Here in North Carolina, most drivers need to take their vehicle for an annual inspection and emissions test. Emissions testing near me is required if you live in certain counties, but here’s the good news: if you fail either your inspection or your emissions test, we can help get your car road-worthy again as quickly as possible.
Vehicle Safety Inspections – What We Check
With few exceptions, all vehicles in North Carolina need an annual safety inspection performed by a licensed mechanic. Here at Kernersville Auto Center, we are an official North Carolina inspection and emissions testing station. Our mechanics inspect your vehicle quickly, so you can get back to your life.
Here’s what our vehicle safety inspections include, as dictated by the state:
- Headlights and accessory lights – we ensure they are all functioning properly and providing adequate brightness.
- Directional signals – we check that they are working when you turn them on from the inside of the car.
- Brakes – we look at your general foot brake and parking brake.
- Steering – we check that the steering is responding as it should.
- Tires – we look at the tire tread to make sure your tires are safe for driving.
- Horn – we make sure it works! It’s a little thing that you might not use all year, so you might not realize it isn’t working.
- Rearview mirror – we look for cracks or other issues with your mirrors.
- Windshield wipers – we check that they are working and there are no tears in the blades themselves.
- Exhaust system – we make sure your exhaust system works as it should.
If your windows are tinted, we’ll also check the tint to make sure it falls within legal state guidelines. We recommend consulting a licensed mechanic before you tint your windows, if you have been thinking about it. Heavily tinted windows won’t pass inspection in most cases. Find more info about window tinting below.
While you are here, we can also perform other maintenance, such as oil changes. Also, try our car wash, which uses ultra-soft brushes to wash away dirt and grime.
What is Required for Emissions Testing Near Me
Many counties in North Carolina require vehicle emissions testing on an annual basis. If you live in any of the below 22 counties, they require an on-board diagnostic emissions inspection:
- New Hanover
The emissions test checks the level of pollutants coming from your vehicle’s exhaust. Although a vehicle emission test can feel annoying, they help keep pollution under control.
Safety Inspection and Emissions Testing Near Me: Cost Breakdown
The state sets the price for a safety inspection and emissions test. So, you don’t have to worry about calling around to price check multiple shops. Currently, state inspection and emissions pricing is as follows:
- Safety Inspection: $13.60
- Emissions Testing: $30
- Window Tint Inspection: $10
So, your inspection will cost $43.60 if you don’t have your windows tinted and $53.60 if you do. You cannot legally drive your car without this annual inspection.
These prices do not include repair work needed to pass the inspection. Mechanics are allowed to charge whatever they want for these repairs, which is why it is important to choose an inspection station you trust. Here at Kernersville Auto Center, we provide fair and transparent pricing. If your car needs a repair before it will pass inspection, we’ll break down the cost of that repair first. You are welcome to take your car elsewhere for these repairs if you want. We’ll answer all your questions about the needed repairs so you can make the best decisions for your car.
What You Need to Know About Window Tinting
Any vehicle with after-market window tinting needs a window tinting inspection. This is mandated by the state and not required if your windows have a normal manufacturer-applied tint.
In order to pass, your window tint needs to be below 32% as measured by our meter. It cannot go too low on your windshield, where the state deems it could obstruct your view (5 inches from the top or to the AS1 line – whichever is longer).
In some cases, your vehicle can get an exemption. We do not need to check window tint on ambulances, limousines, police cars and other law enforcement vehicles, excursion passenger vehicles (i.e. vehicles such as buses that are used for sight-seeing tours), and motor homes. The rear window of a property-hauling vehicle, such as a semi, is also exempt. Lastly, some minivans, trucks, and SUVs are exempt.
If you have a medical condition that requires window tinting, you could also qualify for an exemption from this annual testing. You’ll need to apply with the state through the Medical Review Program. Qualified individuals get a permit that is valid for up to five years, at which time you’ll need to reapply if the medical condition still applies. If you have a medical exemption for your window tinting, you’ll also need to display a provided sticker on your rear window. Typically, you need proof of photosensitivity from a doctor in order to get this kind of exemption.
Exemptions for Safety Inspections and Emissions Tests
Speaking of exemptions, some vehicles are exempt from annual safety inspections and emissions testing in North Carolina.
First, if your vehicle is older than 35 years old, it is exempt from inspection requirements. However, you must carefully maintain a vehicle of this age. We recommend bringing it in on an annual basis for a tune up. This ensures that we catch problems when they are small, before they get worse.
Additionally, if your vehicle is over 30 years old, you can apply for antique license plates in some cases. These plates are available if you use the vehicle primarily for shows, parades, clubs, and other types of exhibition. If you have antique plates, you don’t need to have your vehicle inspected annually. Again, even though it’s not mandated, we do recommend having a professional look at your car annually just to alert you of potential problems.
Furthermore, your vehicle is exempt from the vehicle emission test, even if you live in a county where it is typically required, if it falls into one of these categories:
- Farm vehicles (must be registers as a farm vehicle)
- Diesel engine vehicles
- Vehicles that are more than 20 years old
Exemptions are also given to some light-duty, gasoline-powered vehicles that are less than 3 years old or have fewer than 70,000 miles. This calculator can tell you if you qualify for an exemption.
Even if you qualify for an exemption, we recommend bringing your car in annually for preventative maintenance and to check all systems. Think of it as your annual doctor’s visit, but for your vehicle.
What Happens if You Fail Your Inspection or Emissions Test?
If you fail either your safety inspection or emissions test, don’t panic. Don’t let the fear of failure make you avoid finding inspection and emissions testing near me. You need your inspection sticker to legally drive.
Most of the time, vehicles that come to our shop have very minor issues during their inspection. You may need a new bulb, for example, or new windshield wipers. These fixes are very inexpensive and fast. We also commonly see issues such as tires without enough tread to pass or brake pads in need of replacement. While these repairs are a little more costly, they are still relatively minor. Generally, we fix them quickly at our shop.
Even if you need a more major repair, don’t worry. We can help! We’ll give you a full price quote for the repairs, which breaks down the cost. You are welcome to call around to compare prices or even take your vehicle elsewhere for the repair. We want you to feel confident that you’re making the best decision for your vehicle. Our honest pricing and top-quality customer service can’t be beat.
After a mechanic repairs your vehicle, we can re-inspect it at no cost, as long as it is within 60 days of your previous failed inspection. If you take your vehicle elsewhere for a re-inspection, you’ll have to pay the state’s fees again. The waived fee is only available if you go to the same station where your inspection previously failed.
What If Your Vehicle Fails Inspection?
If your vehicle fails inspection, you won’t be able to get a vehicle registration. At our shop (and any other inspection station in the state), we enter inspection information into the state’s database at the time of the inspection. So, if you fail, they know. Thus, they block you from registering. You can get your car inspected any time within 90 days of your last inspection’s expiration. We encourage our drivers to have an inspection early, rather than waiting until the last minute.
There’s good news if you pass your safety inspection but fail your emissions test. You could receive an exemption if repair costs will be more than $200. We can give you more details if you find yourself in this situation.
Inspection Questions – FAQs About State Requirements
Here are some of the most common inspection questions we receive, along with the answers:
1. Do I need an inspection for a car I just bought?
Yes, if the vehicle has not been inspected in the past 12 months. If you purchase a vehicle from a dealership, they typically ensure that the inspection is up to date. However, if you purchase from a private owner, ensure they recently inspected it. Typically (but not always), it is a red flag if the car doesn’t have a recent inspection.
2. What should I do if I’m living out of state when my inspection comes due?
You can receive an exemption. You have to show proof that the vehicle was inspected locally or that you’ve had other maintenance performed on your vehicle.
3. When do I need to get an inspection if I’m a new resident?
If you’ve recently moved to North Carolina, you can register your vehicle without getting a North Carolina inspection. When your current state’s inspection expires, your North Carolina inspection will be due. The same thing goes for people who move within the state to a county that requires emissions testing. If your previous county didn’t require it, you don’t have to get your car tested until your current registration expires and you’re due for your annual inspection again.
4. How can I legally drive to Kernersville Auto Center for my inspection if my car is currently unregistered or doesn’t have plates?
You can apply for a temporary license plate through the state. This gives you the ability to drive the vehicle for up to ten days so you can bring it in for inspection and drive to the DMV to get your vehicle registration.
Maintain Your Vehicle for an Easy Annual Inspection
It can be stressful to get your annual vehicle inspection. You don’t want to be surprised with a large repair bill. We can help alleviate that stress with regular vehicle maintenance. Servicing your vehicle throughout the year prevents major problems. Maintenance can even help your vehicle last longer.
To start, have your oil changed regularly through the year. If you drive your vehicle an average amount, you’ll probably need an oil change 1-4 times per year. This depends on the type of oil you choose, the age of your vehicle, your vehicle’s make and model, and other factors. Our licensed mechanics can let you know when you are due for an oil change.
Throughout the year, we also recommend other maintenance as needed. This includes engine tune-ups, rotating your tires, checking your fluids, and replacing parts that show wear.
If you have your vehicle maintained through the year, you generally won’t have any major surprises when your annual inspection is due. You can book a maintenance appointment by clicking here. And if you aren’t sure what kind of maintenance you need, our team can look at your car and make recommendations. We’ll explain exactly what you need and when, so you can make the best decisions for your vehicle.