State Inspections Stations - What if you are taken for a "Ride"


I brought my 1999 Dodge Caravan in to be inspected as required by Massachusetts law. The technician came out and told me that I had failed the safety portion of the test. He said that my right front tie-rod was “gone” and needed to be repaired. He said that I really shouldn’t drive it with the tie-rod the way it was but I told him I had to get back to work. When I got back to work, I researched tie-rods on the web and I discovered that my van had no symptoms of a bad tie-rod. My tires were not unevenly worn, the steering was as good as it had ever been (for a van). I did not have any of the problems. Could the inspections station be trying to get me to make an unnecessary repair?


Jack up the R/F of your vehicle as if you were going to change the tire. Locate the tie-rod (it connects the wheel spindle to the steering rack) grab it with your hand and try to move it up and down. You should not be able to detect any slop in the two connection points at either end of the rod…


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 Boston at (617) 351-9345, 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 $29.00 and your reject sticker will stay affixed to the windshield until the defects are repaired.


So how many miles on this vehicle? A 100k or better? If so, it’e entirely possible that you could need a tie rod end - or more.

The inspector gives you info you don’t want to hear and you drive off automatically assuming you’re being ripped off.

A tie rod end IS a safety factor and if worn and illegal under your state statutes then the inspector should fail the vehicle.

You’ve been told how to inspect this yourself. If you can’t do it yourself then you have no business pointing the finger at the inspector at this point.
If the tie rod or tie rod end turns out to be bad, I would hope you would go and apologize to the inspector for calling him a crook.


I have not called the inspector a crook, I am asking others if he could be a crook. I am looking for information, not making assertions. The system for inspections really does favor the inspection stations. The reason they do these inspections is because they know that they will get the repairs done at their shops. They have an incentive to fail cars for reasons that may or may not be legitimate.


Thank you for the advice, I will do that.


Thanks for the info. I will pursue this if I think the tie-rod is sturdy.


You are not going to resolve this by yakking on this board. You are must jack up your vehicle and CHECK THE TIE ROD!! This is NOT rocket science. The LAST thing you want to do is get the State involved.


Not all state inspections stations are like this one. In CO; they dont even do repairs on cars younger then 1982 since they are not set up for that. (Though some stations might be for the 1981 and older cars. Diesels we dont know about.)

They also have some great people who work for our State emissions office in Lakewood as well as the State Health dept who tests the cars for free at another location.

Our point is the object of the state is to ensure cars are safe on the road (in those states that test like this) and pass the emissions (for those in areas which need it). They are not there to jerk people around or make them do unnecessary repairs.


He could also have been trying to save your heiney. You can’t find out if your tie rods are good by going on the web, only by going under the car.

I suggest you get a second opinion.


Our state auto inspection in NJ is far from perfect, but since the inspection stations are state facilities that do not perform repair work, at least there is no profit motive involved in failing someone. I have always questioned the wisdom of allowing someone who will potentially profit from a failure to make the decision as to whether you pass or not.


The alternative to what you state is this. What if the inspector KNOWINGLY passes your car with defective suspension parts and one of them breaks the next week leading to injury or death to you or family members?
THEN what?

Caddyman has it right. Jack the car up enough to get the wheel off the ground. Grasp the tire at the 3 and the 9 o’clock position and see if you can wiggle it back and forth a little. You should not feel any looseness at all.

You still did not state how many miles on this vehicle and it could well be that there could be problems other than a tie rod or tie rod end. Sometimes disassembly is required to get a good handle on some things and an inspection station is not, nor should they, diassemble anything.


Part of this is that inspection stations are given “standard” numbers to use for tolerances (usually taken from an American make’s standards). The problem is that different makes (especially foreign designs) have tolerances which differ from the ones specified. In some cases, brand new ball joints don’t meet the state specs, because they weren’t designed to work the way the state expects them to.


The van has a 140,000. I haven’t been driving the car but I will be jacking it up and performing the test that you and others have suggested. If not for this forum, I would have had no idea how to check the tie rod so I guess in a way the web might help me find out what is wrong.


I’m sure that the process varies from station to station, state to state but I’ve witnessed the inspection many times and it doesn’t involve any measuring equipment in my area. They simply grasp the tire and wiggle it top to bottom. It has to be pretty far gone for them to say it’s bad using that approach. Of course, the consumer has to be ever vigilant. I had one place tell me I needed new tires- this was its second inspection since bought new and the nubs hadn’t even worn off the tires yet (12k miles). Trust but verify!


I would check out the tie rod myself, or at least take it to a front end shop for a free inspection. Some independent second opinion.

But I agree, some inspection stations are a real joke. My best friend in NC took his Regal in for inspection. They claimed the parking brake was faulty because it did not fully brake the wheels with one press. It said right on it “Pump to set”, as well as in the owners manual which he showed them, but they still failed him for it. Not his fault thats the way GM designed it. So he said screw them and went to a different station and passed.


EHHH wrong :slight_smile:

The state run inspection stations are actually run by an out side company now, and paid for by the state. They get paid on… Drum roll please… Every car they inspect, and they get paid the same weather it is a 1st inspection or a re-inspection. I have failed more for “bad gas caps” in the last few years then I ever had in the past. My favorite story of this is I went left work early one day and took my car to Paramus, they failed me for a bad license plate bulb… Ok fine, I run to the parts store get a new bulb. Paramus was now closed, so I run to Wayne (it was there late night), and I fail again. This time they got me for failure to provide proper proof of insurance. Even though I showed them the same paper work I showed Paramus not 2 hours earlier, and Paramus passed me for this item. They made out like a bandit on me that day, and made my life a living he*l for a few hours.