The Smog Stop
6414 University Ave, San Diego, Ca 92115
Mon-Sat: 07:00 - 17:00

What Inspections are Required to Register A Salvage Vehicle?

Salvage Vehicle Inspection
Salvage Vehicle Inspection

The Smog Stop wants to inform every motorist in California who needs to register their salvaged automobile on the requirement to obtain your California Registration. Every day we answer hundreds of questions on the inspections that are required to register your salvage vehicle. We will explain in depth on what inspections are required and what the inspectors are looking for when you are trying to clear your salvage title.


List of Inspections To Register A Salvage Car

  1. Smog Check Inspection (You may need a smog check from a Star Certified Smog Station)
  2. Brake and Lamp Inspection
  3. VIN Verification (Only the Department of Motor Vehicles or the California Highway Patrol can perform the VIN Verification for a salvaged or junk vehicle)
  4. CHP Total Loss Inspection or CHP Referral

The Smog Check Inspection

The Smog Check Inspection is the easiest inspection as most of us are familiar with the smog test. This inspection is only required if your salvage meets the following requirements.

  • Your salvage vehicle is more than 6 model years old
  • You have just purchased the salvage vehicle and it is more than 4 model years old
  • Your salvage vehicle is due for the bi-annual smog inspection
  • Your salvage vehicle is from a state other than California and is being registered for the first time in California. (A Non-Resident Vehicle)

Brake and Lamp Inspection

The Brake and Lamp Inspection is required in order to certify that your vehicle is safe to operate on the California Public Roadways.. Obviously, the brake and lamps are integral parts of the vehicle that prevent you from getting in to an accident when operating your motor vehicle. These inspections are actually 2 separate inspections and you can pass one, but not the other. The following items are checked on a brake and lamp inspection:

  • Brakes must meet manufacturer minimum specification
  • All lamps or lights must be mounted properly and be in operating order
  • Vehicle must be able to stop within a certain amount space, depending on the vehicle size and configuraion
  • Emergency brake must be in working order and adjusted properly
  • Headlamps must be adjusted to manufacturer specification

VIN Verification 

The VIN Verification is an inspection that checks for theft, emissions, and United States Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The State of California wants to ensure that all parts used to rebuild the salvage vehicle is sourced from legal means. This inspection all checks for California Emissions Standards as indicated on the under-hood emissions label. Lastly, every vehicle manufactured after 1970 has a United States Motor Vehicle Safety Standards label affixed in the drivers door jam. This label also is used as the secondary VIN of the motor vehicle. The following points highlight what is checked on the Salvage Vehicle VIN Verification.

  • Public VIN is verified against the titling document
  • Secondary VIN is verified against the Public VIN and the Titling Documents
  • The USMVSS label is verified to ensure the vehicle meets Federal Safety Standards
  • The under-hood emissions label is checked to ensure vehicle meets California Emissions Standards or Federal Standards if applicable
  • The Airbag or SRS light is checked to ensure proper operation of the vehicles airbags or supplemental restraint system

CHP Referral or Total Loss Inspection

The California Highway Patrol Referral or Total Loss Inspection is an extra tool the California DMV has at their disposal to ensure all salvage vehicles are being revived in accordance with California Laws and Procedures. This inspection is very similar to the DMV VIN Verification but is much more in depth and a California Highway Patrol Officer performs this inspection. The following points state the reasons your vehicle can be selected for a California Highway Patrol Inspection.

  • Drivers door changed or missing United Stated Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Label
  • Airbags are inoperative or missing
  • Public VIN is not legible, mutilated, or damaged
  • Random selection by the California DMV to ensure compliance standards are being met