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Skeptical about PA state inspection results

Took my '08 Acura TL Type-S into a local Acura dealer for Pennsylvania state inspection a couple months ago, and while it passed emissions inspection and they updated my sticker for that, they told me it failed safety inspection for warped rotors on the rear. They said they can’t be resurfaced and offered to change out the rear pads and rotors for nearly $600, and I said I’d get it done elsewhere. I’m skeptical because I’ve put barely 10,000 miles on the car in the 3 years I’ve owned it and the brakes were replaced by the previous owner just a few months before I bought it. I’ve never had any issues with the stopping power of the car, and have not experienced any signs of warped rotors such as the steering wheel seriously shaking while hard braking.

Good brakes are important, obviously, but from what I’ve read online they should last well over 10,000 miles. I don’t drive the car that much and have not had any issues with the brakes myself, so I’d like to save the costs of replacing them if it’s truly not necessary. Would I be able to take the car elsewhere for inspection to see if they don’t say anything about the rear brakes, or do I have to take it back to the original inspection place with replaced rear brakes to pass inspection?

Don’t believe anything you read online. :grin:

Seriously, while the front brakes do most of the work, the rears are also smaller. And there are some makes & models known for sacrificing their rear brakes unusually fast.

Get a second opinion. If they’re worn out, or warped beyond your state’s standards for lateral runout, simply get them done. If not, check with your state’s process for appealing the finding. But be fair. If they’re “on the cusp”, just get 'em done.

As a former vehicle safety inspector in OK we were obligated to inspect and fail a vehicle for a glaring brake problem. I don’t see any alleged rear warpage as being a safety issue.

Warped rotors on the rear will usually show up in the brake pedal which will pulse or possibly in the seats. It will usually not be noticeable in the steering wheel.

You might check page 28 in the link. I see no mention of warped rotors as being a reason for failure.


We put close to 70,000 miles on our 08 Acura with the original pads and rotors. Never had a problem.
Warped rear rotors are not going to cause a shake in the steering wheel but you should be able to feel it from the back if you brake from a higher speed. If you don’t notice any pulsation particularly when you brake from highway speed, I can’t see that they need replacement.

I don’t know about Penn law but I’d be hesitant to go back to the same place again unless you saw them put a dial measuring device on there to measure the runout. If they are warped though, yeah they have to be replaced. Too thin to turn down and not worth it.

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I have 120k on my '07, and the rears are still fine. I highly doubt you have warped rotors, because I highly doubt warped rears would fail a safety inspection. If he’s lying about the inspection, then it stands to reason that he’s probably lying about the problem itself.

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I have to do state inspection in NH. I’ve run into shops that fail things for no reason, other than to make a quick buck off you. I had a shop fail me for ball joints once, I went elsewhere for a second opinion and the guy tests the joint right in front of me with a pry bar and shows me there’s nothing wrong with it. Of course the first shop keeps your inspection fee. I’m not sure how you’d get it back, probably have to file a complaint if they won’t give you a refund. You should just go somewhere else for a second opinion.

One reason Minnesota did away with the whole inspection issue. The Governor said the only one benefiting was the private inspection vendors. And oh yeah they squealed like little pigs when the law was changed and the world was going to come to an end. We’re still here though.

You bring up a good point

I’d like to know exactly how the shop determined the rear rotors were warped


road test?

runout gauge?

I was just driving at highway speeds today and I felt no pulsation at all while braking, whether from the brake pedal, seats, or steering wheel. The car is running all around awesome as usual. I don’t intend to go back to that dealer to get anything done again. They’ve offered in the past to fix a power steering leak and worn drive belt they claimed needed replaced, and over a year later I’ve had no issues with those things whatsoever.

I’m not really concerned about losing the $30-40 the original inspection costed, but I’d like to avoid paying hundreds of dollars to replace the rear brakes if they’re not actually warped and/or if that’s not even grounds to fail a car, as ok4450 seems to have pointed out.

According to that link to the Pennsylvania safety inspection statues I saw nothing at all in regard to warped rotors.

I’m sure the PA law is similar to the defunct state of OK safety inspection procedure in regard to brakes. If the pedal is good, the linings are good, and there are no hydraulic leaks then it’s passable.

The former OK inspection program was ridiculous. During a recertification I deliberately tried to fail as I had no desire to be an inspector at all.
I deliberately marked the wrong answers on 75% of the questions.
On the application where it asked how many traffic tickets I had I simply put “Too many to list on this line”.

So what happened? Two weeks later an OK DPS trooper came into the shop to grill me about the tickets followed by telling me they were going to certify me anyway.
I told him that I was going to pencil whip every car I had to inspect and STILL they passed me…

The only section I saw that could be used to disqualify was in the road test section. That would be easily disputed if there is no evidence of runout felt in the driver’s seat:

(f) Road Test
Perform road test and RE JECT IF one or more of the following apply:
(1) The parking brake fails to exhibit normal resis tance when an attempt is made to move the vehicle both
forward and backward from a stopped position.
(2) The automatic transmission will not hold in the park position.
(3) The vehicle is not capable of stopping within the maximum stopping distance prescribed in Table I
(relating to brake performance) or swerves so that any part leaves a 12-foot lane.
(4) There is a malfunction of the braking or steering mechanism, particular shimmy, wander, pull or another questionable operating behavior that affects safe opera tion of the vehicle.

Personally, I would challenge the assessment after I educated myself on the recourse afforded within the inspection system. Most states have avenues to dispute results. I suspect they would immediately back down and give you a sticker if confronted, especially if you involved the dept manager and were knowledgeable about the situation and presented yourself in a calm, professional and determined manner. Mentioning you will dispute with the state inspection program’s resolution process might help if they continue to resist…

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I agree with the others - this sounds bogus, since you notice nothing unusual with the braking behavior. I would go back to the dealer, tell them to prove the problem exists. If they can’t they should give you your sticker. If they won’t they should refund your money. Either way, if no problem exists that’s the last time I’d use them.

We get a fair number of front brake disc warping questions here. I can’t remember the last time we got one about rear brake discs warping.

I fail to see how they can fail this car when the OP states they feel nothing. This does not jibe with statement 4 in the road test since there is no shimmy, no wander, no pull, and “questionable operating behavior” leaves a lot to the imagination.

Earlier I had mentioned being recertified as an inspector here in OK. At the end of the lecture the DPS trooper wanted to know if anyone had any questions so I raised my hand.
I asked him if HE understood one word of the 2 fine print pages on how to check a cracked windshield because I certainly did not comprehend one word of any of it.

He hesitated for a good 10 seconds while staring at the floor before becoming a bit red faced and shamefully admitting that he too could not understand any of how it was worded.
His advice to me was to just make a judgement call as to whether or not I felt the glass was unsafe…

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I’d call the inspector’s inspector, the Quality Assurance Officer. I found a list of phone numbers (by county), but it’s from 2014. Try it.


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Just called that number, and was given a different number to call back tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t get me in too much trouble that my successful safety inspection is by now a month overdue.

Looking at the multi-point inspection sheet the dealer gave me, they rated my rear left brake at 6mm, and rear right at 4mm. They only typed on the invoice that my car failed because of rear brakes, but when offering to replace them for me the service manager specifically said they failed because they were warped and unable to be resurfaced. My brakes do squeal from time to time, but I’ve never noticed any significant pulsating or shaking of the car while braking from any speed. And as I’ve said before, the brakes stop the car just fine.

I doubt you’re obligated to go back to the first mechanic. In my state I can go to as many as I wanted but I still pay the fee at each place even if they fail the car. Maybe PA is different. It’s possible your pads are worn down and there’s miscommunication about the rotors. You won’t know unless another person looks at it.

I have to agree, 10,000 miles wouldn’t likely result in problematic rear rotors. I suppose it’s possible if a lot of heavy breaking occurred in city-type driving, where the driver races to the stop light at full speed and slams on the brake at the last second every time. But if that were the case the problem seems like it would show up first in the front brakes, not the rear.

So what to do about it? I guess if I had this problem I jack up the car and remove the rear wheels and check for an unusual amount of run-out on the rotors. This can be done by figuring out a way to place the point of a sharp pencil very near, but not quite touching the rotor, then spinning the wheel by hand 360 degrees. If the distance between the tip of the pencil and the rotor is pretty much the same all the way around, the rotors aren’t warped enough to worry about, given that you don’t feel any pulsing in the brake pedal when stopping.

Brakes can fail for other reasons of course, like the remaining pad thickness, and the width of the rotor. And rotors can warp from other causes than braking, such as improper wheel installation, rotors overheating b/c a caliper is partially stuck, etc. It’s pretty common for shops to use power tools to tighten the lug nuts when installing a wheel, and therefore easy for them to over-tighten and warp the rotor, especially if the lug nuts are left over-tightened. Whenever a shop installs a wheel on my vehicles, the first thing I do is park in my driveway, jack up the tire, & loosen those lug nuts and re-tighten them in rounds of three to the proper torque using a hand torque wrench. If you suspect the brakes might be slightly locking and overheating the rotors, take a 3 mile freeway drive where you don’t press on the brake pedal much, then feel the wheel to see if it feels super-hot, or that the rear wheels are much hotter than the front. Best of luck.

You can go to whomever, but a new mechanic will likely give you a whole new inspection; he might take issue with “other stuff.” OTOH, if you go back to the original guy, he’ll likely just verify you took care of whatever discrepancies he noted the first time.

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Not only are you still there, but there wasn’t a single blip in any of the statistics. Accidents due to mechanical failures, accidents overall, deaths, injuries, not one statistic showed any change in any way attributable to the elimination of safety inspections. Your Governor was right.

No offense intended, George . . .

But what you described will certainly not measure brake rotor runout

If you can actually see a rotor wobbling using your method, then the brakes are in dangerous condition, and the driver will certainly experience symptoms