Online malaise also affecting car owners

Some people who went to get their cars inspected today report they couldn't because of problems with a new state inspection system.

MassDOT says it's no biggie, that there were only scattered problems due to the service stations' lack of training, but one increasingly frustrated motorist begs to differ.

Hope Haff reports:

I was unable to renew my overdue vehicle inspection sticker today in either Boston or Brookline. An inspection station employee explained that yet another new system was put in place, and it is malfunctioning.

The Fat White Guy adds:

Three dif locations unable to perform inspections, told new systems can't connect.

MassDOT replies/a>:

[RMV] reports new system working, stations trained. A few needed help with new computer system printing stickers. Assisted.

To which Haff replies:

I visited Shimon's Service Station, Harvard Ave., Brookline, and the gas station next to the Connolly library, both today before 10:30 am. Both reported that "the system closed us out" and that the troubleshooting number had a busy signal for over 2 hours.

Haff updates:

At 12:45 pm I tried to get my inspection sticker through Arborway Auto Service, 204 South Street. They tried. No luck. They believe that the system is malfunctioning statewide. It is really irresponsible of the DMV not to announce the malfuntion , so that people don't take off work and fruitlessly visit inspection stations.

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Comments

Who said owning a car was fun?

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Owning a car is a responsibility. Owning and driving a car causes problems that you need to pay for.

People who actually like cars

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People who actually like cars think they're fun. And we do pay for the priveledge to own and operate said vehicles.

Mine are fun. I like my cars.

Just sayin'...

"Owning and driving a car causes problems that you need to pay for."

So, I've had no problems with stickers in the past, the state comes along and screws it up royally, and I bet you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

So why the hell should I pay for someone else's screw-up?

I said it’s fun, regardless

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I said it’s fun, regardless of the problems. I own a car purely for fun. You’re welcome.

The company single-sourcing

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The company single-sourcing the new mandatory inspection equipment is the same one that had the contract for the dynamometer fiasco 15-ish years ago. What an amazing coincidence. I know I'm shocked.

I guess there aren't enough toll collector and clam inspector jobs to hand out any more.

There are no new car

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There are no new car equipment regulations. It's just a new camera system, to make sure inspection stations stop letting people get away with illegal modifications.

Right...

"There are no new car equipment regulations. It's just a new camera system, to make sure inspection stations stop letting people get away with illegal modifications."

Like 'no visible rust'.

The folks that drive 'marginal' cars are going to take it in the neck on this one.

Sorry anon, you're just shilling for the RMV now.

I wonder

Will they start enforcing the "no dangerous window tint" at inspection? Seems like the super blackout tint that keeps drivers from driving properly is proliferating of late.

Basically from what I'm hearing...

...it seems that it's come around full circle. It used to be all about the smog pumps being disconnected and stuff like that, but the newer cars run so clean and have such good computer controlled ignition and fuel that it's not easy or really practical to mod. You can, it'll still pass, if done right. There are cars that do Epping on the weekend that are daily drivers.

The ones I feel bad for are the 'marginal' cars, with a wink and a nod they're OK, they just go back and forth to work. You'll see a lot of those drop by the wayside.

No...

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You should have inspected your car before the end of September. If you waited until today YOU are driving it illegally.

Spare your indignation. The

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Spare your indignation. The first couple of days of the month are busy for inspection stations. Doing a system migration on the 1st is of course to adversely affect constituents. Better to schedule it around the 7th of the month when it will cause the least distress.

Exactly - I don't have a ton

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Exactly - I don't have a ton of sympathy for people who waited until the last possible minute to get their car inspected, and then complain that something isn't working. If you, say, got it inspected on the first of the month, and yours wasn't up until the end of that month, and were told "hey this new system isn't working, sorry about that", you'd have a full 30 other days to give it another try without having to worry about your car being driven illegally until they can work the problems out. Maybe the 1st day of the month isn't the best time to roll out a new system, but it probably makes the most sense rather than changing a monthly renewal system out halfway through or something. So give the state a little credit here, it isn't their fault that you are in an emergent situation because you waited until your inspection lapsed to get a new one - there were probably some mistakes in the roll out and it seems like it needed a little extra testing, but by waiting until now, you also made a mistake, so have a little grace.

Meh, the hole system is a

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Meh, the hole system is a sham.

Stickers should be every 2 years, first inspection in 4 years after new car is purchased. It is not 1980 anymore where engines need a rebuild in 100k miles. Increase to 1 year intervals as they age.

Inspections

The stickers are about making sure the car is safe to drive, such as working lights and brakes. It's not just emissions.

Sure, but there is no

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Sure, but there is no rational reason in modern automobiles an annual check is necessary. Bulbs hardly fail anymore.

Additionally violations can be ticketed by the police.

Bulbs hardly fail anymore?

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Either you hardly drive at night, or you aren't paying attention to other cars on the road. I see late model cars with blown headlights, tail lights, and even blown brake lights all the time.

The nice thing about bulbs

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The nice thing about bulbs failing is that it is readily apparent to the police who are more than capable of enforcing the law.

I had a LED connector get

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I had a LED connector get unplugged, was going to cry when I saw the new assembly was 100 bucks. Found it got unplugged and all was well.

Um, MOST newer cars still DON'T have LED

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arrays for tail lights yet. And it's pretty easy to tell a bulb enclosure from an LED array - especially when one side is illuminated and the other side isn't.

But I'm sure you'll now tell us all about your distant cousin that shares some obscure patent for use of LEDs as brake lights in cars or your half brother who's an assembly line worker for GM.

I find it difficult to give the state ANY credit.

The company they chose has a track record, as has been stated here.
The roll-out hasn't even begun and it's already a cluster. Of course the RMV will blame the stations, but that's total BS because these guys work with computers all day long. Newer cars are all computers now.

Oh and my statement about the roll-out? The cameras are not in service yet. Here's the January first scenario: Five cameras, four mounted and one hand held. Enough bandwidth speed to send them to the RMV in real time. No visible rust. Right, no visible rust. That's not overkill, eh?

I feel bad for the 'struggling to survive' working poor that will have their car shot out from under them. 'Oh, just lease one if you can't afford to buy one.'

It's almost as if it's a government scheme to get marginal yet totally serviceable cars off the road.

Oh, and as far as inspections? They scrape off the old one. You get a pass, fail/safety or fail/emissions.
Fail safety is a problem, means the car is unsafe.
Fail emissions gives you the right to drive the car and get it fixed within sixty days. It's usually a specific fix, the OBD tosses a code that defines the parameter that's not within spec, like the upstream/downstream sensors in the cat system.

Emissions failure

If your car is less than ten years old, that is typically covered under the warranty.

Unless you stripped out a bunch of componentry in a misguided attempt to increase performance or mileage.

Nope

"The Performance Warranty covers repairs which are required during the first 2 years or 24,000 miles of vehicle use (whichever first occurs) because the vehicle failed an emission test. Specified major emission control components are covered for the first 8 years or 80,000 miles (whichever first occurs). The specified major emission control components only include the catalytic converters, the electronic emissions control unit or computer (ECU), and the onboard emissions diagnostic (OBD) device or computer. "

---EPA rules.

"Unless you stripped out a bunch of componentry in a misguided attempt to increase performance or mileage."

Not how it's done. Usually it's reprogramming the engine module (ECM, which if it's street, will keep in specs).
OTOH, I can walk into a Ford dealership and buy a Mustang V6 that puts out 300 hp. Chrysler? Don't ask. There are Hellcats out there that got totaled with 90 miles on them...

We live in a golden age of horsepower. It is good to be alive.

VW on the other hand, as you know, had the 'Pissless Wonders', the only diesel powered car out there that could pass the emissions tests without an (expensive) urea injection system. Magical...basically, it was VW doing the programming equivalent of "[stripping] out a bunch of componentry in a misguided attempt to increase performance or mileage".

Cranky pants

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Where did you see people complaining?
I'm generally grateful to be warned of major inconveniences, like a complete breakdown of the car inspection system.

"It is really irresponsible of the DMV not to announce the malfuntion , so that people don't take off work and fruitlessly visit inspection stations."

I think what Hope is trying to do, is to save all the rest of us from the hassle she experienced.
Thanks for doing the RMV's job, Hope!

The inspection system is

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The inspection system is supposed to work every day. It doesn't matter if you think people whose stickers are recently expired don't matter.

What about people with October stickers who tried to renew them today? Do they deserve to waste their time driving to stations with broken inspection computers?

They do.

I've seen them do it. The City must get a cut of the ticket revenue.

Cherchez la dineros.

City meter maids can write

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City meter maids can write parking tickets (as opposed to moving violations) for expired inspection and registration stickers. The city gets 100% of the revenue from parking tickets.

Is that true for all cities and towns, or just Boston?

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Because I routinely see cars at commuter rail parking lots in Melrose (which are owned by the City and enforced by the Melrose Police) that have stickers that expired between two and six months ago. Yet, as long as they pay the $3.00 per day parking fee, they are apparently OK.

There's also the guy on my street in Wakefield whose pickup truck has been parked in a location that's Town owned (adjacent to a drainage ditch) for almost two years - grass and weeds are beginning to overtake the bed of the truck and the engine compartment - with a 2013 inspection sticker.

They’ve been doing it in

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They’ve been doing it in Boston for years. Thankfully, Cambridge meter maids don’t seem to care about the status of the sticker.

Boston parking always checks,

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Boston parking always checks, and they'll ticket once/day for expired inspection.

If you're parked since yesterday, you'd have two tickets by now.

Since a long long time ago

I got a ticket in the mid-1990s while parked on the street.

Can't say that we didn't deserve it, but it was a surprise at the time.

Its laughable

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To the point where its sad. The state or federal government rolling something new out that would actually work.

You ain't seen nuthin' yet

I personally know one guy that just gave up on stickers, he makes about $10 on an inspection. There's $7-8000 worth of new equipment, five cameras (four mounted and one hand-held to scan the dash and stuff), high speed internet and you got about 30-45 minutes per car that you're paying a mechanic to do.
The cameras come in January. They were supposed to be here now, but... So, if you have a rusty scratch on your car, get a sticker this year. Unless, of course it becomes such an Obamacar-type rollout they simply call it off.
Woh...I meant to type 'Obamacare', but it came out 'Obamacar'. So, you heard it here first.

you got about 30-45 minutes

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you got about 30-45 minutes per car that you're paying a mechanic to do.

What world do you live in? I'm in and out with my inspection in less than 15 minutes.

Me?

I live in the world of next January. I've been told by several people in the trade that it's a half hour or more per car.

30 to 45 minutes per car

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Not a very good mechanic then. The most time I've ever waited for an inspection was 25 minutes, which was when I first got my 1988 Prelude. To save the $50 extortion documentation fee, I did all the RMV stuff myself. Once I had my new registration, I decided to go to a local station rather than drive 40 minutes back to the dealer.

I realized I had probably made a mistake when I pulled into the bay (you could still do that in 1993) and the first thing the mechanic did was very slowly check each letter and number on the registration against the VIN number at the bottom of the windshield. He then had me apply the brakes and almost flunked me because the high level brake light on the aftermarket luggage rack the previous owner installed illuminated, but the original one in the rear window didn't. Fortunately, another mechanic convinced him that cars only need three brake lights, and not four, to be legal.

Since that time, my average time waiting for an inspection has been between 15 and 20 minutes. On those occasions where I've had to wait in line, the average for customers ahead of me has been similar.

And exactly what was wrong with the old

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inspection system? Nothing at all.

But I guess it would be too much to allow MassDOT to spend excess RMV revenues on new signals for the Red Line.

There were allegations of

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There were allegations of rampant fraud under the old system. Whether they're founded in reality or not, who knows. But the point of the new system is to provide some accountability, by recording each inspection.

And people ask me why I wear a clown outfit?????

I went to inspect my new car today (after waiting at the registry last week for 3.5 hours to get my registration) at the service station on Tremont and Massachusetts to get my inspection sticker. The gentleman there that I've known for years said they haven't been able to get through on the phone to the State all morning and that the computer system is down.

What a bureaucratic waste of time and money all around.

WHO ARE THE CLOWNS ????

Quienes son los payasos????

Absolutely.

"What a bureaucratic waste of time and money all around."

The old system worked and was reasonable. This will be a disaster...hey, call your rep and give him or her an earful.

"Allegations of fraud" is one of the standard excuses

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the RMV has used every time they've made these WASTEFUL changes to the inspection system.

And there's something truly wrong with our government when driving with an expired inspection sticker gets you an insurance surcharge, but texting while driving doesn't.

Right. I'm calling BS on that one, too.

"There were allegations of rampant fraud under the old system. "

Well, by whom? Here's how it works...the OBD has a port under the driver's side dash. You can plug into it and read any diagnostic code that the computer generates. You can also read the VIN and the mileage both stored in the OBD. You can also reset the 'check engine' light. Mileage might be also (or instead of) stored on the airbag computer (SRS) along with crash data.

So, what's the way to commit fraud...simply plug it into a different car? Won't work if that car already has a sticker. The VIN is also printed on the sticker.

'Stickers on shitboxes'? Nope. Not worth compromising the sticker revenue, plus there's a lot of assumed liability if you do that.

The system didn't need changing.

I smell a rat.

There was basically no

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There was basically no oversight for stations that let things slide.

Just Say No

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Stations lose money with each inspection, its beyond me why they even continue to purchase new equipment. There not required to do the inspections... why do them?

Gets you in the station

I have no idea whether it is true that stations lost money on inspections, but one possible answer to your question:

A car inspection gets you in the station. When you come in for an inspection and have a parking light out, they get to charge you $20 for a 5w bulb that cost them next to nothing. Up the dollar value for any other problem your car might have following an inspection. Either that, or they offer to replace the bulb for free and they have a new customer for life.

Plus, I'm sure there hasn't been any research on this, but I'd be interested to know whether being an "inspection station" improves the perception of the shop in the mind of the consumer. I bet the answer is yes.

Money depends.

A small station, it is profitable, barely, maybe $10 profit I was told recently. New system, the prices stay the same. So, that's the numbers...$8k for the cameras and setup, 30-45 mins per car, you tell me what will happen.
I've heard of dealers that considered giving them up. They won't of course...

"A car inspection gets you in the station. When you come in for an inspection and have a parking light out, they get to charge you $20 for a 5w bulb that cost them next to nothing. Up the dollar value for any other problem your car might have following an inspection. Either that, or they offer to replace the bulb for free and they have a new customer for life."

Under Mass law, you can get it fixed anywhere and bring it back for a re-inspection, at no further cost to the customer.

Under Mass law, you can get

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Under Mass law, you can get it fixed anywhere and bring it back for a re-inspection, at no further cost to the customer.

Doesn't change the fact that for convenience, many people will just get it fixed at that shop...

Under Mass law, you can get

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Under Mass law, you can get it fixed anywhere and bring it back for a re-inspection, at no further cost to the customer.

Yes, that is what the law says.

But in the meanwhile, you have to drive around with the dreaded "R" sticker on your car. If it's for emissions, the car is still considered road legal for sixty days from the date of the rejection. If it's for safety, the car is illegal to drive.

And while I've never experienced this personally in the 30+ years I've owned cars, the rejection sticker does indicate the reason for the failure (safety vs emissions). Further, operating a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker is not only a moving violation (with the related insurance surcharges), but the officer who pulls you over has the right to have the vehicle towed. IMO, never worth the risk - especially at the end of the month (think the Q word).

Here's an example from me.

I bought a vehicle a while back (this year). It was a MA dealer, but he had no sticker bay. I took it to someone I know, he passed it, but failed the emissions. One of the cat sensors was out of whack.
Since the dealer has to guarantee it's inspectable, there was no problem. I called him, got it over there, he stuck another cat on, easy-peasy. I had plenty of time because of the sixty day rule, we did it at our convenience. He knew it was the cat because he reset the CE and it came back on later. I wasn't panicked, I have my own computer.
Back in the day, rejection stickers were white and round with a red stripe. To this day, old timers occasionally call a rejection a 'baseball'.

With the extremely rare exception where a light bulb fails

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between your house and the inspection station, I have no sympathy for anyone who allows their vehicle to fail the safety inspection (or pays a gas station $20 so the vehicle can pass) because of a burned out bulb.

The requirements for the safety inspection are pretty simple:

Visual overview of your registration certificate, vehicle identification number (VIN), and license plate stickers.
Steering and suspension.
All rearview mirrors.
Brake test (both parking and service brake).
Exhaust system (muffler and smoke check).
Glass, glazing, and windshield wipers.
Vehicle lighting (e.g. headlights, turn signals, brake lights, etc.)
Tires and wheels.
Fuel tank, fenders, and bumper.
Gas cap.
Vehicle height (if altered).
Airbags.
Seat belts.
Horn.

With the exception of the airbags - which is simply an OBD check to verify they haven't been disconnected - these are things the average person can easily and quickly check BEFORE they go to get the inspection.

As for emissions, that's obviously not practical for someone to check beforehand - with one exception. If your Check Engine Light is on ^^, don't even bother trying to get an inspection sticker, because in Massachusetts that's an automatic fail.

Lastly, I'll share one additional tip that my father taught me at the age of thirteen when I became responsible for "pre-flighting" my parent's cars before they went in for inspection. Wash your car before you go to get the sticker. As the saying goes, first impressions go a long way.

^^ see obligatory post below

why do them?

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why do them?

Because they can usually make money off of doing the repairs necessary to make crappier cars pass. I'm betting most shops that do inspections make enough money off of cars that fail to make it worth their while.

It's also a classic loss leader. You offer a service that you take a loss on to get people into your shop, in the hopes that you can sell them more (e.g. getting an oil change and tire rotation at the same time).

Not just repairs

I dropped mine at the local place to get the sticker, get the oil changed, get a bushing replaced, and other maintenance things squared away all in one go.

I know I'm not the only one who bundles it like that.

Every time the RMV has revised their inspection rules

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and required station owners to buy new equipment, there have been a number of stations that decide the cost of getting the equipment isn't worth the additional ancillary sales in gas or repairs. I suspect we'll see the same thing happen with this change.

And of course, fewer inspection stations means more inconvenience for people, and longer lines at the end of the month at those stations that continue to do inspections. But the RMV insists there's rampant fraud in the current system, even though I have yet to see any actual evidence of that fraud. Now where have we heard that one before? Oh right, the MBTA's "Fare is Fair" charade, where a system that claims they need to cut back on staffing can somehow "justify" having between 20 and 30 employees standing around doing nothing most of the time because somebody has decided that commuter rail riders are inherently cheaters.

Nailed it

"But the RMV insists there's rampant fraud in the current system, even though I have yet to see any actual evidence of that fraud."

Ya. I've been a bit of a gearhead since I was about nine. I've seen a lot of 'cute' stunts pulled, but as far as anything fraudulent, well, the system is pretty good now. How can you fake an OBD plug in? You've got the VIN right on the chip.

Obligatory reference

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As we're discussing state inspections.

">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPpJcnEoijU[/youtube]