Brake and Light Inspections – What You Need to Know!

Have you ever had to change your car title for some reason? Once a car is involved in a serious accident or after it has been stolen (and recovered), it is required by most US states and is a crucial part of being able to declare the vehicle once again safe and roadworthy. In fact, it is required whenever the vehicle is being renamed.

Some people are a bit in the dark when it comes to brake and light inspection, which is why we prepared today’s blog. Hopefully, the information below will help answer your questions about brake and light inspections and ensure that you’re staying on the right side of the law if you’re transferring or renaming a vehicle.

What is a brake and light inspection? Is required?

A brake and light inspection is an important process by which a car is determined whether it is safe to drive on public roads or not. During the inspection, a state-licensed technician will perform thorough and thorough checks on the car or motorcycle’s brakes and various lights to ensure they are working properly. Inspections must be carried out at a duly licensed “Inspection Station”. There must be some visible credentials to prove this, like in California for example where you will see a black shield with gold/yellow lettering saying:

  • Official lamp adjustment station
  • official brake adjustment station

A brake and light inspection is not required – although you can have your lights and brakes checked and/or repaired during your regular service – but whenever the vehicle is being refitted.

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Getting a car renamed includes after a car has been in a serious accident or after car theft. These two circumstances are particularly important because the state must be satisfied that neither the lights nor the brakes were damaged or misaligned during the theft or when they were damaged in an accident.

For brakes, although disc and drum brakes can be inspected, adjustments on newer cars equipped with disc brakes are no longer possible because disc brakes are not adjustable. They are performed only on cars with old-style brakes. However, the inspection applies to any and all types of brakes.

Reasons for a Brake and Light Inspection

In addition to the above two circumstances, there are other reasons and circumstances in which you would seek a brake and light inspection:

  1. You are reviving a rescue vehicle

When your car or other car is written off by an insurance company, the car is taken off the road and a stop is placed on your record. You can rename the car and “bring it back to life” with a salvage title. It will never have true “clean” title status again, but it will again be declared legal and roadworthy pending a proper brake and light inspection.

  1. You received a “Fix It” ticket from the police

If you’ve been pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket for a broken taillight, for example, you’ll need to have a proper brake and light inspection done at an official state-licensed dealer (see above). Obtaining a successful brake and light inspection can be used as proof that the problem has been corrected and your fine may be waived, except for a small administration fee.

  1. Your brakes or lights are having problems
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If you’ve noticed that your brakes or lights aren’t working as they should, then you should take them to a licensed brake or light technician. Look for the right credential to ensure you’ll do the best job possible on the vehicle. As we mentioned above, the brake adjustment part only applies to cars that don’t have disc brakes, but disc and drum brakes can at least be inspected. In any case, if you notice that one of the systems is not working according to the manufacturer’s standard, it is essential to go to a duly licensed fitting station.

lamp inspection

Who can perform brake and light inspections?

Only licensed lamp and brake fitters working at proper fitting stations may perform these inspections. If you think you could save money with an alternative supplier, no matter how objectively good they were, your car would not be seen as roadworthy across the state.

What is involved in brake inspection?

There are several important procedures that are performed during brake inspection:

  1. Brake shoes, linings, drums and rotors are inspected to ensure they meet manufacturer specifications and state requirements. For example, brake shoes/linings should be at least 3/32 of an inch (about 2 mm) when measured
  2. All vehicle brakes and related hardware and other components must be present and accounted for without exception. Any part that is not in working order will cause a negative inspection result.
  3. Hydraulics (master cylinder, wheel cylinders, calipers, valves, lines, fittings and all other related components) and hoses are checked to ensure they are free of leaks, cracks or other damage.
  4. Warning lamps need to be checked to ensure they come on when needed and turn off when needed.
  5. The emergency brake is tested to ensure it can hold the vehicle on a 6 percent incline.
  6. One emergency stop runs at 25 mph at which the vehicle must be able to stop within 20 feet.
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What is involved in lamp inspection?

When it comes to the light inspection, there are also several important procedures to complete. Turns out your car has many, many lights, and all of them must be working.

  1. Every piece of lighting originally installed on the vehicle must be in good working order. These include:
  • headlights
  • tail lamps
  • marker lamps
  • backup lamps
  • brake lamps
  • License plate light bulbs
  • turn signals
  • High beam indicator and warning lamps
  1. All headlight hardware is checked to ensure it is in good condition, especially the tuning hardware. Sighting pads are also checked to ensure that none are broken.
  2. Light lenses are checked to ensure they are free of cracks and no white light should be visible when illuminated.
  3. A check is carried out to ensure that all reflectors are intact and working
  4. Any damage to the car body that could affect the visibility of the vehicle’s lights must be repaired prior to the inspection, so the inspection verifies that this has been done.

adjust headlights

What is the typical cost of a brake and light inspection?

You should expect to pay between $60 and $120 for your brake and light inspection. Remember that if the inspection flags repairs needed (some examples mentioned above), you will have to pay the cost of those repairs and then send it in for another inspection. Only then can you get your certification.

So now you know the ins and outs of brake and light inspections. The next important step is not breaking the rules.

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