Captain Ronald C. Maxey, Jr., Safety Officer (Division Commander)
Virginia Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Program
The Required Official Inspection Procedure, as approved by the Virginia State Police Superintendent, is as follows:
REQUIRED OFFICIAL INSPECTION PROCEDURE
Each inspection consists of the following items – for further details consult the “Official Annual Motor Vehicle Inspection Manual“:
1. – REMOVE OLD INSPECTION STICKER.
2. – DRIVE VEHICLE INTO INSPECTION LANE.
3. – INSPECT BRAKES FOR:
- Worn, damaged or missing parts.
- Worn, contaminated or defective linings or drums.
- Leakage in system and proper fluid level.
- Worn, contaminated or defective disc pads or disc rotors.
4. – INSPECT PARKING BRAKE FOR:
- Broken or missing parts.
- Proper adjustment.
- Standard factory equipment or equivalent.
5. – INSPECT HEADLIGHTS FOR:
- Approved type, aim and output.
- Condition of lamps, lenses, wiring and switch.
- High beam indicator.
6. – INSPECT OTHER LIGHTS FOR:
- Approved type, proper bulbs, and condition of lenses, wiring and switch.
- Aim of fog and driving lamps.
- Illumination of all lamps and proper color of lenses.
(NOTE: Every vehicle must have a rear lamp showing a red light to the rear, a white light illuminating the rear license plate; vehicles over 7 feet wide or extending 4 inches or more beyond the front fender extremes must be equipped with approved clearance lamps and reflex reflectors. (Include load when measuring.)
7. – INSPECT SIGNAL DEVICE FOR:
- Approved type, proper bulbs, and condition of lenses, wiring and switch.
- Correct operation of device.
- Illumination of all lamps and proper lens color.
8. – INSPECT STEERING & SUSPENSION FOR:
(Jack up front end as shown in “Official Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Manual”.)
- Wear in bushings, kingpins, ball joints, wheel bearings and tie rod ends.
- Looseness of gear box on frame, condition of drag link and steering arm.
- Play in steering wheel; leakage of power steering fluid in the system.
- Wheel alignment and axle alignment.
- Broken coil springs, spring leaves and worn shackles.
- Shock absorbers.
- Broken or weakened frame.
- Broken or missing engine mounts.
- Lift blocks.
9. – INSPECT TIRES, WHEELS & RIMS FOR:
- Condition of tires including tread depth.
- Mixing radials and bias ply tires.
- Wheels that are cracked or damaged so as to affect safe operation.
10. – INSPECT MIRRORS FOR:
- Rigidity of mounting.
- Condition of reflecting surface.
- Check for road visibility 200 feet to the rear. (Truck mirrors must extend at least halfway beyond edge of body.)
11. – INSPECT HORN FOR:
- Electrical connections, mounting and horn button.
- Emits sound audible for a minimum of 200 feet.
12. – INSPECT WINDSHIELD AND OTHER GLASS FOR:
- Approved type safety glass.
- Cloudiness, distortion or other obstruction to vision.
- Cracked, scratched or broken glass.
- ALL UNAUTHORIZED STICKERS MUST BE REMOVED.
- Sun shading material on windshield displaying words, lettering, numbers or pictures that does not extend below the AS-1 line is permitted. In the absence of an AS-1 line, sun shading material on the windshield displaying words, lettering, numbers or pictures cannot extend more than three inches downward from the top of the windshield, unless authorized by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and indicated on the vehicle registration.
- Operation of left front door glass.
13. – INSPECT WINDSHIELD WIPER/DEFROSTER FOR:
- Operating condition.
- Condition of wiper blades.
14. – INSPECT EXHAUST SYSTEM FOR:
- Exhaust line: manifold, gaskets, pipes, mufflers, connections, etc.
- Leakage of gases at any point from engine to point discharged from system.
15. – INSPECT REAR LICENSE PLATE FOR:
- Illumination of rear plate.
16. – INSPECT HOOD AND AREA UNDER THE HOOD FOR:
- Operating condition of hood latch.
- Presence of emissions system; evidence that any essential parts have been removed, rendered inoperative or disconnected.
- Fluid levels that are below the proper level:
(a) Brake fluid.
(b) Power steering fluid.
- Power steering belt; proper tension, wear or absence of belt.
17. – INSPECT AIR POLLUTION CONTROL SYSTEM OF 1973 AND SUBSEQUENT MODELS FOR:
- No parts removed, disconnected or rendered inoperable.
(NOTE: This includes the catalytic converter and the fuel tank filler pipe.)
18. – INSPECT DRIVER’S SEAT FOR:
19. – INSPECT SEAT BELTS FOR:
- Approved type.
20. – INSPECT AIR BAG AND AIRBAG READINESS LIGHT FOR:
- Any defects in the air bag system noted by the air bag readiness light, or otherwise indicated; or
- The air bag has been deployed and has not been replaced (and is not deactivated because of a medical or other exemption and a notice is posted to indicate that it has been deactivated); or
- Any part of the air bag system has been removed from the vehicle; or
- If the air bag indicator fails to light or stays on continuously.
21. – INSPECT DOORS AT THE RIGHT & LEFT SIDE OF THE DRIVER’S SEAT FOR:
- Handle or opening device which will permit the opening of the door from the outside and inside of the vehicle.
- Latching system which will hold door in its proper closed position.
22. – INSPECT FUEL SYSTEM FOR:
- Any part that is not securely fastened.
- Liquid fuel leakage.
- Fuel tank filler cap for presence.
23. – INSPECT FLOOR PAN FOR:
- Holes which allow exhaust gases to enter occupant compartment.
- Conditions which create a hazard to the occupants.
24. – ISSUE STICKER:
- If approved, place completed approval sticker on the vehicle and give the receipt of certificate to the operator.
- ALL DEFECTS MUST BE CORRECTED AND THE VEHICLE REINSPECTED WITHIN 15 DAYS. THE DRIVER MAY BE SUBJECT TO RECEIVING A TRAFFIC SUMMONS FOR ANY DEFECT STILL PRESENT WHEN THE VEHICLE IS OPERATED ON THE HIGHWAY.
(NOTE: The validity period of the rejection sticker shall include fifteen (15) days in addition to the day of the inspection.)
The maximum inspection fees are as follows:
$51 for each inspection of any (i) tractor truck, (ii) truck that has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more, or (iii) motor vehicle that is used to transport passengers and has a seating capacity of more than 15 passengers, including the driver.
$12 for each inspection of any motorcycle and autocycle.
$20 for each inspection of any other vehicle, including trailers and motor homes.
NOTE: If you have a specific question with regard to motor vehicle safety inspection or inspection requirements, please refer to the Official Annual Motor Vehicle Inspection Manual, which is available through Virginia’s Legislative Information System. It is comprised of Commonwealth of Virginia Administrative Code, Chapter 70 (MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY INSPECTION RULES AND REGULATIONS), Sections 1 through 680:1 and Forms.
Virginia State Police employees cannot give legal advice, nor interpret the law for members of the public. Information within this Web site is provided for general guidance purposes only and may not apply to all factual situations. Persons needing legal advice may contact Virginia Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-552-7977 to be referred to a private attorney for a 30-minute consultation for a fee of $35.00.
Locating an Inspection Station
The Safety Division receives numerous calls and e-mails requesting a list of inspection stations for a particular area.
The Department of State Police is unable to recommend one station over another to the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Unfortunately, there is no list available on-line of inspection stations in Virginia. The number of inspection stations changes daily due to stations becoming inactive for not having an inspector, going out of business, being suspended for disciplinary reasons, new stations being appointed, reinstated, etc. Currently, there are approximately 4,200 stations statewide.
Generally, all new car dealerships perform inspections. Many garages that repair vehicles are licensed to perform inspections. They will display a large white sign with blue lettering designating them as an official inspection station. Many businesses advertise inspection services in your local phone directory.
If you are still unable to locate an inspection station, you may want to contact the Safety Division Area Office nearest you for further assistance.
Intradepartmental Safety Program
The Department stresses the safe operation of motor vehicles on an on-going basis and emphasizes the use of restraint devices through the Intradepartmental Safety Program. This program promotes among the employees operating department vehicles a sense of responsibility in the operation of those vehicles and to make them ever cognizant of the need for defensive driving.
Safety Division sworn employees provide support for local field divisions during all major C.A.R.E. holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving).
Frequently Asked Questions
Do new vehicles need to be submitted for the annual safety inspection?
New vehicles purchased in Virginia that have been inspected in accordance with an inspection requirement of the manufacturer or distributor are not required to undergo the initial annual safety inspection. Placement of an inspection sticker on the windshield of a vehicle will be at the automobile dealer’s option. Such inspection by the automobile dealer shall be deemed to be the first inspection for meeting the purpose of § 46.2-1158 Code of Virginia. However, these vehicles must be reinspected within twelve months of the month of the first inspection or purchase and at least once every twelve months thereafter and display a valid inspection decal. If an inspection sticker is not placed on the windshield by the manufacturer or distributor, the owner should maintain documentation within the vehicle to show when the vehicle was purchased and to serve as a reference for future requirements for inspection.
While the new language in Section 46.2-1158.01 states that “an inspection sticker may be affixed to the vehicle as required by Section 46-2-1163.”, for several practical reasons, an approval sticker should be affixed to the vehicle. The reasons are as follows:
- Once the purchaser drives the vehicle off the lot, it no longer meets the definition of a new vehicle as defined in Section 46.2-1500 of the Code of Virginia. Not if, but when the purchaser is stopped by law enforcement for not displaying an inspection sticker, and returns to the selling dealership for a sticker, the vehicle will be subject to an official state inspection like any other used vehicle. This obviously could lead to customer dissatisfaction.
- The affixing of the sticker to the new vehicle will prevent the vehicle from being unnecessarily stopped by law enforcement.
- In the absence of a sticker, there will be no visual reminder to the driver when the vehicle needs to be re-inspected. If the vehicle is not re-inspected as required by Section 46.2-1157 of the Code of Virginia, the operator would be subject to a traffic summons.
The affixing of an official inspection sticker to all “new vehicles” will be to the mutual benefit of the automobile dealer, the customer, and law enforcement.
If a vehicle is purchased out-of-state and then registered in Virginia, it must be inspected once it is registered in this state.
Once I have registered my vehicle in the state of Virginia, how long do I have before my vehicle must be inspected?
There is no grace period. You may have a safety inspection performed on your vehicle regardless of what state it is registered in. It is recommended that you have the safety inspection performed before registering the vehicle. Otherwise, once you have registered a vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state of Virginia, it must be inspected immediately.
Does an inspection sticker expire on the first or last day of the month indicated on the sticker?
The sticker expires the last day of the month, regardless of whether it is a weekday (Monday-Friday) or weekend (Saturday-Sunday). No documents will be mailed to remind you that the inspection is due.
How can I research Virginia laws?
The Motor Vehicle Laws of Virginia can be located at: http://lis.virginia.gov/000/src.htm
How can I search the Vehicle Inspection Manual online?
The Official Annual Motor Vehicle Inspection Manual is available through Virginia’s Legislative Information System. It is comprised of Commonwealth of Virginia Administrative Code, Chapter 70 (MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY INSPECTION RULES AND REGULATIONS), Sections 1 through 680:1 and Forms.
Are neon lights legal for use on vehicles in Virginia?
Neon lights are illegal anywhere on or in a motor vehicle in Virginia, unless they are covered and unlit while the vehicle is being operated on a public highway.
NOTE: If the neon lights are mounted under the vehicle, the vehicle is not considered a proper cover. A cover would have to be made specifically for the purpose of covering these lights.
If I feel that the inspection performed on my vehicle was not a proper inspection, what can I do?
If you question the integrity of a safety inspection performed on your vehicle, you should contact the nearest State Police Safety Division Office. An investigation will be conducted per your request to determine if proper inspection procedures were followed. State Police Safety Division Area Office Numbers are listed at the top of this page.
Where can I get a copy of the Virginia Official Safety Inspection Manual?
You may request a copy by mail or in person from:
Mailing address: Department of State Police, Safety Division, P. O. Box 27472, Richmond, VA 23261-7472
Office address: Department of State Police, Safety Division, 3719 Saunders Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227
The cost is $20.00 (no shipping or handling). The purchase of inspection manuals at our office or by mail will be limited to payment by money orders, cash, or company checks (cash can only be used by walk-in customers). Personal checks are not accepted.
If I am attending college, in the military, or visiting relatives out of state when my safety inspection sticker expires, what can I do to get an extension?
There are no extensions. Under normal circumstances, all Virginia-registered vehicles are required to bear a current Virginia inspection sticker. If your vehicle’s inspection sticker is not current, and you drive back into Virginia, 46.2-1158.01, of the Code of Virginia, provides that you are not required to have your vehicle(s) reinspected until you return to your residence or place of business in Virginia.
Furthermore, motor vehicles owned and operated by persons on active duty with the United States Armed Forces, who are Virginia residents stationed outside of Virginia at the time the inspection expires, may operate such vehicle(s) on the highway of the Commonwealth while on leave, provided such vehicle(s) display a valid inspection sticker issued by another state.
Any documentation as to your current residency would be helpful should you get stopped by a law enforcement officer.
Where can I locate an inspection station in my area?
You may contact your local Safety Division Area Office at the phone/e-mail address listed at the top of this page.
Are antique vehicles exempt from inspection and what are the restrictions?
For a vehicle to be defined as “antique,” it must be 25 years old or older. If the vehicle is registered as an antique through the Department of Motor Vehicles, it is exempt from state inspection.
Restrictions: Antique motor vehicles shall not be used for general transportation purposes, including, but not limited to, daily travel to and from the owner’s place of employment. Such vehicle may be operated on the highway for participation in club activities, exhibits, tours, parades, and similar events or for the purpose of testing their operation, obtaining repairs or maintenance, transportation to and from the events earlier described, and for occasional pleasure drives, not to exceed 250 miles from the residence of the owner.
Can I operate my vehicle with a rejection sticker on the windshield?
The validity period of a rejection sticker shall be 15 days, in addition to the day of inspection.
The purpose of a rejection sticker is to replace the approval sticker that was originally on your vehicle’s windshield. It, in itself, places no travel restrictions on the vehicle; however, it does not provide any exception to any statute governing equipment defects.
As an example, if your vehicle was rejected due to a defective exhaust, with a rejection sticker or with an approval sticker, you would be in jeopardy of receiving a summons for operating the vehicle on the highway with defective exhaust.
What is the cost of a safety inspection?
The cost is $51 for the inspection of a commercial motor vehicle. The cost is $12 for a motorcycle or autocycle. The cost is $20 for any other vehicle, including trailers and motor homes.
I have a crack in my windshield and would like to know if it will still pass inspection.
In the Virginia Official Safety Inspection Manual, Section 19 VAC 30-70-210, page 210-2, paragraphs 7 and 8, states:
Inspect for and reject if:
- There is a pit, chip, or star crack larger than 1½ inches in diameter at any location in the windshield above the 3-inch line at the bottom.
- At any location in the windshield above the 3-inch line at the bottom there is more than one crack from the same point if at least one of the cracks is more than 1½ inches in length. There is any crack that weakens the windshield so that one piece may be moved in relation to the other. (If there is more than one crack running from a star crack that extends above the 3-inch line, the windshield shall be rejected.)
What are the bumper height laws in the state of Virginia?
Section 46.2-1063 states:
Alteration of suspension system; bumper height limits; raising body above frame rail. — No person shall drive on a public highway any motor vehicle registered as a passenger motor vehicle if it has been modified by alteration of its altitude from the ground to the extent that its bumpers, measured to any point on the lower edge of the main horizontal bumper bar, exclusive of any bumper guards, are not within the range of fourteen inches to twenty-two inches above the ground. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the range of bumper heights for motor vehicles bearing street rod license plates issued pursuant to § 46.2-747 shall be nine to twenty-two inches.
No vehicle shall be modified to cause the vehicle body or chassis to come in contact with the ground, expose the fuel tank to damage from collision, or cause the wheels to come in contact with the body under normal operation. No part of the original suspension system of a motor vehicle shall be disconnected to defeat the safe operation of its suspension system. However, nothing contained in this section shall prevent the installation of heavy duty equipment, including shock absorbers and overload springs. Nothing contained in this section shall prohibit the driving on a public highway of a motor vehicle with normal wear to the suspension system if such normal wear does not adversely affect the control of the vehicle.
No person shall drive on a public highway any motor vehicle registered as a truck if it has been modified by alteration of its altitude from the ground to the extent that its bumpers, measured to any point on the lower edge of the main horizontal bumper bar, exclusive of any bumper guards, do not fall within the limits specified herein for its gross vehicle weight rating category. The front bumper height of trucks whose gross vehicle weight ratings are 4,500 pounds or less shall be no less than 14 inches and no more than 28 inches, and their rear bumper height shall be no less than 14 inches and no more than 28 inches. The front bumper height of trucks whose gross vehicle weight ratings are 4,501 pounds to 7,500 pounds shall be no less than 14 inches and no more than 29 inches, and their rear bumper height shall be no less than 14 inches and no more than 30 inches. The front bumper height of trucks whose gross vehicle weight ratings are 7,501 pounds to 15,000 pounds shall be no less than 14 inches and no more than 30 inches, and their rear bumper height shall be no less than 14 inches and no more than 31 inches. Bumper height limitations contained in this section shall not apply to trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings in excess of 15,000 pounds. For the purpose of this section, “truck” includes pickup and panel trucks, and “gross vehicle weight ratings” means manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight ratings established for that vehicle as indicated by a number, plate, sticker, decal, or other device affixed to the vehicle by its manufacturer.
In the absence of bumpers, and in cases where bumper heights have been lowered, height measurements under the foregoing provisions of this section shall be made to the bottom of the frame rail. However, if bumper heights have been raised, height measurements under the foregoing provisions of this section shall be made to the bottom of the main horizontal bumper bar.
No vehicle shall be operated on a public highway if it has been modified by any means so as to raise its body more than three inches, in addition to any manufacturer’s spacers and bushings, above the vehicle’s frame rail or manufacturer’s attachment points on the frame rail.
This section shall not apply to specially designed or modified motor vehicles when driven off the public highways in races and similar events. Such motor vehicles may be lawfully towed on the highways of the Commonwealth.
I have a small trailer and I would like to know if it is required to be inspected.
It depends. If the “actual gross weight” is 3,000 pounds or more, it is required to have brakes and is required to be inspected. (The “actual gross weight” is the weight of the trailer plus the weight of any load that the trailer is carrying.) If the “actual gross weight” is less than 3,000 pounds, it is not required to be inspected; however, any trailer under 3,000 that is equipped with brakes is also required to be inspected.
What are the tint laws in Virginia?
Section 46.2-1052 states:
Tinting films, signs, decals, and stickers on windshields, etc.; penalties.
- Except as otherwise provided in this article or permitted by federal law, it shall be unlawful for any person to operate any motor vehicle on a highway with any sign, poster, colored or tinted film, sun-shading material, or other colored material on the windshield, front or rear side windows, or rear windows of such motor vehicle. This provision, however, shall not apply to any certificate or other paper required by law or permitted by the Superintendent to be placed on a motor vehicle’s windshield or window.
The size of stickers or decals used by counties, cities, and towns in lieu of license plates shall be in compliance with regulations promulgated by the Superintendent. Such stickers shall be affixed on the windshield at a location designated by the Superintendent.
- Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, whenever a motor vehicle is equipped with a mirror on each side of such vehicle, so located as to reflect to the driver of such vehicle a view of the highway for at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle, any or all of the following shall be lawful:
- To drive a motor vehicle equipped with one optically grooved clear plastic right-angle rear view lens attached to one rear window of such motor vehicle, not exceeding eighteen inches in diameter in the case of a circular lens or not exceeding eleven inches by fourteen inches in the case of a rectangular lens, which enables the driver of the motor vehicle to view below the line of sight as viewed through the rear window;
- To have affixed to the rear side windows, rear window or windows of a motor vehicle any sticker or stickers, regardless of size; or
- To drive a motor vehicle when the driver’s clear view of the highway through the rear window or windows is otherwise obstructed.
- Except as provided in § 46.2-1053, but notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, no sun-shading or tinting film may be applied or affixed to any window of a motor vehicle unless such motor vehicle is equipped with a mirror on each side of such motor vehicle, so located as to reflect to the driver of the vehicle a view of the highway for at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle, and the sun-shading or tinting film is applied or affixed in accordance with the following:
- No sun-shading or tinting films may be applied or affixed to the rear side windows or rear window or windows of any motor vehicle operated on the highways of this Commonwealth that reduce the total light transmittance of such window to less than thirty-five percent;
- No sun-shading or tinting films may be applied or affixed to the front side windows of any motor vehicle operated on the highways of this Commonwealth that reduce total light transmittance of such window to less than fifty percent;
- No sun-shading or tinting films shall be applied or affixed to any window of a motor vehicle that (i) have a reflectance of light exceeding twenty percent or (ii) produce a holographic or prism effect.
Any person who operates a motor vehicle on the highways of this Commonwealth with sun-shading or tinting films that (i) have a total light transmittance less than that required by subdivisions 1 and 2 of this subsection, (ii) have a reflectance of light exceeding twenty percent, or (iii) produce holographic or prism effects shall be guilty of a traffic infraction but shall not be awarded any demerit points by the Commissioner for the violation.
Any person or firm who applies or affixes to the windows of any motor vehicle in Virginia sun-shading or tinting films that (i) reduce the light transmittance to levels less than that allowed in subdivisions 1 and 2 of this subsection, (ii) have a reflectance of light exceeding twenty percent, or (iii) produce holographic or prism effects shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor for the first offense and of a Class 2 misdemeanor for any subsequent offense.
- The Division of Purchases and Supply, pursuant to § 2.1-446, shall determine the proper standards for equipment or devices used to measure light transmittance through windows of motor vehicles. Law-enforcement officers shall use only such equipment or devices to measure light transmittance through windows that meet the standards established by the Division. Such measurements made by law-enforcement officers shall be given a tolerance of minus seven percentage points.
- No film or darkening material may be applied on the windshield except to replace the sunshield in the uppermost area as installed by the manufacturer of the vehicle.
- Nothing in this section shall prohibit the affixing to the rear window of a motor vehicle of a single sticker no larger than twenty square inches if such sticker is totally contained within the lower five inches of the glass of the rear window, nor shall subsection B of this section apply to a motor vehicle to which but one such sticker is so affixed.
- Nothing in this section shall prohibit applying to the rear side windows or rear window of any multi-purpose passenger vehicle or pickup truck sun-shading or tinting films that reduce the total light transmittance of such window or windows below thirty-five percent.
- As used in this article:
“Front side windows” means those windows located adjacent to and forward of the driver’s seat;
“Holographic effect” means a picture or image that may remain constant or change as the viewing angle is changed;
“Multipurpose passenger vehicle” means any motor vehicle that is (i) designed to carry no more than ten persons and (ii) constructed either on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road use;
“Prism effect” means a visual, iridescent, or rainbow-like effect that separates light into various colored components that may change depending on viewing angle.
“Rear side windows” means those windows located to the rear of the driver’s seat;
“Rear window” or “rear windows” means those windows which are located to the rear of the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle and which are approximately parallel to the windshield;
- Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, sun-shading material which was applied or installed prior to July 1, 1987, in a manner and on which windows not then in violation of Virginia law, shall continue to be lawful, provided that it can be shown by appropriate receipts that such material was installed prior to July 1, 1987.
- Where a person is convicted within one year of a second or subsequent violation of this section involving the operation of the same vehicle having a tinted or smoked windshield, the court, in addition to any other penalty, may order the person so convicted to remove such tinted or smoked windshield from the vehicle.
- The provisions of this section shall not apply to law-enforcement vehicles.
- The provisions of subdivision C(1.) of this section shall not apply to sight-seeing carriers as defined in § 46.2-2200 and limousine and executive sedan carriers as defined in § 46.2-2500.