The State of North Carolina requires most vehicles to pass an annual inspection, which includes a Safety inspection and an Emissions inspection. The North Carolina DMV will not renew your registration until your vehicle has passed inspection. North Carolina does not use stickers; results are transmitted electronically to the DMV database. You can have your vehicle inspected up to 90 days before the tags expire. Here are a few common problems that can result in a failed state inspection.
Excessive Brake Wear
If your brake pad or shoes have not been serviced and have worn down too far, this can interfere with brake function and create a safety hazard. (See also: 4 Types of Car Brakes)
Insufficient Tire Tread Depth
Most manufacturers recommend replacing tires when they reach the last 4/32” of their tread depth. Mismatched tread depths between two tires can also create a safety hazard, especially on the front tires. (See also: How Many New Tires Do I Need?)
Burned Out Headlights and Tail Lights
If you notice that any of your headlights or signal lamps are not functioning properly, it is important to have this fixed immediately. Not only will this cause you to fail inspection, but you can also be ticketed for driving with improper equipment.
Cut Wiper Blades
This failure is very common. If the wiper blade is torn on the ends, missing or
does not clean the windshield effectively, then it will fail. Also, if your windshield is cracked and causes the wiper blade to be cut, this will also result in a failed inspection.
Check Engine Light
A check engine light can result from a number of different conditions ranging from mild to severe. The only way to determine the cause of a check engine light is to have a qualified technician run a computer diagnostic. If you purchase a used vehicle—particularly if it is an older vehicle—you should make sure that the check engine light is working properly.
This is not a complete list, as the North Carolina State Inspection requirements are thorough and detailed. Generally speaking, if you have your car serviced regularly, including all OEM-recommended scheduled maintenance, you should not have any surprises at inspection time.