Certain states still require car inspections. Each state is unique, and some may only require inspections when there is a transfer of ownership or a sale, and others may require annual safety inspections in certain areas.

It is important to become familiar with the inspection requirements where you live and ensure your vehicle is up to date and in good condition. In many cases, doing so involves replacing headlamps and headlights for optimal safety and performance.

The following is everything to know about replacing headlights for state car inspections, including when an inspection is necessary, whether or not headlights are checked and when replacing your headlights is necessary to pass.

What are auto inspections?

An auto inspection is a procedure to test for issues related to safety and emissions. It is typically performed by a mechanic who has the proper licensing to offer auto inspections, although some states such as Maryland offer an electronic inspection service.

Each state may have different safety aspects they check. Vehicle parts and systems that are frequently checked during a safety inspection include:

  • Headlights
  • Taillights
  • Brakes
  • Wheel alignment
  • Steering

Many states require emissions inspections as well as safety inspections. The purpose is to ensure the vehicle has proper emissions control in an effort to reduce the emissions produced.

If a vehicle fails inspection, then a report is provided to the owner, outlining the issues that caused it to fail. The owner can then make the necessary improvements and have the car re-inspected.

When is an auto inspection necessary?

Each state determines its own auto inspection requirements. There are many factors that lawmakers consider when determining how frequent inspections are necessary, including the population, the input of the citizens and the preference of the lawmakers.

With that said, the majority of states require some form of inspection. Many require an inspection annually or once every two years to test for emissions, whereas others require one any time there is a change in ownership or if a sale occurs. Specifically, an inspection might be necessary for the following reasons:

  • The latest inspection is set to expire
  • The vehicle title is changing hands
  • The owner is moving to a different area

In some states, inspections are only necessary for certain parts of the state. For example, Georgia only requires inspections in and around the Atlanta area. Vehicle owners should check their state’s policy for inspection requirements in their area.

Are headlights checked during an inspection?

Headlights are one of the most frequently checked parts among states who require safety inspections. Additionally, taillights, hazard lights, brake lights, directional lights and the license plate light should all work properly to ensure you pass.

For the headlights specifically, it is important to ensure they are not damaged through scrapes, dents or cracks, and replace the entire headlight if damage exists. The headlight bulbs should also work properly and provide sufficient light while driving. Vehicle owners should check the headlight lenses for oxidation or damage as well as ensuring the bulbs are new and in good condition.

Be sure to also ensure the taillights – as well as all other lights on the vehicle – work properly as well. If the vehicle needs new headlights, headlight bulbs or taillights, you can easily search and find the necessary replacement lights that allow you to pass inspection at our sister company, Headlights Depot.

When should I replace my headlights to pass inspection?

For vehicle safety inspections, they will almost certainly check the headlights, headlight bulbs and taillights to ensure they work properly. The most common reasons headlights – or headlamps – lead to a failed safety inspection is because they are outdated, damaged or severely oxidized.

Ideally, it is best to change the entire headlights if they are more than twenty years old with a newer set. If the headlights are damaged from a car accident, a golf ball that cracks them, etc., then it may also lead to a failed inspection. Lastly, oxidation of the headlight lenses could potentially lead to a failed inspection if it causes an inability to see the road adequately.

If any of these issues exist – or if another issue that impairs the ability of the headlights to work properly – is evident, then it is encouraged to replace the headlights to ensure the vehicle passes inspection.

When to replace the headlight bulbs

If there are issues with the headlights, then it might be as simple as changing the headlight bulbs – rather than the headlamps in which they are placed. Common signs that indicate that you should change the headlight bulbs include:

  • Outdated
  • Dim lights
  • Flickering
  • Light is out

Headlight bulbs typically go out after about 750 to 1,000 hours of use. It is best to replace them before issues arise by changing them after they are used for approximately 500 hours. Of course, many do not keep track of the number of hours they drive. To stay safe, it is best to replace the bulbs if they have not been changed for more than two years.

If the issues are dim, then it might mean they are too old. However, it could suggest there is an issue with the headlight lenses as well. For flickering headlights in which they go in and out, the bulbs likely are on their last breath and need to be changed as soon as possible and certainly before the next inspection. If one or both of the lights is entirely out, then the car will almost certainly fail a safety inspection.

Find New Headlights and Pass Your Next Inspection

If your car is due for its next inspection and are concerned with the current condition of your headlights – or if your vehicle failed an inspection and new headlights are recommended – visit our sister company Headlights Depot for affordable, high-quality headlights. We offer headlights, headlight bulbs, taillights, brake lights and much more.

Aaron Westbury
Aaron is a content writer with a passion for cars. He enjoys learning new things and loves to share what he learns with others. Aaron also has a Bachelor's in English and years of experience as a writer, and he constantly seeks to improve and make his writing more informative and helpful for readers. Although a writer by day, Aaron enjoys his free time by getting outdoors and staying active anyway he can.

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