What Is A Car Inspection And Do I Need One?

Written by
Amber Hobert
Published on
July 9, 2024
Table of Contents

What is a Car Inspection?

A car or vehicle inspection is primarily the process that involves an engineer or mechanical expert checking your vehicle in detail. Such methods include safety inspections and examining whether the car is in good condition and structure. At the end of the inspection, the mechanical expert will document what needs to be done. This includes things such as repairs, replacements, and so on.

Most car dealers have inspection stations; thus, a car inspection may be done before one purchases a car which may even come with an inspection sticker. This enables them to make a sound decision whether to buy the car or not. It may also be done after one purchases a car to facilitate effective car maintenance. Some car dealers make it mandatory to have cars and emissions inspected with their approval.

What Does a Full Car Inspection Entail?

This section of the article is to highlight and bring to your attention what a full car inspection includes. Not only does it discuss the parts of the car frequently inspected, but it also enables you to know what to look for in these various parts during an inspection.

Basic Inspection

During a car inspection, the first line of operation for most mechanical experts is basic checks of the car. This includes assessment of headlights, air filters, and wiper blades.


A basic car inspection includes checking the car’s light bulbs. This process involves testing the operations of the headlights, brake lights, hazard lights, parking lights, and so on.

Air Filters

Air filters are prone to catching dust, grime, and debris. Therefore, during a basic car inspection, your technician would probably remove the air filter for examination to remove the dirt, dust, grime, and debris. Suppose the technician identifies a problem with the filter or finds it missing; he will most likely recommend a replacement for you.

Wiper Blades

It is highly likely to have missing, bent, or damaged wiper blades. Therefore, your technician would probably check for such factors during the inspection. The technician must determine that the wiper blade has the required pressure to keep the wiper blade and windshield in firm contact.

Belts, Wires, and Hoses Inspection

A car has various connections which ought to be in the right place for the proper functioning of the vehicle. With the slightest error, the car might as well be considered broken. Such inspection includes:


You may discover that a car’s engine is struggling to function. Such a problem is most likely caused by a malfunctioning timing belt and belt tensioner. Therefore, your technician would most probably ensure that both belts are in good working condition during an inspection. However, if they find any problem, they will recommend a replacement.

Power Steering Hoses

Power steering hoses facilitate the navigation of the car. If you have leaking power steering hoses, you are likely to face challenges steering the car. Thus, during car inspection, the technician would check to ensure that your power steering hoses do not have any wear and tear signs. If there are any, he would most likely recommend that you replace the power steering hoses.

Ignition Wires and Spark Plugs

The car requires electric conduction to operate. The ignition wires and the spark plugs facilitate the electric conduction that drives the vehicle. If either of these minor car parts malfunctions, your car will likely fail to start. These areas are thus vital for consideration during a car inspection.

Fluid Level and Condition Inspection

Now, a car requires various fluids for its regular operation. Most of these fluids require frequent replacement after a certain period. This necessitates their inspection.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluids are prone to frequent drying. Most technicians would thus inspect the wiper fluid and refill as necessary. After that, most technicians find it best to check the hoses and washer pump to ensure that they are in good working condition.

Motor Oil

Your technician would most probably wait for the engine to cool down then inspect the oil level and consistency of the motor oil in the dipstick. Oil level and consistency are the primary determinants for when one needs to replace the motor oil instead of the oil color that most people believe.

Using oil color to determine whether you need to replace your motor oil is inefficient since most oils would appear darker than others, especially when they are just from the shop. Consequently, oil consistencies such as gritty, milky, or thick oil are the most compelling indications that you need to replace your motor oil. Therefore, these are what the technician would be looking for during the motor oil inspection.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid facilitates the easier turning of the steering wheel while you are driving your car. During the inspection, your mechanical technician would most likely check the fluid in the pump, inspect the gearbox, hoses, pinion assembly, and rack. Should the technician find black or grey power steering fluid, it would be a sufficient indication that you need to replace the steering fluid.

Brake Fluid

Have you ever asked yourself how a car’s braking system works? Well, briefly, when you step on the brake pedal, thus pushing it downwards, the brake fluid converts the push into mechanical pressure that facilitates the movements of the other brake system components.

This slows down the car and eventually makes it stop. We all should be aware of the dangers of a loose brake; it does not spark a lot of joy. The obvious sign that you are low on brake fluid will occur when you push the brake pedal and realize that it feels soft or that it easily goes downwards to the car’s floor.

The technician would most likely carry out a test drive during the car inspection and check if your brake fluid needs to be replaced.

Master Cylinder Fluid

This pump is another critical part of the car’s braking system. The master cylinder pushes the brake fluid to flow to the necessary parts, thus enabling the vehicle to stop when you apply the brakes. Suppose the master cylinders have some leaks or damages; you could be in danger of an accident.

During a car inspection, the mechanical technician would check to determine that your master cylinder is not damaged and that it has no leaks. Similarly, the technician would check the master cylinder fluid to see if it is in good working condition. Should your master cylinder’s fluid appear to be discolored, foamy, or show signs of being contaminated, your technician would most likely recommend some replacement.

Transmission Fluid

This fluid has two primary functions; it regulates the inner temperature of the engine and acts as a lubricator. Most car manufacturers provide the procedures for checking the transmission fluid’s level in the car’s user manual. During an inspection, the mechanical technician would follow through these procedures to check the transmission fluid level and to see whether the fluid has turned brown necessitating replacement.


Coolants are essential for preventing the engine from overheating. For the coolants to work effectively, it is best that you ensure to keep their correct levels. During an inspection, the mechanical technician would thus concentrate on the coolant levels; when the engine is cool, the technician will check to see whether the radiator tubes are exposed.

However, when the engine is warm, they would only determine if that the correct level is maintained; a level of 1.5’’ below the radiator filler neck is just right.

Battery System Inspection

The battery system inspection is concerned with the assessment of the battery connections and charge. The inspection begins with the examination of the battery as a whole to see if it has a lot of dirt, corrosion, leaks, or loose melted battery posts. Should any of these problems be found, it would help to replace your battery.

The next step is inspecting the battery charge. There is a computerized battery test that most technicians use to evaluate the charge remaining in the battery and the temperature at which the battery will stop functioning. Moreover, during the battery system inspection, your technician would inspect the insulation, cables, terminal bolts, etc.

It is best that the battery cables are maintained at the right length, the insulation is in place, and the terminal bolts are free from corrosion. Similarly, the technician would check to see if the hold-down tray is in suitable working condition during the inspection.

Joints Inspection

The joints are essential parts of the vehicle’s steering and suspension, thus necessitating their inspection.


These joints keep the driveshaft in place. The driveshaft facilitates the movement of the wheels. The technician should be able to conduct a test drive to check whether the joints are loose or rusted.

Ball Joints

Ball joints form part of the front suspension system and the car’s control. Different vehicles have different numbers of ball joints. Therefore, it is best that the technician uses the manufacturer’s instructions in the user manual before examining your car’s ball joints.

Constant Velocity Joints

During a replacement, the constant boots become the priority. They cover and protect the CV joints that facilitate the sideways movement of the car. During an inspection, the technician would check to ensure there are no holes that can allow dust into the boots.

Shocks and Struts

The primary indications that your shock and strut are damaged include vibrations in the steering wheel, swerving while you brake, the car rattling, etc. During an inspection, the technician would carry out a test drive to determine that the shock and strut are in good working condition with no structural damages.

Tire Inspection

Tire Pressure

Car manufacturers provide information on the proper tire pressure to be maintained. The technician would inspect your tires to ensure that their pressure is consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Tire Tread Depth

Tires require the correct tread depth to have a perfect grip on the road. During the inspection, technicians check the tire tread depth at three points in the inner and outer grooves of the tread.

Tire Condition

Tires might still work even though they are not in perfect condition. You may not realize it, but your tires could be having minor cuts, uneven wears, punctures, ply separation, breaks, cupping, curb damage, etc. The technician will have to rotate the tire and inspect it. It is best to do this for all the tires.

Tire Alignment

Finally, the technician would inspect your tire alignment; the tire alignment regulates the angle at which the tires get into contact with the road. Tire alignment is essential for vehicle steering and suspension.

Brake System Inspection

The brake system inspection includes checking the brake calipers, brake rotors, and brake pads. Brake pads exert pressure on the brake rotors, thus enabling your car to stop. During an inspection, the technician would check their thickness to ensure that they are consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions and the state’s laws.

The brake calipers exert pressure on the brake pads against the brake rotors to slow the car’s motion. The inspection includes checking whether they are loose, the presence of rust, leaks, or looseness of the caliper assemblies.

Finally, the technician would inspect the brake rotors for overheating, scoring, cracks, or physical damages. Suppose such defects are found, the technician will advise you accordingly.

Do I Need a Car Inspection?

Most people tend to assume the necessity of carrying out a car inspection to save a few bucks. However, that should never be the case. Some car dealers may not always reveal to you any or all the faults, damage, etc., in the car. These are significant factors that only an inspection can reveal to you. Below are other perks of a car inspection.

● One of the primary reasons for conducting a car inspection is that it will enable you to have peace of mind. Every person who purchases a car, whether new or second-hand, desires to have the tranquility to enjoy the asset. Buying a car involves the spending of a lot of money, and one always needs assurance that they will not spend any more handling unnecessary safety problems.

● Failure to conduct an inspection would most likely lead you to spend a lot of money for repairs at a future time.

● Without an instant inspection, your car will be exposed to high risks of breakdown, which may reduce the safety of the car. Such a case would most likely increase the chances of accidents for your vehicle.

● Failure to conduct a car inspection exposes the car to long-term damages, which would highly likely affect your car’s performance. Sometimes the car may develop irreparable damage, making it merely useless or worthless.

Have a Professional Car Inspection Done

It would be best that you ensure adequate annual safety inspection of your car to avoid the above mentioned problems, among others. When you newly purchase a car, a car inspection is among the first things to do. However if you are a South Dakota resident, the state does not mandate an annual car inspection.

This is one of the benefits that come with South Dakota residency. So, other essential tasks to do early as a car owner are vehicle registration and ensuring all your documentation, license plates, and driver’s license are in order. You can reach out to a professional mail forwarder to help with this process.

Sign up for Residency in South Dakota