By on May 17, 2012

Yesterday, we introduced you to a matte-black LFA and a baby-blue sticker that led us to the car’s owner.  There was another sticker on that car. A round red one. If the global automotive industry should copy anything from Japan immediately and now, then it’s that round sticker.

Eons before social networks came upon us, the automotive industry became obsessed with maintaining customer relationships, creating traffic and maintaining customer loyalty in showrooms and service departments. Bazillions have been spent for that effort. Millions of them went into my pocket, which, years after leaving the lucrative business, still enables me to work for TTAC and not go hungry. The ingenious Japanese solved it all with that sticker.

The officious-looking sticker is known in Japan as the “tenken-seibi stecker,” or the annual service sticker. Don’t confuse it with that vague “Next service by” sticker your shop leaves in your door, only to be ignored. The tenken-seibi  sticker reminds car owners in Japan of their legal obligation to have that check done. It’s the law. Toyoda-san is not above the Japanese law, and the reddish round stecker reminds him that his check is due by December this year.

According to Japanese law, each car must be checked periodically. This has nothing to do with the mandatory, government-administered Shaken mentioned yesterday. Every twelve months, a pretty involved check must be performed.

Legally, you can do that yourself. You won’t. DIY is frowned-upon in Japan. I recently joked that “in Japan, people call an electrician to change a light bulb.” That earned me a quizzical look and a “what’s wrong with that?”

For the tenken-seibi, one drives to the friendly place of regular service, says “tenken-seibi kudasai” and some $130 later, the check is performed and that sticker is placed in the  windshield. Or not. This is when it gets really lucrative for the shop. Customer relationships are kept, loyalties have been maintained and refreshed, and all with a slick little sticker.

While the check is mandatory by law, carrying the sticker is not. But this is Japan, and everybody has one.  The sticker is issued by members of the Japanese Motor Service Industry Association, which obtained special governmental permission to stick that on your windshield. This is Japan, you can’t just put anything on your window, who do you think you are?

Again, while the check is the law, the sticker is not actually required, nobody stops, or arrests you for not having one. It is not even clear what happens if you did not do the check. But the whole scheme performs miracles for the business, keeps service bays occupied, and dealers afloat during times that suck.

But you have not seen it all.

While studying the law, you will notice that you must perform a daily, yes, daily 12 point check of the essential items of your Japanese motor vehicle, from brake and engine all the way to the windshield wiper. Don’t dare to start your car without checking, for instance, the “waipagomu,” that’s wiper gummis to us gaijin.

There is no sticker for that 12 point pre-flight, but there are involved websites that explain how it is done.

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104 Comments on “Pistonu Slappu: Scheduled Service, Japan Style. Or: The Secret Of The Round Sticker...”


  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Many states in the US require annual inspection; I used to live in one.

    Now, I’m in Maryland, where an inspection is only required when (if) the car changes owners. I have to say, I see quite a lot more bald tires and squealing brakes here.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Maryland does require biennial inspection, but only for emissions.

      All of the hassle and being treated like a child, but without any of the actual benefits such as other people’s cars having brakes that work.

      Adding further insult, the dirtiest cars on the road – diesels, 30 year old beaters, busses, etc. – are completely exempt and pre-OBD II cars are held to such low standards that a normally functioning car will pass by a factor of 20 or more.

      Just food for thought while wasting a morning having to take your 3 year old car in.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        “Maryland does require biennial inspection, but only for emissions.”

        *Shakes my head*

        The government obsession with emissions is astounding, especially since in that state they apparently don’t care if the cars on the road are in safe driving condition, esp being in salt country. So backwards… PA obsesses with them too but only on a county by county basis during the annual safety check, the basic state guideline is a visual check to ensure you haven’t cut out the cat, which I think is reasonable. Six or so counties require a test which basically amounts to a car tax and meaningless florescent sticker.

        Gov’t whats more important to we the people? Safer cars on the road or you placating the green fascists?

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        You can pretend that nitrogen dioxide is non-toxic if you’d like. Have a few nice deep whiffs of it sometime. In fact, would you mind if I pumped a few pounds right into your home’s AC intake?

    • 0 avatar
      VA Terrapin

      I’m in the opposite situation. I used to live in Maryland, where I don’t recall the government ever making me get my car inspected except for emissions. Now that I live in Virginia, I go through annual inspections. I see no need for these annual inspections. I don’t notice any overall difference in the condition between Maryland cars and Virginia cars.

      Mechanics who do these Virginia inspections seem to be one of two minds: either they just want to get the inspection done, in which case they will pass just about any car, or they want to find any fault that would cause people to spend money to fix a “broken” part.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    I love Michigan’s policy. I give them cash and proof of ownership and insurance, they give me a plate and a sticker. End of transaction.

    I absolutely detest state inspections. The theory is fine – keep cars on the road in safe operating condition. In practice, however, it absolutely kills the lower class because inspection shops use it as a boon for business and will look for every little thing wrong with a vehicle to get your money.

    I recently gave a $400 1991 Nissan Maxima 5MT to my sister that had served one of my friends for the past 50,000 miles with almost no issues. It was a wonderful car and eminently reliable, but it had its share of 20 year old Japanese car issues. Unfortunately, she lives in Massachusetts – the car had to be scrapped due to surface rust on the lower doors and fenders which the state inspection shop declared a “safety hazard”. To who? Someone without a tetanis shot? She ended up blowing half of her college savings on a 1998 Subaru Forester which was the cheapest decent car she could find that would pass inspection. It is literally impossible to buy a car that will pass inspection in Mass for under $2000.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      The theory is fine – keep cars on the road in safe operating condition.

      Then what’s your solution? Should folks be allowed to drive anything they want – no matter how pollution belching and dangerous to other motorists?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        On lists of contributing factors to car accidents, equipment failure is pretty much at the bottom. Pretty much next to irrelevant.

        Car inspections can be justified, I suppose, but road safety isn’t one of the reasons. Emissions tests, yes, but not vehicle inspections.

      • 0 avatar
        KrisZ

        “Then what’s your solution? Should folks be allowed to drive anything they want – no matter how pollution belching and dangerous to other motorists?”

        To the tune of $200 or maybe $250 a pollution bleaching, environment destroying car in Ontario will magically become clean in the eyes of the government and you will get your emission sticker for two more years. Clearly we need more nanny state.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “On lists of contributing factors to car accidents, equipment failure is pretty much at the bottom. ”

        Do you have some data on that?

        I got rear ended by a beater Cherokee – how would the fact that his brakes were shot ever be noted?

        I recall the Top Gear episode where they tested the performance of beater 328i convertibles. As I recall two of them were stopping in 250+ feet vs. 125 when new. I would have to assume that most poorly maintained beaters have similarly compromised performance.

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        Yes, I do think that people should be allowed to drive whatever the hell they want. And in general, do whatever the hell they want, unless it can actually be proven that it harms or disrupts others. Oh, sorry, was that rhetorical?

        Clearly, your solution is to eliminate personal responsibility and extend the nanny state as far as possible.

        As far as the ridiculous “beater cars are dangerous” argument…I’ve been in 4 accidents in my life. All of them involved cars newer than mine. 2 were rear endings from not paying attention, 1 was a guy pulling out infront of me due to not paying attention, and 1 was a girl who sideswiped me because she wasn’t paying attention. Do you see a pattern here? I guess now we need regulation to make people pay attention.

        I see far less cars on the side of the road here in Michigan than I did in NYS when I lived there even though they have very strict inspections AND far fewer people (CNY). I think when people are actually responsible for their own vehicle, instead of “waiting until the next time the sticker is due”, they tend to actually address vehicular problems when they occur instead of waiting.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Safety first and I would be a bear about that, otherwise if you didn’t cut the cat, I’ll let everything else go. From about the 90′s on the emissions technology improved, anything 80s out there with a clogged cat will eventually work it way out of the system, those cars are a minority. Be reasonable cut people a break on BS… tires, brakes, headlights, basic suspension, what else more do you need to check?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I got rear ended by a beater Cherokee – how would the fact that his brakes were shot ever be noted?”

        If he’s like most people who cause crashes, the cause was probably centered around his approach to driving, not his vehicle.

        California keeps data on this. In addition to providing a large population pool to generate the data, California also has no routine mandatory vehicle safety inspections.

        Between 2005 and 2009, there were 17,090 fatal crashes. The number with brakes as a primary cause: 1.

        Between 2005 and 2009, there were 907,679 injury crashes. The number with brakes as a primary cause: 280. One out of every 3241 injury crashes was attributable to this.

        Add up all of the equipment violations as primary causes, and you end up with one out of every 743 fatals and one out of every 829 injury crashes with equipment as a primary cause. And mind you, some of those equipment-related failures can be attributed to failure to use the equipment properly (i.e. driving in the dark without lights), not just to bad equipment.

        In terms of ranking, equipment is at the bottom. The cost-benefit is definitely not there. http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/pdf/2009-sec7.pdf

        If you have data to contradict this, then I would ask that you present it. But I doubt that you’re going to find much that supports your position.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        California keeps data on this.

        How do they gather the data? I know for a fact that California doesn’t do a thorough investigation of each accident.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “How do they gather the data?”

        Fatal crashes are thoroughly investigated. One reason that data from fatals is so useful is because they all are individually reviewed. Don’t confuse what happens with a fender bender with what occurs when people end up dead.

        In any case, I asked you for data. Where is it?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “The number with brakes as a primary cause: 1.”

        Question – if the driver was doing 70 in a 55 and didn’t stop in time due to worn brakes: Would the primary cause be listed as worn brakes or would it be listed as excessive speed?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Are you going to provide any data, or are you going to just keep trying to create doubts about data that contradicts your gut feelings?

        If your point is supportable, then go provide some research that backs it up.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “Are you going to provide any data”

        Sure – you stated: “Between 2005 and 2009, there were 17,090 fatal crashes. The number with brakes as a primary cause: 1.”

        According to NTSHA – the number of equipment related crashes is vastly higher – as many as 1 in 10.

        “while between 4 and 13 percent involved vehicle
        factors (brake failure, tire problems, etc.)…Other major crash studies have reported similar findings (Lohman et al, 1978, Perchonek, 1978; Tharp, et al, 1970).”

        http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/UDAshortrpt/index.html

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        It would seem that you didn’t read your own link:
        _____________________

        In 717 of the 723 crashes investigated (99%), a driver behavioral error caused or contributed to the crash. Of the 1284 drivers involved in these crashes, 732 drivers (57%) contributed in some way to the cause of their crashes. There were six causal factors associated with driver behaviors that occurred at relatively high frequencies for these drivers and accounted for most of the problem behaviors. They were:

        DRIVER INATTENTION 22.7%
        VEHICLE SPEED 18.7%
        ALCOHOL IMPAIRMENT 18.2%
        PERCEPTUAL ERRORS (e.g. looked, but didn�t see) 15.1%
        DECISION ERRORS (e.g. turned with obstructed view) 10.1%
        INCAPACITATION (e.g. fell asleep) 6.4%
        _________________

        And I shouldn’t have to point out that equipment is far more reliable today than it was in 1970.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “In 717 of the 723 crashes investigated (99%), a driver behavioral error caused or contributed to the crash. ”

        Yes, and in 1 in 10 cases they would likely have been able to avert an accident if all the relevant equipment was working properly.

        Many, if not most, accidents have more than one contributing factor – you have road conditions, weather, excessive speed, driver inattention, etc. etc. if you remove any of those factors the accident wouldn’t take place.

        By inspecting we attempt to ensure that while the driver may have been going too fast in the rain but because he had functioning brakes and some tire tread – he didn’t slide off the road.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Yes, and in 1 in 10 cases they would likely have been able to avert an accident if all the relevant equipment was working properly.”

        I hate to point this out, but the study that you’re “quoting” doesn’t say that at all.

        You should have read beyond the first couple of paragraphs. The study was released in 2001. It begins by citing a 1979 study that indicates, among other things, that 4-13% of crashes involved equipment failure. However it also goes on to say, “The studies are also more than 20 years old and ***the driving environment has changed substantially.***”

        If you bother to read the study that you have linked, you will not find any real discussion of failed equipment as a considerable problem. On the contrary, driver error explains the vast majority of crashes that occur. Nobody recommends vehicle inspections as a solution of any sort to crash risk. I know that you’d like to prove some sort of point, but you aren’t.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        A better system would inspect emissions at random busy highway entrance ramps with warning tickets mailed to cars that fail. Only inconvenience the few drivers driving cars with a pollution problem, not the vast majority that have no issues.

        Here in Texas cars require an annual inspection for basically brakes, lights, tires, etc. plus no CEL codes for OBDII for urban areas. The stupid thing is new cars require inspection after only 2 years. The state could get most of the benefit with much less taxpayer time wasted if inspections started after the 3rd or 4th year.

        Regarding revenue from inspection. I observed a worker at a local quick lube place start to prepare the new sticker for my car when his boss reminded him to check my wiper blades for wear. They tried to extort $25 for new cheap wiper blades to avoid a return visit.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Pch,

        Yes, a lot has changed since 1978 – for one a 1978 Corvette has 54 bhp less bhp than a 2012 Sonata turbo. With vastly more powerful cars, the proper functioning of brakes, shocks, tires, etc. is more important.

        On the contrary, driver error explains the vast majority of crashes that occur.

        And? Driver error is going too fast in the rain – it’s the bald tires that turn that driver error into a tragedy.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Driver error is going too fast in the rain – it’s the bald tires that turn that driver error into a tragedy.”

        You have provided nothing to support that contention, while the data supports the opposition position.

        Meanwhile, here’s a NHTSA report that associates driver behavior as the critical pre-crash factor in 95.4% of the cases, road conditions in 2.5% of the cases, and equipment in 2.1% of the cases. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811059.PDF

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “Then what’s your solution? Should folks be allowed to drive anything they want – no matter how pollution belching and dangerous to other motorists?”

        It seems to work just fine where I live. I moved from an inspection state, and kept a look-out for dangerously maintained cars when I moved here — and I didn’t see any more poorly maintained than I did back in my previous home.

        Turns out that the expectation here is that your brakes and lights are expected to work 365 days per year, instead of just 1 day a year. And, while many poor people can’t afford to properly maintain a car in both places, nobody wants to die because they weren’t visible on the road or because their brakes failed. Also, when I was poor during part of the time I lived in an inspection state, I learned how to game the system (your choice of state-certified mechanic made a big difference in thoroughness of the inspection).

        So, yeah, while I agree that the theory that people should maintain their vehicle for the physical and lung safety of others is fine with me (these days), putting your faith in a law that says a car must be in working order one day a year is downright naive.

        Nobody wants to die because they didn’t maintain their brakes, or whatever. So, people who can afford to maintain their vehicles do it. Lots of people pay the dealer-service premium so they don’t have to think about it. My best guess (not informed by any real data) is that the number of dangerously under-maintained vehicles is directly proportional to the number of people barely getting by in your community.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Or, when an under insured, judgement proof motorist causes herself and others serious injuries due to bald tires and worn brakes – who gets stuck with the bill? We all end up paying with tax money and higher health insurance premiums.

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        Why is the concept of statistical irrelevance so hard to understand? So let’s repeat it, for your benefit:

        Equipment failure is NOT a significant cause of car accidents. The only people I see defending mandatory annual inspections are either too lazy to process the available information, or have a vested interest in the inspections themselves.

        People drive ratty cars everywhere. Ratty cars are more interesting than frightening. Brainless twits in their brand-new 5-series, with an iPhone stuck to their skull are far more frightening than some lady getting groceries in a rusted out Caprice with bald tires.

      • 0 avatar
        rentonben

        As taxpayers, are only stuck with the tax and insurance bills because the government tells us that we are. I’d rather solve the problem of onerous taxes and funding deadbeats by limiting government, and not by layering another level of government mandates and restrictions.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “Equipment failure is NOT a significant cause of car accidents.”

        How do we know? When I was rear ended by the beater jeep – he filled out accident report, I got the damage paid for by his insurance company. At which point was it noted that his brakes were shot?

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        “Or, when an under insured, judgement proof motorist causes herself and others serious injuries due to bald tires and worn brakes – who gets stuck with the bill? We all end up paying with tax money and higher health insurance premiums.”

        THEY DO. That’s why they have these things called “insurance tiers” that dictate your rates. Try it out; go rear end a couple people on your lunch break and wait for the letter in the mail from your insurance company. No-fault insurance is far and away more of an insurance cost riser that morons on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Jmo… you’ll pay those higher premiums and taxes regardless, they’ll make up whatever they need to justify it. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, go after these cars with a reasonable safety check, they fail to comply, impound the car.

        My brother the nice guy cop that he is just yesterday responded to a complaint where a fart-canned 90s Prelude was said to be routinely running some neighborhood stop sign. He said when he found it parked, it literally was missing the *entire* front clip, expired Georgia tags with lapsed insurance, and had the rad hanging out over the street maybe three inches off the ground. The owner who apparently lived across the street was an Army soldier who recently was transferred, and claimed he drove it here front GA but has not driven it since last month. My bro let it go because it was a solider and said if he hears about it again he’ll come back and impound it. Just this afternoon I got a text… he was on patrol and guess who pulled up beside him at the light… my brother is a good kid but he’s the kind of guy when you cross him watch out. Evidently he pulled the kid onto the sidewalk, called a tow truck and had it towed from the scene. No word on how the front end survived the tow without a clip… not to mention the citations for (1) expired tags (or something like that), (2) wreckless driving and (3) I believe one of the tailights may have been out, as to how I’m not sure :)

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “Why is the concept of statistical irrelevance so hard to understand? So let’s repeat it, for your benefit:

        Equipment failure is NOT a significant cause of car accidents.”

        1 in 10 isn’t statistically relevant?

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I can’t offer raw numbers, but I can tell you what I’ve witnessed. I recently moved from my home state (WV – does annual inspections) to Western KY (no annual inspections, just an annual plate renewal). The taxes are 5x as high here on cars to renew your plate, but that’s another story… The cars here are, on average, probably 10 years newer and in VASTLY better shape than those from my home state. The average income from my last place of residence was over $43k, here it’s $32k. Yes, you can register a brandless dune buggy and drive it on the street here (which I’ve seen on US-60 W), but by and large the cars are less than 8 years old.

        Another anecdote: a good friend of mine, who wasn’t so good at keeping up with the demands of life in a modern society, let her WV inspection sticker lapse. At the end of the 2006 year inspection year. Her car was totalled in 2011 (actually not her fault) with that 0307 (March 2007 EXPIRATION) still in her windshield with, I would estimate, at least an additional 30,000 miles on it, entirely within the state. No pull-overs.

        I also used to frequent a maintenance shop, the brand of which shall remain nameless. I, along with hundreds of other people, bought the $12 inspection stickers for $12 and applied them ourselves, without the shop ever even touching the car. They lost their license for one year for “giving away” inspections. They also took in untold tens of thousands of dollars in revenue every year for repairs – legitimate or otherwise – for inspection-related repairs.

        The ABS motor in my Infiniti G20 (see below) tended to cycle when the car was turned off in damp weather, thus running the battery down (twice before I learned). I pulled the fuse, which triggered the ABS light. Technically, state code says I didn’t deserve an inspection sticker because the ABS on my car did not work – never mind that with the fuse pulled, it defaulted to a condition known as “not optioned with ABS,” which as of 2009 could still be true of bottom-feeder vehicles like the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Aveo, and Nissan Versa. If you bought one of those without ABS, inspections were a breeze.

        No conclusions here, just some experiences…

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Surface rust on a 20+ yo otherwise safe running car. Off with its head! So ridiculous.

      If a standard doesn’t work then it needs to be revised…

  • avatar
    bryanska

    No inspections in Minnesota, and nobody is asking for them. Just fine with me.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Here in NC, we have that stupid money grabbing scheme by the state too. But it’s for your own good ..wah wah wah. Stick it up your butt Perdue. I’m glad you’re leaving and I hope Wally gets all of 5 votes. Inspecptions only screw with honest folks, I get hassled every year cause the dealership added window tint, goes like this:
    Inspector Gadget: we had to check your window tint
    Me: Why, dealership intalled it and it was legal
    Inspector Gadget: well, we have to check those things, I know you have proof it was fine last year when we had this same conversation but I’m going to have to charge you an extra 10 bucks for the test.
    Me: May your dick dry up and fall off.
    Inspector Gadget: now, that’s not nice
    Me: whatever

    This year, I swear, I’ll roll the damn windows down, pull the fuses and dare them to question it. See, LEGALLY, you don’t have to have side windows to pass. I see you wondering, ok, think Jeep Wrangler, ahhhh, light bulb!

    BTW, Pacho the taco drives by, no license, no insurance, doesnt pay taxes and he gets a free pass, cant stop him – that’s racist profiling.

    • 0 avatar
      noxioux

      +1

      Maybe you should just take the doors off altogether?

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I have to disagree. The NC state test is useful and only $30. It checks emissions, basic safety stuff like lights, tires etc and also that you are registered (and hence insured).

      You chose to have a window tint. I can see why it is a pain for you to have it checked each year, but conversely it could have been changed from last year to this so that is why they check again.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I can’t side with the gov’t on this one, I’ve never lived in NC but I know down south it gets very hot in the summer and tint may be a necessity where he is. I’m not gonna say a safety check isn’t a reasonable requirement because it is, but tint has nothing to do with the safety of other drivers on the road. If you run 5% limo tint its obvious and your friendly neighborhood bacon will pinch you and make you remove it, otherwise who cares if its 30% vs 40%, just another way to steal from honest folks (just like emissions!).

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      It’s funny listening to you rant against Democratic politicians because of the inspection requirement. Perhaps you aren’t aware that, at the behest of the garage owners lobby, NC’s GOP legislature just reaffirmed the inspection requirement and declined to ease it: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/05/17/2068164/car-inspection-industry-squelches.html

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I grew up in and, for a time, lived in Virginia, where semi-annual inspections were required and evidence of same (a windshield sticker) had to be displayed. Of course, for political reasons, the state-mandated fee was quite low, so what that meant was that your car always needed something done, maybe a headlight alignment.

    DC had an annual inspection requirement, which was mostly focused on emissions performance, but also, lights and horn and even braking distribution (no check of the pads’ condition). With the advent of OBD-II, that has been scaled back to a biannual inspection, which consists of no more than plugging into the data port and verifying the absence of stored codes and that all parameters are within spec.

    Only taxicabs get the full treatment.

    However, just about everywhere, you can get cited for having non-working equipment (lights) or bald tires.

    I believe numerous studies have shown that inspections have an almost negligible effect on safety. The incidents where a safety-related defect caused an accident are extremely low.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I guess Japanese repair shops are pretty honest then? One does not bring his/her one year old car, said “tenken-seibi kudasai” then told he/she needs a new transmission?

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    As an auto enthusiast and PA resident, I don’t mind having annual state inspection and emission done. It ensures that, if done correctly, meaning a reputable mechanic has looked over the car and not just slapped a sticker on the car. It means nearly every car on the road next to me with a PA plate at least has to have tires with some tread, brakes with some pad left and is functioning mostly as it’s intended in the steering department.

    I can see the argument about this punishing those living at the poverty line or below. But I don’t want to be hit by someone driving an unsafe car if it could be avoided through a simple, once a year check. Our problem as a society is that we fix cars, we don’t maintain them.

    My brother is a an enthusiast like me and lives in Ohio. He is appalled on a daily basis by the vehicles on the road, because Ohio doesn’t require inspections on an annual basis, as am I when I visit him.

    • 0 avatar

      I too live in PA, and the best part about having valid inspection stickers is that you won’t be pulled over by the cops.

    • 0 avatar
      jawzx2

      As a resident of Vermont, which requires yearly inspection, I believe it to be a completely reasonable requirement. Our roads are not straight, not flat, and it snows or has risk of snow fully half the year. Having a car pass inspection means its at least mostly safe to drive. VT state inspection also requires a full check of the suspension system, which on one occasion has found a loaded ball-joint (front suspension of a ’97 Buick LeSabre) in need of replacement that I wasn’t even aware of. If you have a good relationship with your inspection mechanic and trust him/her to not fuck you its actually a valuable tool to help keep your car safe and running right.

    • 0 avatar

      “It means nearly every car on the road next to me with a PA plate”

      Pennsylvania has the distinction of being both a destination state for tourists and it’s smack dab in the middle of I-80 between Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago on one end and New York City on the other, so a good deal of the traffic on PA highways is from out of state.

      So tell us, besides making those PA inspections rather pointless, how does the fact that I can drive my completely uninspected Michigan registered car in Pennsylvania make you feel? You going to force out of state drivers to stop in and pay a bribe to some Pennsylvania business and another bribe to a PA government agency for the privilege of traversing I-80?

      As long as it’s insured and it has basic equipment required to be street legal, the condition of my car should be none of your business. Can a state require pedestrians to have their shoes inspected?

      Supporters of inspections say they are for our own good (but then that’s what nanny’s always say), they reduce pollution and make our roads safer. The reality is that it’s mostly a financial scam, with inspections and repairs that have very little to do with functionality or safety of a car. Rust on a door is not a safety issue.

      At the most, such inspections should check for functioning brakes, an intact exhaust system, and maybe factory installed safety and pollution equipment.

      It’s all anecdotal but most of the “needed” repairs cited I’ve heard of in states that require inspections seemed to be based more on bureaucratic rules that cost drivers money than on actual engineering.

      I wonder if anyone’s ever challenged such inspections/mandated repairs arguing that it’s a violation of the takings clause of the constitution. It essentially takes away value of your property by fiat. If you fail an inspection, the resale value, at least in that state, plummets.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Interesting constitutional point.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I think the worst maintained and most beat to crap cars I have ever seen would be in Michigan…

        …As long as it’s insured and it has basic equipment required to be street legal, the condition of my car should be none of your business. Can a state require pedestrians to have their shoes inspected?…

        What constitutes street legal? I don’t care if your car is rusty and agree “rust” laws are foolish as long as you are talking sheetmetal as opposed to frame damage. Sheetmetal holes may allow for CO poisoning but since that only affects you the operator I don’t care. That’s your business. But when lack of maintenance causes fender benders, clouds of smoke, etc, then you have moved from affecting yourself to affecting others. That does not happen with worn out walking shoes. So that argument is without merit.

        I am having trouble buying the idea that equipment plays such a small role. Absolute equipment failures such as tie rod failure is no doubt extremely small. No doubt such robustness is driven by the fear of personal injury lawsuits. But what about things that cause stopping distances to be longer than they should be? Half of all cars end up in the junkyard with original struts/shocks. Worn brakes, end of life tires, etc can’t be dismissed so easily. Where does the data come from that is so dismissive of equipment involvement in non-fatal crashes? I’d venture to bet that is collected by the officers on the scene. That tells me that the data is virtually worthless as most cops are not going to know about mechanical items unless they see something snapped, which we all agree is very rare. But numerous worn items – likely to be found in a high mileage car – can together allow for longer stopping distances and an accident that may not have happened had all the parts been within spec. Car parts can wear out so slowly that even conscientious owners may be driving a vehicle that is not as safe as it should be. If you are not one of those average folks and you can feel the deterioration of your struts before they become a hazard, great. But most can’t. That is what a professional should be used for. The only real problem with inspections is that you are counting on the honesty of the business owner. And when money is to be made, honesty and integrity often goes out the window, future business be damned. Anything to line their pockets…

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Pittsburgh here… I feel the same way I just wish they would drop emissions on X year and newer cars, just do the visual check like 90% of the other counties.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I got a good deal on a ’95 Infiniti G20 that couldn’t pass emissions in Allegheny County (I lived in Morgantown, WV, for 8 years). Original owner – bought new in Virginia and had every single receipt for oil changes, tires, wiper blades, everything from zero miles. Served me EXTREMELY well, and very fun to drive. Owned it for nearly 2 years and sold it for $200 less than I paid for it. Talk about cheap driving!

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Kalapana there are just so many dyfunctional things about Allegeny county, I’m glad one of them paid off for someone.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Having lived in one place where an annual inspections is required by law (the MOT in the UK), and one where only an emissions test is required (Aircare in BC), I can’t honestly say I notice many more unsafe cars on BC roads compared to the UK. I see the occasional car being zipped down a side street from a repair shop to the spray booth with no lights, fenders or plastic work on the front end, but other than that, I’ve probably seen more dangerous, clapped out jalopies on the road in the UK.
    Although the MOT system is quite strict, if you know the *right* mechanic or MOT station, a pass is usually in the bag. I remember that I was dubious that my old 1987 Ford Escort would pass the test due to a ruddy great big hole in the exhaust. I pointed it out to my mechanic chum – to which he replied “I didn’t see it.” He then shoved the probe in, and the car passed with flying colours!

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    When I went to register my ’94 Euro-spec Saab 9000 Aero in Belgium due to a move from Italy, my Aero failed the inspection. The reason: one of the headlights was not bright enough. Was it a weak bulb? Nah! I had to replace the complete headlight assembly! Took the old one apart and found that some of the reflective coating on the inside of the assembly was slightly scratched causing the output to be just a little low. I concluded that the Belgian auto inspection process and their equipment was maybe a little too sensitive.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Law enforcement here in NY also makes a living with stickers. Parking in a municipal lot one evening, I returned to my 5 year old Honda to find a nice fat 50 dollar ticket for having my inspection 1 week overdue. If that weren’t crazy enough, hey it’s a nearly new Honda, the fine City of White Plains was charging me about 20 bucks more than the state law called for. So I wrote the mayor to express my displeasure, and assured him that until I had redirected 50 dollars of my spending away from his city, I would not return.

    (White Plains is well known for this kind of BS)

  • avatar
    morbo

    Oh poor southern state whiners. Big Bad gubmint takin’ my money! How dare the gubmint tell me my ’89 Dynasty that’s leaking gasoline from a rotted fuel line, has balding, potato shaped tires, most of the front windshield, and squeals like a pig in Cairo is a danger on the road!

    That was a real thing. When I lived in South Jersey getting my VRX checked for safety/emissions, that was the actual car in front of me. The owner was livid when he was given a 48 hour sticker. As in, he could only drive the car legally for 48 hours because it was so dangerous, they wanted him to only drive it to a mechanic or a junkyard.

    I think the TTACers that are complaining about state safety checks don’t interact with the true horrors of the world that just don’t give a fark.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Having seen some of those Dynasties in WV, I do agree. Safety is very important, its just alot of people get taken for a ride during their inspections for a varity of reasons, hence any bitching.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        +1. The annual inspection, in my WV experience, did get some derelicts off the road but by and large, those who barely didn’t pass (or didn’t know any better) got soaked by an unscrupulous shop while those with the real jalopies that were totally unsafe bought their sticker from their cousin’s equally unscrupulous shop. It’s a truly screwed up system.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        But remember those who got screwed did so by the fine mechanics trying to bilk those drivers. Forget inspections; finding honest mechanics to do any kind of repair work is difficult. Since most drivers don’t have much knowledge of cars the temptation for the shops to rob people seems to be too great for many. I give my cars a through going over before they go in for inspection because I refuse to pay someone to do cake work like brakes. And if they say something is bad when I know it is not then I know the shop has become dishonest.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Minnesota circa 1980-1981.. 77 Buick Regal spotted near Isanti. Was dog tracking so bad it looked like it was taking a left turn when going straight.
    Blown spring/shock on passenger side only exacerbated this effect.
    Driver’s window gone- was using a piece of plywood with a crudely cut hole in it for a window. That thing should not have been on the road.

    Bertel, if this is not mandatory by law, then is it an overly aggressive maint schedule at play? That is a lot of work to do AND an annual inspection AND regular maintenance.. I mean, do they drive that much out there?

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    Bertel, does anyone in Japan actually do the daily 12-point check ? Or all they all scofflaws ? Would they be horrified to find out they’ve been flouting the law for years ?

  • avatar
    nikita

    Owning a car in Japan sounds about like owning an airplane in the US. The FAA requires extensive Annual inspections of private aircraft. Im talking 1600lb Cessnas, not just business jets. You better have a good relationship with an honest shop or it will cost you a fortune. DIY is not allowed, unless you have built it yourself and are issued a Repairman Certificate. The 12-point check does sound like a pre-flight.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      My sympathy to aircraft enthusiasts. Aircraft of course have a much greater chance of damage/death than an automobile though.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        Thats a good question. A Cessna 150 has less mass, lower top speed and carries less gasoline on board than many or even most private vehicles. Accident rates, by most measures, are lower as well. Due to the expensive regulations? That is the debate. Incapacitation wast cited above in over six percent of vehicle crashes. Would we require a exam, beyond just a vision test, to renew a driver license? I have to pay $75 every two years for such an exam to fly that Cessna. What about the 80 year old driving a 35 foot motorhome? In most, maybe all, states, its considered an ordinary automobile.

  • avatar
    iainthornton

    I personally don’t mind it. Invariably, I take my car to the test, it comes out shortly after with just the fee for the test. I have piece of mind and the government’s happy. I don’t see the problem there?

    • 0 avatar
      iainthornton

      Also, I don’t understand. Exactly what does this sticker solve?

    • 0 avatar
      chrishs2000

      “I take my car to the test, it comes out shortly after with just the fee for the test. I have piece of mind and the government’s happy. I don’t see the problem there?”

      But why does the government need to ‘make’ you do it? Are you so irresponsible that you can’t keep your vehicle maintained without someone forcing you to?

    • 0 avatar
      Gleanerizer

      I have personally seen, worked on, and driven several iffy vehicles that have current inspection stickers and I have reason to believe your peace of mind has limited rational basis (at least in Texas).

      Personally I’m happier with $40 more in my pocket. That buys a non-negligible amount of vehicle maintenance supplies.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Here in Nebraska, we had an inspection law, but it was a big PITA. It wasn’t particularly effective in keeping unsafe cars off of the roads, and was eliminated several years ago. When they eliminated the inspections, however, they did keep the INSPECTION FEE, which made EVERYONE happy. No annual inspections for me, but millions annually for the state.
    P.S.- the cops can still issue tickets for safety violations, so no actual citizens were harmed in the repeal of the inspection law.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Honestly if it was like a two dollar fee no biggie, but this amounts to a car tax and personally I’m opposed to these little value added fees going into the trough of government. I’m a starve the beast kind of guy…

  • avatar
    twotenths

    Increased imposition by the government can always be “justified” by colorful anecdotes. This is why rational people are interested in the data. Sure, there are benefits to every burdensome program out there, but do they justify the costs? And that means: the actual benefits, not the imagined ones. No inspections in Wisconsin, and while I see plenty more tailpipe smoke than I did in California, road-worthiness is not particularly an issue. Also, the pro-inspection folks are forgetting that there is a difference between not mandating inspections, and doing away with road-worthiness requirements. Cops are still allowed to pull over and cite a car with a plywood window. There is also a “be careful what you wish for” factor to consider, if you are pro-inspections. Why not mandate snow tires during the winter in the snow states? Scratch that: why not mandate the snow tires that are highest-rated in Consumer Reports during winter in the snow states? Such a law would be far more justifiable on a road safety basis than mis-aligned headlights, window tint, etc. Once that’s in place, we’ll move on to forbidding RWD, … then FWD. The safety benefits of AWD will naturally win the day. Remember, all the regulators need are a few stories about crashes that could have been avoided if only everyone had AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      I find it interesting how those who are opposed to any government regulation or control always take examples to extreme to justify their point. “If the government regulate vehicle checked in the name of safety then this will lead to the government banning any vehicle with more that 100hp and less that 100 airbags to, every driver having to submit their route before departure to, banning all driving because drivers are the biggest cause of accidents and enforcing transportation that is only conducted by robots”
      In general any regulation or rules taken to either extreme (restrictive or lax) create undesirable results.
      What we’re talking about here is a simple vehicle checks to make sure the wheels aren’t going to fall off. The argument of mechanics profiting by finding faults that aren’t real or mechanics providing a pass for fault vehicles could be reduced if the inspection was done by DMV employed mechanics that aren’t going to perform repairs.
      The argument that statically mechanical failures are insignificant ignore the inconsistent data collection method (not all accidents are dealt with by the police and or insurance) and the contributing fact of poor vehicle condition to accidents i.e. “the driver was traveling too fast and broke too late” ignores any fact that the tires were bald or that the shocks were ineffective which increased the braking distance.
      I live in Indiana where there is no inspection. On a daily bases I’ll see one or more cars with safety issues: bald tires / failed shocks / rusted out body work (which is a sign of rusted frame) / broken headlights etc. The best one I saw ~ 2 years ago was a guy who turned into a bank parking lot to have his suspension collapse from what looked like a worn ball joint departing its cap!

      • 0 avatar
        twotenths

        What’s interesting is that those who favor a government solution to every alleged risk, no matter how small or theoretical, base their case on no articulated standard. You mock the complaint, but consider the current debate: the evidence is clear that the risk posed by lack of inspections is vanishingly small, yet somehow the costs of inspection are still worth incurring. How so? How small a risk is worth mitigating, and at how large a cost? The problem with the pro-nanny-state lobby is that it never expresses principles by which we can understand where the boundaries ultimately lie on expansion of the state. This makes it ridiculous to then mock the small-government crowd for supposedly raising bogeymen of excess. Why shouldn’t we fear unbridled expansion of state power, when the current exercise of state power is occurring without rational basis? The attempt to lampoon my argument with the “100 airbags” straw man is absurd for a reason you didn’t intend: the current mandatory inspections already are the equivalent of the 100 airbags… demonstrably pointless and needlessly costly.

  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    The whole dealer shakken system is a huge scam.

    When I was teaching in Japan 99-01 I bought an 86 Twin Turbo Supra second-hand from the Japanese wife an Austrailian guy who ran an English school in Kobe. Person to person used car sales in Japan are almost unheard of (between strangers at least) and the Japanese teachers and students at my school were aghast when I brought home my prize. Despite the fact that the car had only 60K KMs on it, they swore it was worn out and would never pass shakken.

    I had 6 months shakken when I got the car and sorted out the few mechanical issues it had – most obvious was a broken signal lense. I then researched the “user shakken,” and went to the DMV in Kyoto where they sat me down in front of a video that explained the whole process. I got the papers and took my best stab at completeing all the checks myself.

    A few days later I went to the testing facility and ran the car through the series of checks. It passed with flying colors and I saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a two year shakken. hell, for an extra 500 yen, the DMV even filled out the forms for me.

    As for the yearly inspection, one of my elderly students told me not to worry about that round sticker – it didn’t mean anything – and in the two years I drove the car nobody ever gave me any grief about it.

    Oh, and Bertel – Japanese has an “n” katakana without the “u” on the end – but not a “P” so your headline should read “Piston Srappu”

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Best. Comment. Ever.
      So true…

      I would only argue that it would be Pisuton Surappu.

      • 0 avatar
        tmkreutzer

        You gonna slip that chisai “tsu” there in front of the “ppu?” ;-)

        I do concur with “u” in pisuton – I’m sorry I missed it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Anybody want to come by my office and help me load Japanese translations into html tags for this test, since you all seem to enjoy their language so much :)

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      It seems as though the system exploits some Japanese cultural peculiarity. Perhaps people are terrified of the possibility that something within their control (like keeping their car in good shape) could cause an accident that might hurt someone and result in public shame? I’ve heard before that Japanese people are very fastidious car owners and keep their cars extremely clean, which may or may not be an extension of their general attitude towards their appearance and belongings which does not necessarily exist in the West.

      • 0 avatar
        John

        From what I’ve seen the cars are in pretty good shape. The funny thing is, bicycles are a form of transportation, not recreation for many Japanese adults, and they keep their bicycles in TERRIBLE shape. Coaster brakes are not allowed – bikes whose hand brake pads have worn away to nothing are common – riders stop them with their feet. I don’t think the idea of oiling a bicycle’s chain has reached Japan yet. Definitely no bicycle inspection! Plus, they ride them half on the sidewalk and half on the road. Since 99% of bicyclists AND pedestrians are checking their cell phones at any moment, crashes galore ensue. And shouldn’t it be pisutonu NO surappu? I’m no expert.

  • avatar
    doug

    “Pistonu Slappu”

    Get the Japanese right.

    It’s Pisuton Surappu.

  • avatar
    DaveDFW

    Texas has a pretty toothless annual inspection requirement, which means that lots of marginal vehicles freely roam the streets. Owners of vehicles that cannot pass the Texas inspection can always find a black-market sticker for purchase, which means the worst vehicles stay on the road regardless of their condition.

  • avatar
    stuart

    California has a biennial smog inspection. In practice, two-year-old cars never failed their inspections, so the first inspection happens at four years.

    Most of CA requires a thorough, dynamometer-based smog check, although I gather that the OBD-II computer in your car basically determines your pass/fail. Rural CA counties with few cars and clean air omit the dyno and use a tail-pipe-sniffer check.

    In an unusual move of bureaucratic intelligence, old cars that are likely to fail smog (e.g. all of mine) must be checked at a “test-only” station, where they do *no* repairs. This seems to mitigate the tendency of some garages to find bogus problems during inspections.

    CA has no safety inspection requirement (unless you’re registering something odd, like a kit car), but local law-enforcement agencies can be a PITA about this. I’ve been pulled over for a dead headlight, stale sticker, and two dead license-plate lights (different cars) in recent past. The headlight and sticker each earned me a “fix-it ticket,” requiring an officer signature plus $25 to clear. The stale sticker was due to CA-DMV dawdling, but state law makes the car owner responsible whenever the DMV screws up. :-) The license-plate lights were apparently because I drive ratty-looking cars, and the local cop wanted to look me over.

    stuart

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “unusual move of bureaucratic intelligence”

      sounds like the title of a short story I should write.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      I’ve always been under the impression that the “test only station” requirement was about preventing fraud in the opposite direction – shops tweeking cars to pass, and then setting them back to the way they were before. ISTR that was a big problem in the 80s when it was damned near impossible to get an older car with a carburetor to both run properly, AND pass the tests.

      • 0 avatar
        stuart

        (Without checking) I’d guess you’re right. However, while I’ve never been asked for a bribe to make my car pass, I did see a crooked mechanic deliberately screw up the timing on my car (fudged his adjustable timing light) in order to make my car “fail,” and then he demanded extra $$ to “fix” it.

        The “beauty” (if that’s the correct term :-) of the test-only smog check station is that they have less incentive to cheat you or the state.

        BTW, the going rate for a smog check locally is $50.

        stuart

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Hmmmmm. My view of the nanny-state mentality tells me that I wish Governments would NOT be involved and MANDATING anything. However, the insurance markets are extremely lazy. I’d be FOR insurance companies demanding a safety inspection PRIOR to insuring a vehicle. Bald tires and ancient shocks are a safety hazard, and people driving UNSAFE cars should be forced by the market to choose: maintain your car at a safe level, find a different car, or find a different mode of transportation which is less likely to kill you, your passengers or anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity when your hood-dee implodes.

    Yesterday, on the Indiana toll-road, I saw a late-90′s vintage Plymouth minivan being driven with a low-speed donut on the left-front wheel. The driver was flogging it at just under 70 mph, and the pitching, yawing and shuddering was just sort of apocalyptic. Didn’t seem to phase my oblivious fellow-traveler.

    I found myself hoping for three things: One, that the karma known as Darwinism would bitch-slap him something righteous, teaching him that being foolish at that level of insanity will sooner or later get you dead. Two, that there would be no passengers in the car when karma administered said bitch-slapping. Three was that no other drivers would be around for such Murphy’s law fun-an-games.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I feel a de-motivational poster coming on… Darwinism, weeding out stupidity since 1860.

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      insurance companies demanding a safety inspection PRIOR to insuring a vehicle

      I like this idea but you’d have to have an easy way to show that the car is insured, currently there are already too many cars that are not insured so unless enforcement increased it would solve anything.

      You can see the scenario….

      My car failed the inspection it will cost me $500 to fix it + my insurance premium or I can take the risk and if I get cause pay a (probalby smaller) fine!

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The issue that you’re missing is two-fold:

        1. Equipment failure isn’t the cause of most accidents. The effort devoted to dealing with it produces minimal benefit.

        2. Even in those cases when equipment failure is a factor, an inspection process won’t necessarily catch many or most of the problems. The failures can occur between inspections and the system may create incentives to game it, which results in bogus inspection results that deliberately overlook some of the issues.

        Between all of these things, the inspections cost a lot, but don’t do much. With the discrepancy between the high cost and the minimal benefit, it becomes a wasteful, poor allocation of resources. If resources spent on this take away from something else that is more important, then it could even make things worse.

        This should not be a right-left political issue. The question is whether it works. The data would suggest that if we are going to have inspections, then we should focus on heavy trucks, because the results of a major truck accident can be catastrophic. Brake failure on cars is such a non-factor these days that focusing on it at the expense of other things becomes pointless.

    • 0 avatar
      twotenths

      The fact that insurance companies don’t do this pre-inspection is excellent evidence that the benefits of inspections don’t justify the costs. The industry isn’t lazy: it’s rational. The problem with deciding these issues politically, rather than economically, is that the political realm doesn’t require any sort of economic or other logical basis (“if it saves even one life, it’s worth doing X”)
      Insurers do require pre-inspections for other risks (namely, term life), so it’s not as if they are unfamiliar with the concept.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    Like anything that even hints at the word “government,” the B&B immediately took it from “how they do things” to a soapbox for one’s political opinions.

    What I find interesting about Shaken is it’s economic effects. Used cars in Japan are typically very cheap, because people would rather buy new than maintain an old car. The used cars are then disassembled for parts and scrap, or exported whole to 3rd world countries. Meanwhile, back in Japan, the auto industry continues to sell scads of new cars. I don’t think shaken was set up specifically for this purpose, but it’s interesting to see how it all ties together.

    Something else I wonder is the difficulty of passing a non-japanese car. Something like an Astrovan (which is popular with some people) or a Buick Roadmaster wagon. An acquaintence of mine had exported Syclones and Typhoons to Japan, and in the 90s when the yen ran into trouble, he imported them back to the US and still made money. They probably came back in better shape, too.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    In PA they even road test the cars. My friend took his 98 Integra in for inspection, they called to tell him the mechanic totaled it during the road test. Angry doesn’t even describe it.

    Emissions testing is 50 dollars over the 28 dollar safety inspection in PA. While a machine might seem expensive, doing 4 or 5 cars a day can pay for one eventually. If you have a friend somewhere that hopped up mustang with a 4bbl and no cats gets a sticker courtesy of an old Buick nearby.

    It’s the safety inspection in PA that brings in the cash. Adjust an emergency brake? 30 dollars. Change a turn signal bulb? 25 dollars. Lots of little fees to clean up on.

    Then comes the 50-110 dollar registration fee and you are good for one more year.

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      Wow. How’d the insurance payout turn out?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Most modern emission tests today utilize the test car’s OBDII connection….no more sniffers and dynos….

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Not in states where cars older than 1996 are still inspected, if your car does not have the OBD II system, it’s the sniff test.

        My old 92 Ford Ranger had the OBD I test and yet it had to be smog tested and it went with the snifter.

        I think my ’03 Mazda P5 when its emissions gets tested next will just get its OBD II connector plugged into and that’ll be it.

        Here in Washington State, cars after 1987-88 are to be tested every other year, except for those less than 4 years old or so. In California, it’s anything from 1975 and newer.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I live in a state that does not do safety inspections, but in certain communities, namely around Puget Sound and in Spokane we have bi annual emissions inspections.

    Which means every 2 years we get a notice that when we renew our tabs (done every year), we also get a notification that we also are due an emissions test. A simple $15, I think, it may be $12, I forget now dollar transaction fee and they check your car for emissions and also your gas cap as many later cars require a working gas cap for the system to work properly.

    That’s it and we get at least one redo if the car fails the first time. I’ve had most of my cars pass on the first run through each time it’s due and when they didn’t (usually they just miss), it’s either i didn’t get the car fully warmed up or something simple like that.

    I’ve seen cars here that look like they’ve seen better days, bounce along with poor springs and/or shocks/struts, have tires wobbling due to being out of balance and one lady had a clapped out Corolla from I think the late 1990′s as she had, repeat, had 2 airbags, but both had I think been activated and later removed, the driver’s door was bashed in by a rolling dumpster that got away and I forget what else. I know as the passenger airbag cavity was filled with papers. I haven’t seen it recently but every now and then for a long while, she was seen tootling around in it.

    And even if an accident is found to have been the fault of malfunctioning brakes, even a state inspection won’t cover that as brakes, while they looked fine at the time of the inspection, may fail 2 weeks later for whatever reason, like the master cylinder decides to go south, right as someone is trying to perform an emergency braking maneuver.

  • avatar
    VA Terrapin

    I have no idea about the history of Japanese government car inspection and maintenance programs. They probably made a lot more sense when cars were a lot less reliable and durable than now. Catching mechanical errors back then probably did much more to keep unsafe cars off the road, and to notify car owners before minor problems became big problems. Now, the inspection and maintenance programs just seem to mainly make mechanics wealthier.

    As for the idea that these programs make Japanese people buy more cars, that’s probably true for those gainfully employed and affluent. But for the young and un/underemployed, these programs probably make them less likely to buy cars. How can these people afford a used car when inspections cost thousands of dollars over the life of a car?

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Do vehicle inspections actually make sure that safe, reliable, non-polliting cars are on the road, or do they just put money into a state’s pockets in the form of yet another unavoidable revenue.

    Imagine looking at all the cars whizzing past your expensive state legislator’s office and knowing with a smug satisfaction that EVERY SINGLE ONE, must go in for inspection and send you a hefty check for a sticker…

  • avatar

    In some Canadian provinces we have required annual inspections. They are done by private shops. Most of the time they are an opportunity for the less-than-honest mechanic to gouge a clueless owner by claiming a bunch of things need to be fixed, and it just so happens they can do it for them right there… Other times you just slip the guy a 20$ and he ignores that one little issue that should have failed the car (rust spot in the fender or something like that).

    In Quebec you only need to inspect a car when it is newly registered or imported from outside, or taken out of storage after not having been registered for at least a year. The inspections are done by government mandated and run shops that do ONLY inspections, no repairs. Sounds better right? Except these guys are HARD CORE bureaucrats that will fail you for having an incorrectly coloured reflector, or a lit check engine light, or (swear to god) missing valve caps. It used to be you could bribe some of the more lenient shops (some were just more relaxed without the palm greasing) but a government crackdown put an end to that. They gutted the friendly shops and replaced the entire staff with pencil pushing petty bureaucrats who have no problems with failing you for the slightest infraction.

  • avatar

    In NY or NJ, the most important part about an inspection sticker is, if you don’t have one, or if it is out of date….

    It is easy to spot by color-and last year’s stickers are the wrong color.

    You might as well paint “PULL ME OVER FIRST” on the sides of the car… why, you ask ?

    Per several cops “If the car has no inspection, I have a 50% chance of catching an unlicensed driver, finding the car is also uninsured, or unregistered”.

    Oh, and as some poster in NY commented, you get tickets from meter maids as well…..for that expired sticker.

    We also occasionally have local cop do “sticker checks” usually in nice weather. A correct sticker avoids an official conversation. For most enthusiasts, the sticker is pointless and only makes you annoyed…for the know nothings, which are 98% of the rest, they might make some folks actually fix things. Spend some time listening to the conversations at any larger auto repair store. “how long can my brakes squeak” is a common question.


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