The Land Rover Writer

Sunday, January 17, 2010

State Inspections

Maine requires that all vehicles except those registered as antiques must undergo an annual safety inspection. Cars over 25 years old can garner antique status; the insurance company I use does not impose mileage restrictions on antique cars.

So why not register all of my cars, which range in age from 30 - 44. as antiques? Maine has a Catch 22 - you cannot have all of your cars registered as antiques. At least one must be registered conventionally.

Annual inspections evoke love/hate feelings. It often feels like it's "stupid stuff" that fails a car: a failed side light, a tiny crack in the windshield, a bit of rust on a rocker panel, a noisy muffler. I mean, who cares? And the older your car, the more likely that one of these items, that don't really affect whether the car starts or stops, will cause a "failed inspection" notice. Besides, lots of states in the US, like Florida, don't even require inspections.

Last year, the Maine Legislature debated a bill that would have made inspection an every two year event, not yearly, and would have exempted cars under 2 years old. The bill failed after lots of debate. Given new car warranties and extended tire life of radial tires, the 2 year provision made a lot of sense.

Since too many people treat cars like appliances, I have to reluctantly approve of inspections - even though they throw me into a frenzy of fear every year. Todd, our local mechanic, puts every car on a lift and does the right thing. He yanks suspension components, watches for loose tie rod end as you turn the steering wheel, checks for brake pad and brake shoe condition [he will pull off a tire and brake drum if he has not done brake work on your car], tire wear, rocker panel and underbody rust [which are structural on unibody cars], and brake line and gas tank leaks.

He finds that our poor roads, salt water, salt in the air and on the roads, benign neglect of cars and trucks, and manufacturing practices by automakers means that a lot of cars start failing inspections. Since most drivers judge the condition of their car by the condition of the interior, quick starting and a working sound system, they can be incensed when they discover they have to replace a lot of brake lines.

Not me - I am delighted when he find something unsafe on my cars. Even though I crawl underneath my cars all too often, I still don't catch everything as he can when the car is on a lift. So when the Land Rover went in last week for its inspection, he found loose bolts on the spring hangar plate he had replaced this summer and loose nuts on the propshaft where it attaches to the transmission brake. No wonder I had some odd noises on take off! He also spotted a tiny gas tank leak on an area I patched up last summer. I also have a ripped up wiper blade that needs replacement.

The TR-7 had its inspection the next day and it passed without incident. Again, having him underneath the car checking components and looking for rust really helped reassure me about the safe running of the car.

The Corvair and the other Land Rover, the QM I. are both registered as antiques so they avoid inspection, but that doesn't mean I can't pay to have him look underneath the cars for me so I know the work that's required to keep them on the road.

The British have an inspection requirement for all cars, regardless of age, called an MOT. British cars also undergo required emissions testing and in addition to all that we do in Maine, they require that cars don't leak any fluids of any sort! That would fail both the QE I and the QE IV, so I'm glad those British cars are in the US, and not in Jolly Olde.