Some states inspect their residents cars; New Jersey is one, California
is not. The headlights' aim, toe-in, exhaust system and brakes are
checked and either pass or fail. Any failure needs to be corrected and
the car reinspected. The inspection must be passed to register the car
for the next year.
I lived and drove cars in New Jersey and now in California. IMHO, such
inspections are a waste of time; very few wrecks occur because a car's
mechanical parts fail. These inspections stem from the time when cars
were not reliable, had mechanical brakes, dim headlights and their
mufflers rusted away in three years time. Today, cars are much safer and
are better maintained by a more affluent driving public.
Terrible waste of time, not so much the 5 minute inspection, but the
hour of waiting in long lines that I recall.