What’s Included in a Texas State Inspection?

Texas State Inspection Requirements

When you take your vehicle in for an inspection, there are a few documents you are required to bring:

  1. Proof of Insurance: Any full coverage insurance is sufficient. However, only liability insurance from a Texas provider is acceptable.
  2. Driver’s License/Photo ID: A valid driver’s license is acceptable. Note that the technician will not consider old driver’s licenses or expired ones.
  3. Inspection Fee: The cost depends on your vehicle's type, age, emissions requirements, and your county. This fee is required even if your vehicle fails the inspection. A failed inspection gives a grace period of 30 days to pass without incurring extra costs.

It’s essential to bring these documents to your inspection/registration since the technician cannot inspect your vehicle without them.

The Importance of Complete Vehicle Inspections

The state requires vehicle owners to address mechanical issues found during the safety inspection to be eligible for registration. This allows motorists to address issues before they become serious mechanical and safety problems.

Complete safety inspections are critical to road safety because they ensure every registered vehicle is road-worthy. Safety inspections are also essential to vehicle health because they give owners a thorough overview of a vehicle’s safety and performance.

Safety Inspection Checklist

Beam Indicator

Vehicles registered after January 1, 1948, excluding motorcycles, must have a beam indicator if they feature multiple-beam road lighting. This indicator lights up when the uppermost headlamp beam is active and remains off otherwise. The design ensures it's easily visible to the driver without glare. During inspection, the beam indicator's functionality is visually checked, ensuring it's present, switches correctly, doesn't produce glaring light, and is fully operational.

Brake System

All passenger vehicles, including trucks, buses, and school buses, must have brakes on all wheels. Exceptions include certain cycles, mopeds, and older trucks with specific axle configurations. The parking brake should remain engaged even in cases of energy source failures or leaks. For vehicles with automatic parking brake releases, the brake should be tested under acceleration to confirm proper functioning.

The procedure for brake inspection is thorough:

        1. Service brakes are tested on level, smooth roads, free from debris. Using only the service brake, the vehicle's stopping ability is tested at 20 mph, ensuring smooth stops within prescribed distances.
        2. The brake hydraulic system is checked for leakage. While stationary, a moderate foot force should be applicable to the pedal.
        3. Pedal reserve is tested. With the vehicle stationary, the brake pedal is depressed under moderate foot force.
        4. The vacuum system's condition is visually inspected for damages or disconnections.

Ensure the brake system reservoir and surrounding area are clean before inspection to avoid contamination of the brake fluid.

Exhaust Emission System Inspection

The exhaust emission system, initiated in motor vehicles from the 1968 model year, is pivotal in mitigating atmospheric emissions. In Texas, tampering with this system is strictly prohibited unless it's for equivalent replacement.

Original manufacturer-installed systems like thermostatic air cleaners, exhaust gas recirculation systems, and catalytic converters, among others, fall under the inspection purview. Notably, for vehicles from 1984 onwards, the catalytic converter is integral to the exhaust emission system.

The process involves a visual examination to ensure the system's intactness and functionality.

Gas Cap Check: Gasoline-fueled vehicles aged between 2 and 24 years are subjected to this test. It involves verifying the gas cap's presence and fit. Exemptions include antiques, non-gasoline vehicles, and motorcycles.

Exhaust System Inspection

For motor vehicles, it's mandatory to have a minimum of two headlamps, positioned one on each side at the front. These headlamps must adhere to set regulations. The placement height for every headlamp should be between 24 and 54 inches from the center of the lamp to level ground, measured when the vehicle is unloaded.

The vehicle is also checked for a functioning Stop Lamp, Tail Lamp, Turn Signal Lamp, Side Marker Lamps, and Reflectors(Side and Rear).


Motor vehicles must have a functioning electric or air-based horn that can produce a sound heard from 200 feet away, but it shouldn't be excessively loud or harsh. Bulb or hand-operated horns are permitted if they are the vehicle's original equipment. During inspection, the horn will be sounded, the activation mechanism examined, and the wiring and mounting inspected.

License Plate Lamp

For vehicles like truck tractors not requiring a rear registration plate, a license plate lamp isn't mandated. However, if two plates are provided, a lamp is necessary. During inspection, the lamp's functionality and condition are visually examined. Reasons for rejection include an absence of the lamp, insecure mounting, failure to illuminate the rear plate with white light, damaged wiring insulation, non-activation with headlights or driving lamps, glaring light emission, or a cracked/broken lens causing unwarranted light emission.


Vehicles must have at least one properly mounted mirror providing a clear, unobstructed rear view of 200 feet. During the inspection, the exterior and interior rearview mirrors are checked from the driver's position for proper location, stability, and potential hazards like cracks or sharp edges.

A vehicle will be rejected if the mirror does not provide a clear view, has unsafe interference with the driver’s vision, has a compromised reflective surface, or isn't securely mounted to prevent excessive movement.

In addition to the list above, Texas State inspection also covers the following:

  • Seat Belts
  • Steering
  • Tires
  • Vehicle Identification Number
  • Wheel Assembly
  • Window Tinting
  • Windshield Wiper

Common Issues Found During Inspections

Many issues can cause your vehicle to fail the state inspection. Understanding the most common reasons for failure will help you identify the inspection items most people overlook. Some of these issues are:

  • Damaged or inoperable windshield wipers
  • Service or check engine lights
  • A faulty horn
  • Damaged or burnt-out headlights and/or tail lights
  • Faulty service brakes and parking brake
  • Faulty steering (excessive steering lash and jamming)
  • Worn or bald tires
  • Extra dark window tint (Less than 25% visible light transmission)

For a more comprehensive list of inspection items, check out our in-depth guide on how to pass the Texas State Inspections.

Cost of Texas State Inspection

The cost of state inspections is the same as those in previous years and depends on the type of vehicle being inspected and the county they are registered to. The cost of Texas state inspections is as follows:

  • Commercial Vehicles - $40
  • Safety Emissions (DFW/Houston) - $25.50
  • Safety Emissions (El Paso, Travis & Williamson Counties) - $18.50
  • Emissions-only Vehicles (DFW/Houston) - $18.50
  • Emissions-only Vehicles (El Paso, Travis & Williamson Counties) - $11.50
  • Trailers and Motorcycles - $7
  • One-year Safety - $7
  • Two-year Safety for new vehicles - $7
  • Mopeds - $0.25

Complete vehicle inspections are essential in making our roads safer so we can all make it home.

Final Words

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