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My partner went to Mavis today for an inspection, despite my fears that they'd try to milk her for a job. Sure enough, they came up with a whole list of things the car needed and vague reasons why the inspection failed. They said vaguely the brakes failed the inspection - they drove the car and the brakes vibrated and "felt horrible" (in fact, they stop the car perfectly well and have great bite), kept going on and on trying to sell a brake job.

Only when she pressed for a code or a specific regulation or test failure or reason they failed the car, did she start to get taken seriously. They failed it because their "visual inspection" observed a seized brake caliper (which they originally said was just sticking). My question is: is this a legitimate/legal reason to fail a car inspection in NY? What I've found online tells me that they are supposed to only fail based on a caliper if the caliper is leaking, which they never said it was.

As an aside, included in the list of work they wanted to do: flush dirty power steering and brake fluids, replace battery (they claimed it was leaking and the mechanic showed what he claimed to be battery acid on his finger), brakes and rotors all around.

UPDATE - I added this to comments as well since I'm not sure which is the best place to put this...

When pressed, they finally cited section 79.21 (a).14:

  1. Visually inspect components of the braking system. Reject if: there is any disconnected, improperly installed, broken, frozen, seized, bypassed, or missing component of the braking system (they highlighted the words "visually inspect" and "seized"). Is it theoretically possible that the caliper is seized in such a way that they could see it isn't resetting to neutral properly from underneath?
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    Take it somewhere else and see what they say. – Solar Mike Jul 19 '18 at 16:19
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    No experience having car inspected in NY. But my guess is that mechanics can fail a car if they don't "think a car is safe", ie it is entirely up to them. You probably won't get them to change their mind by haggling. As Solar Mike suggested, take it somewhere else; preferably to a smaller shop. But before you do, jack the car up and try rotating each of the wheels by hand, just to ensure none of the calipers is actually seized. – Sam Jul 19 '18 at 16:26
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    Definitely take it elsewhere. It's virtually impossible to tell a siezed caliper by a visual inspection. I don't know about NY, but here in the UK brakes are tested on rollers that give a quantified value - so such a failure would be "brake imbalance of 40%" or similar... As @sam says, it's easy to tell for yourself if a brake is siezed... – Nick C Jul 19 '18 at 16:56
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    +1 to the previous comments. No way to tell a caliper is seized visually. Also, I don't believe dirty fluids would cause a failed inspection. Battery corrosion can build up in many cars (you'll sometimes see lots of white powder on top!), usually just because of a loose battery connection. I highly doubt your car battery is leaking, they're built to last, and my guess is if your car is still starting your battery is just fine. – user31670 Jul 19 '18 at 19:46
  • When pressed they finally cited section 79.21 (a).14: 14. Visually inspect components of the braking system. Reject if: there is any disconnected, improperly installed, broken, frozen, seized, bypassed, or missing component of the braking system. They highlighted the words "visually inspect" and "seized." Is it theoretically possible that the caliper is seized in such a way that they could see it isn't resetting to neutral properly from underneath? – emkayultra Jul 22 '18 at 16:16
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There's no way to tell if a caliper is seized by just visually inspecting the caliper. You could infer some things by the way the pads are wearing and how the car stops on the road test.

In NYS, per CR-79 section 79.21 (a), you can fail a car if the brake pads are damaged, under 1/8" or the sensor is hitting. If the rotors are damaged. Any part of the system is leaking, or has visible cracks in hoses. If when braking it is pulling, the pedal fades or the power braking system isn't working. You can also fail for copper tubing or compression fittings.

As to whether it's a valid reason, the way you've put it, the inspector is clearly in the wrong. During the road test they might of noticed abnormal pulling when braking, skipped a few steps and failed for brake equalization. It's hard to say, a copy of the write up would help.

  • When pressed they finally cited section 79.21 (a).14: 14. Visually inspect components of the braking system. Reject if: there is any disconnected, improperly installed, broken, frozen, seized, bypassed, or missing component of the braking system. They highlighted the words "visually inspect" and "seized." Is it theoretically possible that the caliper is seized in such a way that they could see it isn't resetting to neutral properly from underneath? – emkayultra Jul 22 '18 at 16:15
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    @emkayultra visually, no. Any testing for seized components has to be done physically. The caliper and bracket could be a rotted mess, but unless you manually move the piston, pads or guide pins it’s just guessing. I would make them show you exactly how it’s seized or take it somewhere else. It’s not uncommon to see brake components seized and uneven pad wear in NY, but still visual inspection is not enough. – Ben Jul 22 '18 at 16:36

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