Vehicle Requirements for the DMV Driving Test: How to Make Sure Your Car is Ready

Vehicle Requirements for the DMV Driving Test: How to Make Sure Your Car is Ready

by Zutobi · Updated Jan 26, 2024

This guide covers:

  • The checking process and what to do if you fail it
  • What an examiner precisely checks for, and how to prepare your vehicle for it

Vehicle Check Process

A DMV examiner performs the vehicle check right before your road test. The inspection typically lasts 5 to 10 minutes and usually takes place in the DMV parking lot.

  1. Initial Examination: The examiner visually inspects the car’s exterior for safety issues.
  2. Documentation Verification: The examiner checks for valid documents.
  3. Safety Features Check: Essential safety features are tested.
  4. Operational Check: The examiner may ask you to demonstrate the functioning of various controls.

What If Your Vehicle Fails the DMV Check?

  • Immediate Notification: The examiner will inform you if your vehicle fails the check, specifying the reasons.
  • Rescheduling the Test: You will be able to reschedule your road test. This gives you time to address the issues that led to the failure.
  • Vehicle Correction and Re-evaluation: If the issues are minor and can be fixed on the spot, the examiner might allow a quick re-check.
  • Alternative Vehicle Option: If you have access to another vehicle that meets the DMV requirements, you may be allowed to use it.

Be aware that if you fail the vehicle check and reschedule your exam, you will need to pay the road test fee again.

Vehicle Requirements


image of the registration sticker
Registration Sticker
  • Vehicle Registration Document: It should confirm that the vehicle is legally registered in your state.
  • Proof of Insurance: Confirms the car is insured as required by state law.

Also, you should have the proper license plate(s) attached to your vehicle. Most states send stickers when you renew your registration each year. Place it on your license plate or windshield to show that you have a current registration.

Safety Features

1. Seat Belts

  • Inspect each seat belt for signs of tear. Each belt must retract smoothly and lock securely when tugged sharply. Check the buckle mechanism for sticking or malfunctioning.
  • The DMV examiner will pull the seat belts to test if they lock properly under the sudden force. And if the buckle mechanism snaps in place securely and releases without issue.

2. Brakes

leg on the brakes
Checking Your Brakes
  • Listen for any unusual sounds like grinding or squeaking when braking. When pressed, the brake pedal should feel firm and not sink to the floor. Also, check the brake fluid level in the reservoir; low levels can indicate a leak or worn brake pads.
  • The examiner will test the brake’s responsiveness and check for any fluid leaks or obvious signs of wear and tear.

3. Tires

  • Inspect tires for tread depth and proper inflation. Look for any signs of damage, like cuts, bulges, or excessive wear.
  • The examiner will visually inspect the tires for tread depth and any obvious damage that could compromise safety.

4. Doors

doors of the car
  • Check for the doors to open smoothly from inside and outside without any gaps and for the locks to work correctly.
  • Your examiner may test the doors to ensure they open and close properly.

5. Seats

  • Check that the driver’s seat adjusts easily and locks securely in position. Make sure all seats are firmly anchored with no excessive movement or instability.
  • The examiner might adjust the driver’s seat to test its locking mechanism.

6. Windshield and Windows

windows and windshields
Car’s Windows
  • Clean your windshield and windows and free them of cracks or significant chips. Replace wiper blades if they are worn out or leave streaks. Windows mustn’t be stuck closed or open.
  • The DMV examiner will check for cracks or chips in the windshield and may test the operation of the windshield wipers and fluid dispensers.

Operational Features

1. Lights

  • Check that your headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals are working. Replace burnt-out bulbs and clean the lenses for better visibility. Also, make sure that your headlights are properly aligned and not pointing too high or too low.
  • The examiner will check all lights during the pre-test vehicle inspection.

2. Horn

horn sign in the car
Horn on the Wheel
  • Test your horn to see if it’s audible enough. It should have a clear, strong sound, not weak or muffled.
  • Your examiner will ask you to honk the horn to hear if it functions correctly.

3. Mirrors

  • Mirrors must be clean, intact, and properly adjusted for your seating position. They should provide a clear view of the rear and sides of your vehicle.
  • The examiner will observe whether the mirrors are properly adjusted and may ask you to adjust them as part of the test.

4. Dashboard 

dashboard photo
  • Look for any dashboard warning lights on.
  • If they are on, the examiner may inquire about them or deem the vehicle unfit for the test, depending on the severity of the issue.

5. Steering System

  • Check for any unusual stiffness or looseness in the steering, and listen for noises when turning. Also, make sure the power steering fluid is at the appropriate level.
  • During the driving test, the examiner will observe the ease and control of your steering.

6. Clutch and Gearbox (for manual vehicles)

  • Check if the clutch engages and disengages smoothly without slipping and that all gears shift smoothly without grinding.
  • During a manual transmission test, the examiner will observe gear shifting for smoothness and control.

General Tips 

  1. Vehicle Size and Type: Opt for a standard vehicle. Typically, a sedan or a compact car is ideal.
  2. Clean and Clear Interior: Remove any items blocking visibility or interfering with the vehicle’s operation.
  3. Fuel Level: Ensure the vehicle has enough fuel for the test duration.
  4. Air Conditioning and Heating: Your comfort affects your performance. However, use these features sparingly during the test to avoid distractions.
  5. Emergency Equipment: Make sure your vehicle has the emergency equipment, such as a spare tire, jack, and hazard warning devices.

Ensure Road Test Success with Zutobi

Ace the driving test with Zutobi. Our app offers quick, easy-to-follow driving lessons and a behind-the-wheel video course, perfect for your test prep. Master safe driving skills and maneuvers with expert guidance. Join Zutobi today.

Take our full course with tests and theory

550+ exam-like questions

All you need to ace your test

Perfect for first-timers, renewals and senior citizens

Ace your DMV test, guaranteed