If you’ve been a driver for some time, chances are that you’ve had to get your vehicle inspected before. The purpose of this inspection is to ensure that your car is safe and in compliance with state laws. Typically, your inspection will include a visual inspection of the lights on your vehicle to make sure they’re working properly. When it comes to fog lights, here’s what happens:
Fog lights are designed to increase the visibility of your vehicle in low-visibility conditions. They do not replace your headlight but rather supplement their output. They’re also helpful for nighttime driving and other circumstances that don’t require headlights, such as when you’re traveling through foggy areas or in heavy rain.
These inspections cover more than just safety features on the car; they also look at things like whether your tires have sufficient tread depth and if there is any damage to your windshields or windows. If you live in a state where it gets foggy often enough to warrant using your fog lights regularly, then yes—you should install them!
What Exactly Is Vehicle Safety Inspection?
It’s not a secret: your state makes you have an auto inspection before it lets you drive its public roads. Some states require an annual or semi-annual safety inspection, while others only require it once your vehicle registration comes up for renewal. Regardless of these differences, all states have a few common requirements that every car must pass in order to be considered roadworthy.
There are several different checks performed during a vehicle safety inspection: an engine check, where technicians make sure that all moving parts operate as they should; a final visual check, to ensure that all lights and reflectors are working correctly; an overall condition check that includes inspecting doors, windows and tie-downs to make sure everything is in working order.
Car lights are imperative for driving safely as they are synonyms of visual interpretation whilst on the road. As such, they too are an important subject of the inspection.
What Is Checked During A Vehicle Safety Inspection?
Depending on the state of reference, on a regular basis, there are vehicle inspections required for all vehicles in the US, as part of each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). During the inspection, the following elements are checked, but not only:
- Body, bumpers, and doors (open and close)
- Exhaust system
- Engine Compartment (leaks, oil level, coolant level, windshield washer fluid level, power steering fluid, windshield washer fluid level, engine compartment belts)
- Hi-beam indicator
- Heater/ Defroster
- Parking brake
- Restraint system
- Service brakes
- Steering components
- Suspension components
- Tires and wheels
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) verification.
What Is An Enhanced Vehicle Inspection?
Although each state may have different requirements, Enhanced Vehicle Inspection is required for titling of rebuilt, flood-damaged, mainly constructed, recovered-theft, collectible, and modified automobiles and involves a detailed visual assessment of your car.
As the title states, the enhanced vehicle safety inspection is a comprehensive and more thorough inspection, where the vehicle’s condition is looked at and inspected each component. All safety equipment must be verified to be in good working order and repairable if necessary. After this inspection is done, you will be provided a report that states what items need to be fixed, repaired, or replaced on your vehicle before it can pass our enhanced vehicle safety inspection.
For example, in the state of Pennsylvania (official regulations), if you have fog lights installed, they are required to work in the case of passenger vehicles. Nonetheless, they aren’t listed as “required” in the inspection manual. A car can pass safety inspection with non-functioning fog lights by removing them and having a valid safety inspection sticker displayed on the windshield.
Fog lights and auxiliary driving lights are not essential illuminations. In other words, a vehicle that has fog lights or auxiliary driving lights fails a safety inspection if one of the lights is damaged or not working when it is brought in for the examination. Moreover, for the car to pass the safety inspection, the owner may decide to remove the auxiliary driving light or fog light assemblies rather than make the necessary repairs.
Similarly, during an Enhanced Vehicle Inspection in the same state, all lighting must adhere to the same standards as the original equipment on the vehicle. This implies that if the vehicle had fog lights installed by the OEM at the time of the enhanced safety inspection, they had to be present and functional.
What type of lights are generally checked during a Safety Vehicle Inspection?
- Headlamps (low and high beam)
- Tail lamps
- Stop lamps
- Directional signals
- Backup lights (1969 and newer)
- License plate lights
- Hazard warning/four-way flasher (1966 and newer)
- Directional signal indicator
Consequently, the mandatory lighting such as your headlights, taillights, danger lights, or brake lights will all be examined during every vehicle safety inspection. The brightness of each of these lights will also be assessed since it must be high enough to allow you to see the road ahead but low enough not to blind other drivers or yourself.
As you can probably tell by now, fog lights were not included in that list since they are deemed auxiliary equipment, along with passing lights and supplemental driving lights.
The Short Story: Do Fog Lights Need To Pass Inspection?
The theoretical answer is: no, you don’t need fog lights to pass inspection as they are not required for vehicle inspection, although they could help you get a better grade.
You might think the answer is yes because you need fog lights for visibility. But a fog light’s purpose is not to show your car is safe to drive or legal for road use. It’s only there in case of emergency—to help you see when visibility is poor, and conditions require additional illumination. And that’s only if it’s an emergency situation where visibility has been reduced by weather conditions or other factors (like smoke from fires).
Does your car have fog lights? If so, you probably use them when driving through dense fog or heavy rain. It’s also possible that you’ve never used them before and aren’t sure what they’re for.
Fog lights, an added lighting device, are mounted low on the front or rear of your car to shine light into areas where visibility is limited by fog or darkness.
They’re helpful in two ways: they allow you to see further ahead than would otherwise be possible, and they alert other drivers of your presence when visibility is low (the red stop lights will do this too).
But Hold Up: It Depends
The vehicle inspection requirements revolving around fog lights may be a topic of discussion, depending on the state you get your inspection and the type of inspection.
Theoretically, yes, auxiliary equipment is not a subject of inspection as you are not required by the law to have them, and, in most cases, they are not included in the DMV’s testing manual.
Some states have more specific requirements for fog lights. For example, in New York, (official regulations) auxiliary driving lights must be approved by the Commissioner of the DMV and can only be white, or amber in color, that are appropriate for the specific kind of auxiliary driving light.
Moreover, they must be fitted correctly so that regular vehicle operation won’t significantly misalign or otherwise impair their aim. If the aim of the auxiliary driving light is noticeably off, a motor vehicle cannot be certified.
However, when you check the NY DMV’s vehicle inspection testing manual (https://dmv.ny.gov/brochure/new-york-state-vehicle-safetyemissions-inspection-program ), fog lights are still not included (like in most states), but they could raise your inspector’s eyebrows who can drop a sticker on your malfunctioning fog lights. The NY Inspection manual clearly states that a vehicle cannot be rejected due to any fog lights, as long as the headlights can be operated independently from such lights (Amended 5/4/05).
In this scenario, in case your car has fog lamps, make sure you check both the state’s laws around fog lights, together with the DMV’s inspection manual for the state in which you want to get your inspection.
That’s where things get fuzzy. As a general rule, your fog lights cannot impair the optimal function of your headlights as one is supplemental and one is required by law. Furthermore, a driver could remove fog lights, and the vehicle would be eligible to pass inspection despite not having working lights. However, if installed, they must operate and be inspected (this is the case in Virginia).
Fog lights, whether they be stock or aftermarket, are not required equipment on your vehicle. As long as they are in good working order, with no visible damage (broken glass or sharp edges), and do not interfere with the proper operation of other lights on your vehicle, they will pass inspection, at least in theory.
In short, fog lights are generally not required for passing a DMV safety vehicle inspection. However, be sure to check with your local DMV since different laws may apply depending on the state. The bottom line is that if you want to ensure your car passes inspection the first time around, it’s better to have working fog lights (in case your vehicle was initially equipped with them).
Don’t sweat it — if you were planning on skipping out on fog lights in favor of something more fun like getting a new sound system installed (and you don’t plan on driving during inclement weather conditions), your car should still pass DMV safety vehicle inspection.
In fact, many states have no laws regarding fog lights. Check with your local DMV for specific requirements before deciding whether or not you should add these to your vehicle. Good luck!