State’s new car inspection system is much more strict

State’s new car inspection system is much more strict

Eddie Fox, owner of Larry’s Lincoln Auto, holds the digital camera that the state now requires vehicle inspectors to use during each inspection. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)
‘The stuff we used to help people with, we can’t anymore. Your car has to be like brand new.’ Eddie Fox Owner of Larry’s Lincoln Auto Repair

LINCOLN – Before driving to the local shop for your next vehicle inspection, it would be smart to read up on the list of rules now being enforced by the state.

Local auto shop owners are warning drivers that the state’s new inspection system is much stricter than it was in the past, targeting, among other things, license plates and window tinting.

Eddie Fox, owner of Larry’s Lincoln Auto Repair on Great Road, said the state’s emissions and safety testing division delivered a digital camera to his shop a few weeks ago to be used during inspections.

The person inspecting the vehicle is now required to snap five photos of the car inside and out, before uploading the images and sending them to a digital archive. The cameras, which were distributed to every inspection station in the state this month, tie into the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles.

Each inspection now requires a minimum of five photographs, including one each of:

• The front of the vehicle, showing a properly displayed plate.

• The driver’s side window, rolled halfway down, to check for tint.

• The rear of the vehicle, including the plate.

• The vehicle information tag inside the driver’s door.

• And the instrument cluster, with the vehicle running, to check for any lights and for mileage.

“If any light comes on, you’ll automatically fail,” Fox said, with the only exception being the tire pressure indicator.

Fox said the changes give drivers less margin for error, since inspectors are required to take photos.

“The stuff we used to help people with, we can’t anymore,” he said. “Your car has to be like brand new.”

Fox said he wanted to make people aware of the new regulations so people can make the necessary changes before their car is in the garage bay.

Cesar Biniagua, of Galinda’s Auto in Cumberland, said the state’s requirement to photograph the driver’s side window has been an issue for some of his customers who have tinted windows. State law only allows for factory tint.

“Your vehicle may (appear) perfect, but you will fail if a light comes on or you have tint in the window,” Biniagua said.

The most stringent rules govern the condition of the vehicle’s license plates. A car will fail its inspection if plates are dirty, cannot be read clearly from 60 feet, are blocked by a trailer hitch, or are not securely attached.

Plate frames or stickers that cover the top or bottom of the plate will trigger a rejection, in addition to plates covered in glass or plastic, decals or other items that may interfere with the identification of the plate.

Under the new regulations, any plate that is damaged, faded, deteriorated or obscured “so as to reduce the visibility or reflectivity” will fail.

“People are totally unaware that the plates can’t be faded at all, you can’t have inspection stickers all over, you can’t have frame brackets or covers or window tint,” said Steve Dias, of Dorman’s Auto in Pawtucket. “We have to document everything, so there’ a lot less up to the discretion of the inspector.”

Luckily, Dias said his customers have understood once he explains that the law ties his hands.

“There hasn’t been much pushback,” he said. “These pictures are automatically transmitted to the DMV. If I turn a blind eye to an issue, I lose my license.”

“More people are failing inspection due to plates,” said Jim Pinault, of L&J Auto in Cumberland. “They’re not up to speed on the new plate law.”

Pinault said the law has been the same for some time, but that “the cameras changed everything.”

“The plate law has been the same for a while now, but hasn’t really been enforced or policed,” he said.

Customers, inspectors and police aren’t always on the same page, either.

Pinault said he had a customer recently with dark black tinted glass windows.

“I told her she couldn’t even come into the bay or she’d fail,” Pinault said. The customer took the issue to her local police department, where she was allegedly told that the tint was OK.

He said his registrations have been another headache for customers seeking an inspection. The state no longer uses small yellow vehicle registration cards, instead mailing drivers a white slip of paper and a sticker.

“Customers don’t know that the yellow registrations don’t exist anymore. Now it’s coming as a carbon copy, but people don’t know and they’re throwing the registrations away,” he said, adding that he has at least five appointments each week where customers don’t bring the right registration.

John Russo, of Home Towne Auto in North Smithfield, said the positive to the state’s new camera system is that service centers are better protected. If they have to fail a customer due to body rot and the customer disagrees, the shop now has photographic evidence to back up their decision.

On the flip side, “there’s less room” for shops to make exceptions to the rules.

“We were obligated to follow the rules even before the cameras. The bottom line is, they want safe vehicles on the road. I have two kids of my own and would never pass an unsafe vehicle,” he said.

Russo said the cameras add only about 30 seconds to a minute to the inspection process. “It’s not that much of a hassle,” he said.

According to an information packet given to local shops by state officials, the changes were set off by “the implementation of electronic tolling and traffic law enforcement systems throughout the country” that rely on license plates to identify vehicles.

“It has become more important than ever to ensure that license plates are properly displayed and not obstructed,” the document continues. “Improperly displayed or obstructed license plates may prevent a vehicle from being properly identified and/or cause a vehicle to be misidentified by law enforcement or tolling authorities.”

The changes in Rhode Island were enforced in Massachusetts last year and are part of a federal program.


This is just one more reason the state uses to separate you from your hard earned money. Oh and don't forget they also have to bow to the climate change gods. What a joke.

Good ideas so as to avoid fraud. But have to laugh a little at the body rot issue...especially in a road salt using state! Who doesn't have a teeny bit of it possibly. Anyhow, seems like-new or very good will pass easily, keeping the values up, the tax rolls higher....get out the Bondo!!

This damnd liberal state! Y’all best vote Trump come November.... this govna of our is the worst and we let her stay....,,,, and the body rot?!?! Y’all have got to be joking!

These inspections are a money grab by the state. They do absolutely nothing to make the roads safer. Bigger states don't have the inspections and have 0 issues. More Liberal big government overreach to empty the pockets of us tax payers.

It is a JOKE that the plates on MY car need to be REFLECTIVE !
These plates and ALL the plates on EVERY car should have been REPLACED 10 years ago ! But the PRINCESS has said NO ! Well let me tell you if my plates don't pass on my next $55.00 raping of the State I will be putting up a FUSS !

I'm all for safety, but this reeks of the government's further involving itself in every part of your life. Why this obsession with cars? Taxed many ways: registration, inspection, license, gas, sales.

Every time you turn around this nutty state is beating you up try another way to squeeze a dime out of you . When are the tolls coming for the cars ? What’s next . Hopefully one day this state will be just a bad memory .

Obviously this has to do with reading license plates for tolls.

It is about time cars will have to be road ready & follow current laws.
Dark windows are a hazard & should never have been overlooked.
I hope they must do something about the loud muffler issues. Even police over look the noise they make. Like noise is the norm. Spring is almost here & as people are outside enjoying the singing birds, nature sounda, them the bad muffler or look at me, car ruins the mood.

It will be interesting to see how many police officers will have their cars inspected with their funny little FOP emblems on their plates that make them above the law. Oh wait, I didn’t read the fine print. Is there a special clause for Emergency responders? God Bless you guys for the job you do but I never understood the emblem thing. Purely just a RI status thing.

What's the big deal? Tinted Windows? You have a problem with the tint inspection, don't get your windows tinted too dark, or even better don't get them tinted at all. As for the licence plate, personally, I want the police to be able to see my plates...if you need to get the plate # of someone who just hit you and tried to drive off, do you want it to be covered or tinted so you can't see it? I mean these aren't crazy issues or requests by the state. Also, contrary to a previous post, every state does have some kind of vehicle inspection, and RI is no stricter than any other state. The last sentence said this is a federal program...meaning every state has to eventually comply...I've lived in 4 states, and have been in RI for almost 20 years...I've never heard people complain over such nonsense in any other state...I mean isn't the goal to have safe vehicles on the road? Come on, find something else to be bothered about...tinted windows? Really?

Making sure license plates are readable will benefit all people in addition to making them readable by toll scanners. I've seen plenty of unreadable plates on my daily commute on 95, either by being faded, behind tinted plastic, or covered in stickers, and I always think that if one of those people hit someone there would be no way for anyone to report that person to the police.

Also, making sure the driver's side window is not overly tinted is beneficial to police who have to pull someone over.

Also, complaining about RI doesn't seem to make sense here as this is part of a federal program.

These things will make our cars safer and our roads safer. We are seeing bridges and roads for the first time in years, businesses are returning to the state, and the overall quality of life has improved. Our Governor is fighting the good fight for all of Rhode Island while not getting distracted by some twitter beef of associating with known criminals. Fix your car up if you're so concerned, and make sure to use a a local Rhode Island company to do so.

More proof that people just like to complain.

what about the police and fire that have tint so dark in the City and Town owned cars that the TAX PAYING public CANNOT tell if there is anyone in the car ??????

Another reason I am so glad I moved over the line to CT. Property is significantly cheaper, window tints are legal, there only inspection is a 10 minute check for dash lights, and the best part get this: the DMV is open on Saturday!!! Who would of thought you didn't have to take a day our of work to go-to the DMV. Oh and my car insurance went down not paying the RI state extras taxes on it. The list goes on.

North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota

Gina is a joke for a governor

Not all states have inspections, seven states have zero inspections, six states only require VIN verification when you register the vehicle and several others have minimal inspections, you can probably guess which states have the full safety and emissions tests, Yup the Northeast and west coast states.

so I take off the dark plate covering , drive in ,get inspection and afterwards replace and drive TWO years with plates obstructed, police wont do anything in CF/pawt or any other sanctuary city.. they expect these insp. stations to be cops