Vehicle safety inspection requirements vary by state and type of vehicle, but all inspections entail a trained individual confirming that certain vehicle components meet state vehicle safety standards. Inspectors generally confirm that a vehicle's steering system, brake system, wheels, tires and fuel system are in acceptable condition and working properly.
Vehicle safety inspections have an associated fee that varies by state. Not all states issue a paper certificate or a certificate of any kind. Maryland residents, for instance, receive electronic inspection certificates directly from the inspector. New York State-certified vehicle safety inspectors issue a sticker that the driver affixes to her vehicle without which registration renewal is impossible.
Some states also require an emissions inspection at the time of the safety inspection. Depending on the state, specifics of safety inspections are available to view on the state's department of motor vehicles website. New York State stipulates that safety inspections for cars and light trucks must confirm that seat belts are anchored and work properly, brake pedals have at least 1/3 reserve, and the steering wheel does not have excessive freeplay.
In Utah, the highway patrol oversees vehicle safety inspections. HighwayPatrol.Utah.gov publishes specific vehicle safety inspection requirements for cars and light trucks in PDF. Similar to other states, the inspector confirms the soundness of the brakes, steering wheel, steering system, belts and hoses.