for vehicles registered in the Pittsburgh Region:

    • Vehicles Model Year 1975- 1990, with a GVWR of 9000 lbs or less -> Visual/ Gas Cap Test*

    • Vehicles Model Year 1991- 1995, with a GVWR of 8500 lbs or less -> Tailpipe Test*

    • Vehicles Model Year 1991- 1995, with a GVWR of 8501- 9000 lbs -> Visual/ Gas Cap Test*

    • Vehicles Model Year 1996 and newer, with a GVWR of 8500 lbs or less -> OBDII Test

    • Vehicles Model Year 1996 and newer, with a GVWR of 8501- 9000 lbs -> Tailpipe Test

  • Visual Test- A visual emissions test requires the inspector to visually inspect all emissions components, which may include the catalytic converter, fuel inlet restrictor, PCV valve, EGR valve, air pump, and evap control system.

  • Tailpipe Test- A tailpipe test requires a probe to be inserted into the tailpipe of a vehicle to determine the composition of exhaust fumes. This will determine if the engine is running too lean, too rich, or just right!

  • OBDII Test- The on-board diagnostics test requires the emissions computer to be plugged into the vehicle's OBDII plugs. During this test, the computer will communicate with the vehicle and check that all emissions components are operating properly.

  • Gas Cap Test- The gas cap pressure test is a component of each of the above listed tests.

  • Emissions tests offered here at JDService: visual, gas cap, and OBDII.

  • Exemptions- Vehicles with less than 5,000 total miles, or less than 5,000 additional miles since the previous inspection, are exempt from emissions tests. Any inspection station offering any type of emissions test is able to apply exempt stickers to a vehicle meeting those requirements.

  • Failed Emissions Tests- If your vehicle failed emissions, you are entitled to one free retest at the inspection station where your vehicle was initially tested.


*A special note about vehicles with model years older than 1996: Vehicles model years of 26 years and older are only subject to visual/ gas cap emissions tests. Every year, the model year threshold will move up one year. Pre-1975 model year vehicles are not subject to emissions tests, due to the lack of existing emissions control regulations prior to 1975.


After Your Appointment:

Here are some things that you should receive before leaving the inspection station:

  • A printed Emissions Inspection Report for your vehicle, outlining whether or not the vehicle passed. If the vehicle did not pass the emissions test, the inspector should also provide you with information about why the car may have failed and about the waiver process, as well as an Emissions Related Repair Data Form.

  • If the vehicle did not pass state inspection, the inspector should give you a detailed list of reasons why the car failed, as well as what repairs the inspection station can make on the vehicle and an estimate for those repairs.

  • If the vehicle did pass inspection, you should leave the station with new inspection and emissions stickers! Our inspectors at JD's usually let you know if they feel that you will need to make any repairs to the vehicle in the next year as well.

  • For more information about the Pennsylvania State Safety Inspection and Emissions Programs, please visit the DMV's webpage or call 1-800-265-0921.




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