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Skeptical about PA state inspection results

You’re right about a whole new inspection. I’d still go for a 2nd opinion if I had doubts. I have a couple shops I always go for inspections where I know they won’t nitpick or make things up.

I expect you could see a 2-3 mil run-out with that method. Of course the best way to do it is buy a run-out gauge at the auto parts store, some are in the $50 range so not that expensive. No disagreement about that.

For the diy’er on the cheap, a 4 mm bolt w/fine threads hosts a 1/2 mm thread pitch. So a person could build their own run-out gauge using one of those and measure to 1/20 mm (1/10 of a full rotation of the bolt). 1/20 mm = 2 mils (appx)

@Bing, when eliminating the OK vehicle safety inspection first came up for discussion there was much hand wringing and belly aching from do-gooder groups that the highways were going to run red with blood and fatalities were going to go through the roof. Didn’t happen…

The same thing happened when the 55 MPH speed limit was done away with along with passage of the Make My Day and Stand Your Ground firearm laws, passage of concealed and then passage of open carry. Many predictions of wholesale carnage which never happened.

As for the OP, I think this place saw a 4 and 6 MM thickness discrepancy and figured that was good enough of a reason to sell a brake job…

The legislator that pushed through the “shall issue” hand gun law in Minnesota was a mother in my scout group so knew her pretty well. Depending on the Sheriff, people couldn’t get hand gun permits prior to that. Many groups including police chiefs gave dire warnings about it, but I think there has only been one or two unjustified incidents of people with valid permits in the years since its passage. People use the safety issue to push through their own utopian ideas, justified or not.

Isn’t 4 mm about time, anyway? A bit over 1/8"? Pretty worn. But I’d get a bid from an independent shop, bet it’s less.

You might also contact the state police. In MD, the state police go to the inspection stations with test cars to see if the inspectors provide accurate information. As with PA, inspectors also fix cars here. The state police might pay a visit to the dealer that tried to force you to replace the rear brakes and test them. The QA inspectors might do this instead, but the state police might do it too.

To me, that equals a clear-cut Conflict of Interest.

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I found that out with at least two car sales. On my wife’s Cavalier, an inspector told me I had to replace a component that wasn’t part of the inspection. I told him that, and he said he didn’t care. I took it elsewhere for the inspection and didn’t have a problem.

I took my Corsica to a different inspector and they came up with quite a list, including rear brake pads and several burned out lights. I had replaced all burned out bulbs a few days before the inspection, and the brakes had been replace a few weeks before. I confronted their shop manager with the brake issue, and asked that we look at them together. Of course, there were no problems with the brakes. I also showed up with short cropped hair, khakis, black tie shoes, and a black windbreaker. I believe they thought I was a state policeman sent to bust them, and they backed off on all the “problems” they found.

Maybe you have a point about conflict of interest.

There is a charge for inspections? Gravy we call that. At least ours are free. It has gone to a code check only, the emission stations state run used to check exhaust, stations are closed and there are local shops that do the test, I had a split catalytic converter and passed the state run test, when I needed exhaust work the catalytic converter was welded back together for $10 extra, probably around year 2000 or so.
A buds daughter needed an emission test for plate renewal, they were meeting up nort dere in WI, They do not do emission testing in that part of the state as they went o dmv to ask where they could get it done, as the primary location of the car was in Minneapolis for college, DMV renewed the license plate without testing.

Your inspection isn’t free. You pay for it in taxes or registration fees. They just hid the cost from you.


Yes smoke and mirrors, reminds me of the car insurance commercial with the dollar bill on a fishing line, ooh almost got it!

Absolutely! When I moved from WI, which had state run inspection stations, to the right coast, I was astounded that the same place that does inspections also does repairs. Both MA and NH are that way.

Back in the days when NJ still had actual safety inspections, they were performed at state-run facilities, and the inspection fee was rolled-into the annual vehicle registration fee. Any deficiencies had to be corrected by the car owner, or by a private repair facility.

Yup. I call that an “incestuous relationship”.
But the car industry isn’t alone. Any industry than can organize and afford lobbyists to write laws creating a revenue stream for them and get senators to pass them (by any means) can get and maintain these guaranteed-income regulations. Many have done so. I could make a list, but I’ll refrain, this being a car forum.


As an actual PA resident, I have to call shenanigans on “shops will invariably invent problems to get business.”

Sure, a shop could do this…once…and get away with it. But word gets around. Most people don’t want a “hard asp” doing the inspection; most people want their car passed, unless it’s legitimately unsafe. (A few want to pass, EVEN IF it’s unsafe!)

Once a shop gets a “stickler” rep, they won’t get much inspection business. And somehow I think a dedicated state employee would be more anal about things than a private shop. Heck, there’s garages I won’t frequent because they insist on going over my ride with a fine-toothed comb, whereas I’d prefer “leaf rake” level of detail!

I got a guy who WILL fail for unsafe (ball joints, no brakes, etc) but will let minutia go. I like having a 3rd party verify my opinion on my vehicle’s health, and at $40, it’s a LOT cheaper than a similarly invasive 2nd opinion would cost in a state without inspections.

I see no problem if an inspector fails a vehicle for bad ball joints or bad brakes

That’s not only performing a proper inspection, it’s forcing the owner to fix an unsafe vehicle

I’d be pretty upset if I got rearended, and I found out the other guy hit me, because the safety inspector passed a car with bad brakes

Well, then we’re in agreement.

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We don’t have safety inspections here in California

I assume your state does?

If so, what happens if a safety inspector passes a vehicle with bad brakes, ball joints, etc., and the vehicle is involved in an accident the next day, and those components played a large role in the accident . . . ?

Is he going to lose his “license” or his job, etc.?

Lawsuits up the wazoo . . . ?

…and then some…
Back in the late '50s, a state inspector failed my father’s '55 Plymouth because the front license plate bracket was loose. I think that falls into the category of chicken sh*t.

My father pulled over about a block away, tightened the one loose bolt, and went to the back door of the facility for “re-inspection”. He then got his passing sticker.

Now, we have come full circle, and only emissions testing is done at the state facilities. As I heard one of the inspectors explain to a woman who accused him of taking shortcuts, “even if somebody limps in on 4 flat tires, has a missing windshield, and lousy brakes, there is nothing that I can do about it”.

The thing is even without mandatory state safety inspections, law enforcement can always tag a car and issue a fixit ticket that needs to be responded to.

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