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(For Fenders see number 11 below)

540 CMR 4.04                                        Link to PDF Version

4.04 Procedures for Inspection of Non-Commercial Motor Vehicles (continued)

(5) Muffler and Exhaust System. Accelerate motor to test for prevention of unnecessary noise and emission of any unreasonable amount of smoke. The exhaust system, exhaust manifold(s), exhaust pipe(s), muffler(s), and tailpipe(s), if designed to be so equipped, shall be tight and free of leaks. System components shall be securely fastened with fasteners in place and undamaged. All motor vehicle exhaust systems shall discharge the exhaust beyond operator, passenger, and/or trunk compartment. Unnecessary noise is herein defined as any noise which is louder than that emitted by the vehicle when equipped with the original manufacturer's equipment. A gas or diesel vehicle will be rejected if, at normal operating temperature, at any constant speed over 15 MPH, (approximately 1,000 to 1,200 RPM's) visible black or blue exhaust emissions are evident.

(6) Steering and Suspension.

(a) Check for free steering by turning the steering wheel through a full right and left turn. Reject a vehicle if binding or interference occurs during the procedure. With the front wheels in the straight ahead position (and the engine running on vehicles equipped with power steering) measure lash or lost movement at the steering wheel rim.

(b) Lash or lost movement on passenger cars and station wagons, as measured at the steering wheel rim, should not exceed two inches if the vehicle is equipped with manual steering. Lash or lost movement on antique motor vehicles will be measured by steering wheel diameter in accordance with the following schedule:

Steering Wheel Diameter

Lash (shall not exceed)




2 1/4"


2 1/2"


2 3/4"

Antique Motor Vehicles

Over 1/8 turn

(c) The front end (both sides) of all vehicles will be raised by jacking or hoisting and visually examined. Vehicles equipped with ball joints will be raised and checked in accordance with the applicable instructions and specifications periodically provided by the Registrar.

(d) Reject a vehicle with excessive wear or play in any part of the steering mechanism or of the vehicle that would affect proper steering.

(e) Reject a vehicle with broken, bent or missing shock absorbers orsuspension springs.

(7) Horn. Sound horn to test for adequate signal. The horn must be securely fastened to the vehicle.

(8) Glazing and Windshield Wiper(s).

(a) Windshield Critical Viewing Area is the area covered by the sweep of the wiper(s) exclusive of the outer two inches within the perimeter of the wiper(s) sweep, provided by the vehicle manufacturer.

(b) Windshields having any of the following defects will be rejected:

1. Any broken glass with sharp or jagged edges inside or outside.

2. Any stone bruise, star break, or bulls eye, damage in excess of one inch in diameter within the critical viewing area or larger than two inches outside the critical viewing area, or multiple such damage.

3. Single line cracks which extend more than three inches into the critical viewing area.

4. Multiple cracks, having one or more which extends into the critical viewing area.

5. Wiper scrape(s) in excess of 1/4 inch wide within the critical viewing area.

6. Clouding extending more than three inches within the perimeter of the exposed glass.

7. No poster, sticker decal or any other item shall be attached to the windshield in such a manner so as to obstruct the vision of the operator.

8. Any tinting or reflective material applied by brush, spray, or adhesive which is below the uppermost six inches of the windshield or which may encroach upon the drivers direct forward viewing area. (All such tinting provided by the original manufacturer in compliance with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards is acceptable.)

(c) Rear Windows. Rear windows must allow an unobstructed view to the rear, unless the vehicle is equipped with two outside rear view mirrors.

(d) Windshield Wiper(s). Test for proper operation. If the vehicle was equipped with two wipers, as furnished by the manufacturer, both must be maintained in good working order. Wiper blades must properly contact the windshield and, be of the same length as those furnished as original equipment. The rubber elements shall be free from damage or tears.

(e) Windshield Cleaner. If the vehicle was equipped with windshield cleaner equipment as furnished by the manufacturer, units must be maintained in good working order.

(f) Window Tinting. Aftermarket tinting or alterations that do not change the transparency beyond that of the standards set forth in 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 571.205 is acceptable on windows immediately adjacent to the operator and front passenger seat and the windows immediately to the rear of the operator and front passenger seat. The rear window may also be so tinted provided the vehicle is equipped with two outside rear view mirrors. The windshield may only be tinted down to the AS-1 line usually located in the uppermost six inches of the windshield. 540 CMR 4.04(8)(f) shall not apply to the following:

1. All window tinting as provided by the original manufacturer that is in compliance with applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

2. Authorized vehicles used to transport K-9 teams.

3. Vehicles registered out of state.

4. Vehicles for which a medical exemption has been issued by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

5. All windows to the rear of the operator's seat on vehicles used for public livery, except taxicabs.

(9) Lighting Devices.

(a) Tail Lights. Every motor vehicle, except a two wheeled motorcycle, an antique motor car, and a farm tractor, shall be equipped with two red lights (tail lamps) mounted one at each side of the rear of the vehicle so as to show two red lights from behind and equipped with two stop lights (stop lamps) mounted and displayed in a like manner. A single lamp may combine both of the above functions. Every motor vehicle shall be equipped with a white light so arranged as to illuminate the rear number plate so that it is plainly visible at 60 feet.

(b) Directional. Front and rear directional signals will be operable on every vehicle originally equipped with such signals. Every motor vehicle registered in the Commonwealth, which was manufactured for the model year 1967 and for subsequent model years, shall be equipped with a device to permit the front and rear directional signals to flash simultaneously.

(c) Headlamps. Headlamp aim shall be checked in accordance with the specifications as most recently provided by the Registrar.

(d) Lighting Devices and Reflectors. All lighting devices and reflectors required by applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or part 393. of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for all commercial motor vehicles when the particular vehicle was originally manufactured and such devices required by Massachusetts General Law or Rules and Regulations applicable to the particular vehicle inspected shall be securely attached to the vehicle and capable of performing their design functions. Lenses must be intact, clean, unobstructed, and free from cracks.

(10)  Tires.

(a) A certificate of rejection shall be issued to any vehicle submitted for inspection with a tire mounted which exhibits any of the following conditions:

1. Febric break or cut in excess of one inch; bump or knot evidencing deterioration of the tire structure; or any ply or cord structure visible.

2. For tires without tread wear indicators: Measurement taken with tread depth gauge reveals that 2/32 inch or less of tread depth is present in any re-cut, regrooved, sized or original tread groove.

3. For tires with tread depth indicators: Tire is worn so that any tread wear indicator contacts the road.

4. Studded tires between May 1 and November 1 unless approved by the Registrar.

5. Restricted markings indicating usage limited to any condition other than permanent highway use.

6. Radial ply tire(s) on the same axle with non radial tire(s); Radial tire(s) on the front axle with non-radial tire(s) on the rear axle (Exception: Vehicles equipped with dual rear wheels may have radial and non radial tires on any axle provided they are not intermixed on the same axle).

(b) Wheels, Wheel Bolts, Nuts or Lugs. A certificate of rejection shall be issued to any vehicle submitted for inspection which exhibits any of the following conditions:

1. Any part of any mounted wheel is bent, cracked, rewelded, damaged or has elongated bolt holes which may affect safe operation of the vehicle.

2. wheel bolts, nuts, studs or lugs are loose, missing, damaged or are not compatible for use with wheel design.

(11) Bumpers, Fenders, External Sheet Metal and Fuel Tank. A Certificate of Rejection shall be issued if any of the following conditions are evident:

(a) Bumpers. Broken or bent bumpers, fenders, exterior sheet metal or moldings, having sharp edges or abnormal protrusions extending beyond normal vehicle extremities so as to constitute a danger to pedestrians and other motor vehicle traffic. If bumper face plates are removed, bumper brackets must also be removed. The vehicle hood, door(s), luggage compartment lid, and battery or engine compartment doors or lids, if so equipped, must be capable of being firmly latched.

(b) Fenders. Front and rear fenders must be in place on all vehicles manufactured after model year 1949 if such vehicles were designed and manufactured to be operated with front and rear fenders. Every passenger motor vehicle which is equipped with tires which extend beyond the fenders or body of such vehicle shall be equipped with flaps or suitable guards to reduce such spray or splash to the rear and side.

(c) Floor Pans. Holes or cracks, due to rust or otherwise, in the floor pans or other body panels which would permit the passage of exhaust gases into the passenger or trunk compartments.

(d) Fuel Tanks. Fuel tanks which are not securely attached to the vehicles body or chassis, or that are leaking.

(12) Altered Vehicle Heights. The original manufacturers specified height of motor vehicles with an original manufacturers gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less shall not be altered by elevating or lowering the chassis or body by more than two inches, except that fourwheel drive motor vehicles with a original manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less may be altered in accordance with the provisions of 540 CMR 6.00. The Registrar may periodically provide approved altered vehicle height specifications for said fourwheel drive vehicles. Any motor vehicle altered, modified, or changed beyond the aforementioned two inches, or the Registrar's approved altered height specifications, shall be rejected.

(13) Safety Belts, Lap Belts and Shoulder Restraints. originally installed in motor vehicles manufactured after July 1, 1966 shall be inspected to assure that all are maintained in good order. It shall be the responsibility of the motorist that the safety belts are readily accessible for inspection.

(14) Air Bags. Vehicles so equipped must comply with 49 Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 571 through 595.

(15) Fuel Tank Cap Visual Check. The vehicle shall fail the gas cap visual check if the cap is missing, defective, or does not properly fit the vehicle.

540 CMR 4.00: M.G.L. c. 90 7A, 7V (a), (b) and (c),7W and 31

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