What Are Safety and Emission Inspections and Do I Need One in Minnesota?


You may have heard the term "safety and emission check," but you're not sure exactly what it entails. Safety inspections are a way to ensure that all the vehicles on the road are safe and not likely to cause harm. Similarly, emission inspections make sure vehicles aren't emitting chemicals that harm the air.

Many U.S. states require safety and/or emission inspections every year or every other year. A mechanic shop must be certified to perform state inspections. Here's how they work.

Safety Inspections

When you bring your car in for a safety inspection, mechanics check many different parts of your car to make sure they're working properly. They might check:

  • Brakes
  • Tires and wheels
  • Bulbs, lamps, and reflectors
  • Windshield wipers
  • Mirrors
  • Seat belts
  • The exhaust system
  • The steering wheel and horn
  • Window tinting and coating
  • Gas caps

If the mechanic notices any major problems with a part, he or she will ask you to get that part repaired or replaced. This is important for protecting both you and other drivers. For example, if your brake pads are worn down, it might take you longer to brake. This could cause you to get in an accident, which would harm both you and other drivers. Thus, you'll need to replace your brake pads as soon as possible.

Once you pass the safety inspection, the mechanic will give you a sticker to place on your car's window. This shows law enforcement officers that your car is safe to drive.

Emission Inspections

Certain states require regular emission inspections to protect the air and the environment. If your state requires you to get an emission inspection, you must visit a mechanic certified to perform emission inspections. Mechanics test your car's exhaust system for unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides.

If your car fails the emission inspection, your car might have a problem that requires repair. This could include:

  • A malfunctioning ignition system
  • A faulty oxygen sensor
  • An injector leak
  • A vacuum leak
  • A malfunctioning air injection system
  • A defective valve or gas cap
  • Problems with the emission control system
  • Worn spark plugs and wires
  • A faulty carburetor or fuel injection unit

You'll need to have a mechanic fix these problems to lower your car's harmful emissions.

Do I Need a Safety and Emissions Inspection in Minnesota?

Minnesota does not currently require regular safety checks for personal vehicles. You do need to get regular safety checks if you have a commercial vehicle. This is classified as a vehicle that carries 16 or more people, transports hazardous materials, or weighs over 26,000 pounds.

If you don't need a regular safety inspection to register your vehicle, you should still make sure your car is performing at its best. If you haven't had your car checked in a few years, bring it in to a mechanic for a thorough inspection.

Minnesota required emissions inspections from 1991 to 1999 because the Twin Cities did not meet federal air quality standards. But in 1999, Minnesota's air status was reclassified. Emission testing is not currently required in Minnesota.

Even though you don't need to get regular emissions inspections, you can still do your part to cut down on emissions. For example, you could ride public transportation or carpool instead of driving every day. You should also have a mechanic check that your car's engine, electrical systems, and fuel and air filters are performing properly.

New cars have better safety and air quality than older cars. Replacing your aging car with a new one can help protect you, other drivers, and the air. If you're ready to turn in your old car, consider donating it to Newgate School.