RICHMOND—Every year you have to get your car inspected and many of us dread the process because we fear the mechanic will say your vehicle won't pass without expensive repairs.
So what can you do if don't think the repairs are needed? That's how Lupe Bermudez felt when she took her Jeep Cherokee in for a state inspection. She says instead of the $16 inspection fee, she walked out after paying more than $850 for repairs, half of it was labor. She said, "I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what to do."
There is a division of the Virginia State Police that oversees state inspection stations in the Commonwealth and they've been doing it since 1932.
Auto Service Plus in Henrico County allowed us into their business to show us what the process is like. Virginia State Police checked their records during the past five years and found no consumer complaints.
In the Richmond Metro area, there are over 900 inspection stations and there are eight troopers who try and visit each station every 45 days. Those same troopers respond to complaints.
Sgt. Robert Evans with Virginia State Police says, "If they feel their..vehicle is rejected and they feel there was a question about that rejection, they can give us a call. We can get a trooper to contact that individual and kind of go over their concerns, what they feel was not a rejectable item and at that point, the trooper would contact them, and personally see their vehicle and examine the vehicle to determine whether or not inspection procedures were followed."
If the trooper determines if the vehicle should have passed, they take it up with the inspection station and if the inspection station is found to be at fault, they could get reprimanded or worse.
Sgt. Evans says, "It can be anywhere from a verbal reprimand or as severe as a suspension."
Virginia State Police got 3,208 complaints last year and 2,963 of them resulted in disciplinary action, that's 93% and eighteen inspection stations were shut down.
Sgt. Evans says inspection stations are under strict guidelines, checking everything from the windshield for anything that would obstruct vision, to making sure your parking brakes have no missing parts and your tires have the proper tread-depth for safe driving. Sgt. Evans says it's important that you make your complaints immediately after you visit the inspection station.
Bermudez says she wishes she had known this before she agreed to pay the mechanic for the work to pass inspection. In fact, police say if you feel like the mechanic at the inspection station is having you make a repair you don't feel is necessary, make him or her show you where in the official Virginia Safety Inspection Manual it says you need that work done. If you're still not satisfied, call state police.
Remember, you have 15 days to make repairs and get your vehicle re-inspected, but you still run the risk of getting a ticket for any defect still present if you're stopped by a police officer.
To file a complaint, call Virginia State Police at 804-743-2217 or sent an email to Area61.firstname.lastname@example.org. That email address covers 20 counties in Central Virginia.