Car windshields are integral aspects of vehicle safety and comfort. Yet, not all windshields are legally permitted. If a windshield does not meet the standards of a state-mandated car inspection, then the owner will need to either replace the windshield with a legal one, fix whatever problem violates state law, or fail the vehicle inspection altogether. Here are the basics of car safety inspections and the most common reasons why windshields violate these inspections and warrant windshield replacement.

What is a State Car Inspection?

Most, but not all, states have mandatory annual car inspection requirements. The inspection requirements differ by state and are determined by each state's motor vehicle agency. Some states require emissions inspections, some states have safety inspections, some states require both inspections, and some do not have any inspection requirements at all.

In states that have mandatory safety inspection requirements, cars must meet minimal standards for things like working lights, working seat belts, tire tread, and functioning brakes. Most of these state safety inspection requirements also have standards set forth for windshield maintenance. 

When Does a Windshield Prevent a Car From Passing Inspection?

State inspection laws differ on how they treat windshields. The two most commonly addressed windshield issues are cracks and tinting.

Cracked or Damaged Windshields

In states that have safety inspection requirements, a cracked windshield can cause the car to fail the inspection. Often, the position and size of the crack are contributing factors for whether or not the windshield will prevent a car from passing inspection. For example, the Texas safety inspection process does not directly prohibit cracked windshields, but if a car's cracked windshield interferes with the wipers or disrupts the inspection or registration stickers, then the vehicle will not pass. In Virginia, on the other hand, car inspections address windshield glass for cracks or scratches, and verify that the glass used is of an approved safety standard. 

Windshield Tint

Some states also have inspection requirements prohibiting intense degrees of windshield tint. Car owners install tinted windows for a variety of reasons, like keeping the vehicle's internal temperature cooler, or to enhance the car's aesthetics, or for increased privacy. Yet, state motor vehicle departments do not uniformly approve of this windshield alteration.

For example, in Massachusetts, cars can have window tint that is non-reflective provided that the tint does not extend beyond the top six inches of the windshield. In California, the limit is the top four inches.

Some states make exceptions for windows tinted for medical purposes. Georgia is one example; with the right documentation, a person can tint the vehicle's windshield if suffering from a medical diagnosis, like lupus or melanoma, which makes excessive sun exposure a health hazard.