FAQs - Inspections

  1. What is the Massachusetts Vehicle Check?
  2. I have a safety related complaint about my vehicle. Who can I complain to?
  3. The airbag light is on in my vehicle, am I going to fail inspection?
  4. My Anti-lock brake light is on, am I going to fail inspection?
  5. I have a commercial vehicle. Where are the commercial vehicle inspection regulations?
  6. I've heard that the Massachusetts Commercial Inspection is the equivalent to the federal "DOT" inspection. Do I need to get both?
  7. I heard about the new Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law that went into effect. Can you tell me more about it?
  8. My vehicle was failed for an incorrect VIN number on my registration. How do I get this corrected?
  9. My motorcycle was failed for illegal pipes. What's legal?
  10. My 1972 Oldsmobile has 200,000 miles on it and runs like a top, except for a cloud of blue smoke when I accelerate. Why did I fail the inspection, I thought I was exempt from emissions?
  11. Does a dealer have to provide a sticker on my new vehicle before I drive away?
  12. Will a vehicle with a small crack in a tail light or missing reflector pass inspection?
  13. Does an inspector have the right to remove a wheel to look at my brakes during inspection?
  14. May I use neon undercarriage lights?
  15. What are the specifications for aftermarket window tinting?
  16. I've seen new Sport Utility Vehicles with really dark tint on the side and back windows. Why can they do it?
  17. Do I need to get my trailer inspected?
  18. I have a small utility trailer. Are there any special requirements?
  19. I don't think the inspector was correct in failing my vehicle. How can I challenge the results?
  20. I just moved to Massachusetts and brought my three-month old new car with me. I was told I could not register it in Massachusetts because it did not meet the emissions requirements. This is a new car. What is the problem?
  21. My vehicle is legally registered in another state, and my inspection sticker has expired. Can I get a Massachusetts inspection sticker until I get home?
  22. I am going out of state for three months, and my Massachusetts sticker will expire while I am out of state. What should I do?
  23. I was told my vehicle failed because I only have one plate. I am certain I was only issued one plate. What should I do?
  24. I was told my vehicle failed because my plate was illegible.
  25. I was told my vehicle failed because the dealer license plate frame obstructs the logo "The Spirit of America" or "Massachusetts."
  26. Are studded tires legal in Massachusetts?
  27. What do they inspect on my passenger vehicle?
  28. What do they inspect on my motorcycle?
  29. I failed. Now what?
  30. How do I get a school bus inspected?
  31. What About the New Emissions Program I've Heard About?

  1. What is the Massachusetts Vehicle Check?
    Massachusetts introduced its "next generation" vehicle emissions testing and safety inspection program on, October 1, 2008. Vehicles 1999 and newer will be tested for emissions (On Board Diagnostic test) every year along with the annual safety inspection. Motorists will be able to choose which inspection station they use as long as the station is licensed. The cost of the test is among the lowest in the nation for this type of program. The Mass Vehicle Check will continue to cost $35 annually.
  2. I have a safety related complaint about my vehicle. Who can I complain to?
    Contact the Auto Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236, or visit the Auto Safety Hotline website.
  3. The airbag light is on in my vehicle, am I going to fail inspection?
    Yes. Airbags are now part of the state inspection. If your airbag indicator light indicates a malfunction in the system, or any airbag has been deployed, you will fail the inspection. Click here for more information about airbags and airbag safety.
  4. My Anti-lock brake light is on, am I going to fail inspection?
    No, anti-lock brakes are not part of the state inspection. However, if the brake light is on, indicating a failure in the hydraulic braking system, you will be failed. This indicates a serious condition which must be checked immediately. The anti-lock brake light indicates a problem with that specific feature of your braking system. We do, however, suggest you have the brakes checked as soon as possible.
  5. I have a commercial vehicle. Where are the commercial vehicle inspection regulations?
    Right here: http://www.massrmv.com/rmv/inspect/commercial_regs.pdf
  6. I've heard that the Massachusetts Commercial Inspection is the equivalent to the federal "DOT" inspection. Do I need to get both?
    No. If you are required to get the Federal DOT inspection, the Massachusetts Commercial inspection will meet that requirement as well. Your paperwork is proof of the Federal DOT equivalent inspection. This is a new feature of the Massachusetts Commercial Vehicle Inspection.
  7. I heard about the new Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law that went into effect. Can you tell me more about it?
    Beginning July 10, 2008 a child passenger restraint is required by law in Massachusetts for children 5-7 years of age or until they reach 4'9" in height. This means that for children who have grown out of their forward facing child safety seat, the next step is the booster seat.

    No child under the age of eight and measuring less than fifty-seven inches shall ride as a passenger in a motor vehicle on any way unless such child is properly fastened and secured, according to the manufacturers' instructions, by a child passenger restraint".

    A certified Child Passenger Safety technician can check your child safety seat or booster seat for safety and assure proper fit. These checkpoints are free but usually require an appointment. To find a technician near you call the Car Safe Line at 1-800-CAR-SAFE (1-800-227-7233) at the MA Department of Public Health or visit http://www.mass.gov/childsafetyseats.

    The law applies to children riding in all types of privately owned vehicles and vehicles for hire, including taxi cabs and 7D vehicles; the child's parent or care giver must provide the car seat. This is a primary enforcement law. A police officer may stop a car if one or more children are riding unrestrained. No other reason is needed. For more information, call the Injury Prevention and Control Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at (800) 227-SAFE, or write: 250 Washington Street, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02108-4619.
  8. My vehicle was failed for an incorrect VIN number on my registration. How do I get this corrected?
    The inspection station should have provided you with information explaining the procedure for having this problem corrected. If you did not receive information, or have misplaced it, call the Telephone Center.
  9. My motorcycle was failed for illegal pipes. What's legal?
    Generally speaking, you must have a baffle in the exhaust system of a motorcycle. Straight pipes are illegal, and your motorcycle must meet certain noise requirements. For motorcycles manufactured before 1986, 102 decibels is the legal limit, 99 decibels for motorcycles manufactured after 1986.
  10. My 1972 Oldsmobile has 200,000 miles on it and runs like a top, except for a cloud of blue smoke when I accelerate. Why did I fail the inspection, I thought I was exempt from emissions?
    Visible smoke coming from an exhaust pipe is considered an emissions related issue, applicable to all vehicles regardless of age.
  11. Does a dealer have to provide a sticker on my new vehicle before I drive away?
    No, although many new car dealers provide this as a service, you are allowed 7 days to obtain an inspection sticker from the station of your choice.
  12. Will a vehicle with a small crack in a tail light or missing reflector pass inspection?
    No, the regulation clearly states that all lenses and reflectors must be intact, clean, unobstructed, and free from cracks. The use of adhesive tape to repair lenses is prohibited. If the lens has been repaired with an epoxy and is sealed from any water intrusion, it should pass.
  13. Does an inspector have the right to remove a wheel to look at my brakes during inspection?
    Yes, an inspector may want to verify a suspected problem by removing a wheel. They may do so only with the consent of the customer. If you refuse, however, the inspector may not be able to pass your vehicle.
  14. May I use neon undercarriage lights?
    No, Neon (fluorescent) lights are illegal and are not approved for use in Massachusetts. Any aftermarket lighting that is not SAE or DOT approved shall be removed.
  15. What are the specifications for aftermarket window tinting?
    For most vehicles, aftermarket tinting that registers at least 35% on a tint meter on side windows immediately adjacent to the driver and front passenger seats, and side windows immediately to the rear of the operator and passenger, is acceptable. The rear window may be tinted to the 35% level, but the vehicle must be equipped with two outside rear view mirrors. The windshield may only be tinted down to the AS-1 line, which is usually located in the uppermost (6) inches of the windshield.
  16. I've seen new Sport Utility Vehicles with really dark tint on the side and back windows. Why can they do it?
    Those and other vehicles have factory-installed glass which carries Federal/D.O.T. approval. The Massachusetts tint law is directed toward aftermarket installation of tinting materials.
  17. Do I need to get my trailer inspected?
    It depends on the trailer type and its use. A single, full or semi-trailer, used in commerce, with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating over 3,000 lbs or a truck/trailer combination that exceeds 10,000 GCVWR (gross combined vehicle weight rating) needs a commercial inspection every year. Trailers for personal use (boat trailers, camper trailers, utility type trailers) do NOT need to be inspected.
  18. I have a small utility trailer. Are there any special requirements?
    Yes, trailers must be legally registered in the Commonwealth. A legally registered trailer must have fenders, two tail lights, stop lights, directional signals and safety chains. It is a violation of law if these conditions are not met.
  19. I don't think the inspector was correct in failing my vehicle. How can I challenge the results?
    For both emissions related and safety issues, you can ask for a challenge test by calling the Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services Department in Quincy at 857-368-8130, and you must complete an Inspection Station Complaint Form (PDF, 34k). A Registry official will review your request and may ask you to return with him or her to that inspection station or a neutral inspection station. If you pass the challenge test, the station that originally issued the Reject sticker to you will provide you with a Certificate of Inspection (sticker.) If you fail the challenge test, you will be charged $35 and your reject sticker will stay affixed to the windshield until the defects are repaired.
  20. I just moved to Massachusetts and brought my three-month old new car with me. I was told I could not register it in Massachusetts because it did not meet the emissions requirements. This is a new car. What is the problem?
    Generally, vehicles with less than 7,500 miles are prohibited from being registered in Massachusetts unless they meet Massachusetts, California, or 50-state emissions requirements. Please contact the Department of Environmental Protection at (617) 292-5762 for more information.
  21. My vehicle is legally registered in another state, and my inspection sticker has expired. Can I get a Massachusetts inspection sticker until I get home?
    Generally, yes. Any Class A inspection station will inspect your vehicle for a $35 fee. Each state has its own reciprocity regulations. You should call your state authorities for more information.
  22. I am going out of state for three months, and my Massachusetts sticker will expire while I am out of state. What should I do?
    You have two options. You can submit your vehicle for an inspection before you leave, and if you pass you will get a new Certificate of Inspection valid for one year, or when your Massachusetts sticker expires, you may submit your vehicle for inspection in another state that has both safety and emissions inspections. Once you return to Massachusetts, you will have 15 days to submit your vehicle for a Massachusetts inspection. To determine which states have safety and emissions programs, visit their web sites. For more information and requirements for out of state or reciprocity inspections.
  23. I was told my vehicle failed because I only have one plate. I am certain I was only issued one plate. What should I do?
    Motor vehicles in Massachusetts must have two plates affixed to the vehicle, except for vehicles with the green and white passenger plate and Dealer, Repair, Owner-Contractor, and Farm plates. If you have lost your second plate, the easiest solution is to simply request new plates from the Registry, and then have your vehicle re-inspected with the new plates. If you have a vanity or reserve (low number) plate that you wish to keep, you may order a plate at any Registry branch. You will be provided with an order receipt which you must keep with your Registration until your replacement plate has arrived. Use of a substitute paper plate is permitted during this time.

    NOTE: Many people think they received only one plate because they are stuck together. Be sure to check behind the plate that is on your vehicle now!
  24. I was told my vehicle failed because my plate was illegible.
    By state law, Massachusetts license plates must be readable from 60 feet away. Any green or red passenger plate, which has lost its reflective coating or paint or has been damaged, must be replaced. You can also be cited by law enforcement for this violation. The RMV encourages vehicle owners to swap illegible plates for a set of red plates at no fee. Faded and illegible plates can be swapped at any of the RMV's full serivce branch locations. A red plate that is lost or damaged can also be ordered at any branch or by calling the RMV Telephone Center at 857-368-8000. The cost of replacing these plates is $10 a plate and will be mailed to the registered owner.
  25. I was told my vehicle failed because the dealer license plate frame obstructs the logo "The Spirit of America" or "Massachusetts."
    Regulations require that all letters, numbers, stickers, and symbols must be clearly visible on the number plate. A number plate frame that obstructs any part of the plate is illegal, and you could be fined for having an obstructed plate.
  26. Are studded tires legal in Massachusetts?
    Yes, but only from November 1st through April 30th.
  27. What do they inspect on my passenger vehicle?
    • VIN Number/Registration/License Plates
    • Windshield
    • Wipers/Windshield Washer
    • Headlights/Headlight Aim
    • Turn Signals/4-Way Flashers
    • Tail Lamps/Brake Lights/Backup Lights/Other Lighting Devices
    • Rear View Mirrors
    • Horn
    • Exhaust System
    • Tires
    • Body Panels/Fuel Tank
    • Frame/Unibody
    • Service Brake
    • Parking/Emergency Brake
    • Seat Belts/Air Bag Operation
    • Ball Joints/Steering/Suspension
    • Visible Smoke
    • Emissions Test/Emissions Components (if applicable)
  28. What do they inspect on my motorcycle?
    • VIN Number/Registration/License Plates
    • Tire and Wheels/Wheel Bearings
    • Axle Clamps/Cotter Pins
    • Brake Operation/Condition
    • Steering Head Bearings/Stops
    • Handlebars/Fork Tubes/Cables
    • Frame/Body/Fenders
    • Controls/Mirrors/Horn
    • Headlights/Headlight Aim
    • Turn Signals/4-Way Flashers
    • Tail Lamps/Brake Lights/ other Lighting Devices
    • Seating/Footrests
    • Fuel System/Engine/Battery/Exhaust/Excessive Noise
    • Swingarm/Shocks
    • Chain/Sprockets/Guard
    • Windshield/Cowling (if applicable)
    • Safety Bars/Luggage Racks
    • Sidecar (if applicable)
  29. I failed. Now what?
    First of all, DON'T PANIC! It's not the end of the world! It is important to note that the purpose of our inspection program is to ensure public safety, which includes YOU. With nearly 5,000,000 registered vehicles in Massachusetts, common sense dictates that roadway safety requires safely operating vehicles. We hope we can count on your cooperation, and want you to know that we are here to help if you need it. We're just a phone call away. There are two categories of inspection failures: If the problem is a safety related issue (brakes, horn, tires, etc.) You must have the problem fixed immediately. You are not allowed to drive the vehicle or motorcycle until the safety issue(s) are resolved. Click the link if your vehicle fails and the problem is emissions related. If you failed for an emissions related problem, the inspector is required to provide you with an Emissions Failure Brochure. These brochures are available free of charge at all Official Massachusetts Inspection Stations.
  30. How do I get a school bus inspected?
    If you are a school transportation provider, and you have a school bus that needs to be inspected, please contact the Vehicle Safety & Compliance Services at 857-368-7324. School buses must be inspected (3) times per year during December/January, April/May, and August/September.
  31. What About the New Emissions Program I've Heard About?
    For information about the Massachusetts Emissions program, please visit the Massachusetts Vehicle Check website.

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