Table of Contents

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Required Vehicle Equipment

Every vehicle driven in Nevada is required by law to have certain equipment. Following is a partial list of the equipment your vehicle should have, as discussed in the Nevada Revised Statutes:

  • Lighting equipment (headlights, brake lights, taillights, etc.)
  • Brakes
  • Horns and other warning devices
  • Windows (made of safety glass)
  • Windshield
  • Mirrors
  • Exhaust system (including mufflers and tailpipes)
  • Energy absorption system (bumpers and fenders)
  • Tires
  • and more!

Although vehicles that are sold by dealers must have all the required vehicle equipment, it is still your duty to have your vehicle inspected and maintained on a regular basis so that it is safe and functioning properly. It is illegal to drive when your vehicle is in such an unsafe condition that it endangers any person. A police officer may stop you and conduct an inspection when he or she has reason to believe that your vehicle is not safe or does not have the required equipment. If there are problems, you may be ordered to have it fixed within a reasonable timeframe. This chapter discusses the required equipment and why they are important.


An image of a jeep

Bumpers are designed to prevent or reduce damage in low-speed crashes.

All passenger vehicles are required to have front and rear bumpers. They are designed to prevent or reduce damage to the body of vehicles in low-speed crashes. This is important because when bumpers absorb the energy from the crash, they also protect the vehicle's safety equipment, which in turn protects you. Unfortunately, the bumpers in most modern vehicles are expensive to fix. In the picture of the Jeep, the bumper, along with the fender, is dark gray.


Most passenger vehicles have fenders on the sides over each tire. They help some vehicles look classy, even sexy, by giving them extra curves. Fenders also provide some protection. First, they provide openings for the tires. Second, they catch and redirect road spray thrown up by the tires. Fenders also help protect the wheel area against rust and accumulated road debris such as mud. Since they are attached to the bumpers, they can get damaged in front and rear-end crashes. This gave way to the term "fender bender," which refers to minor collisions where the fender would bend out of shape.

Exhaust System

An image of a car's exhaust pipe

The vehicle's exhaust system reduces noise and prevents fumes from entering the passenger compartment.

The exhaust system of a vehicle, which includes the muffler, reduces noise and prevents fumes produced by the engine from entering the passenger compartment and routes them to the back of the car. Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas produced by your vehicle. What makes this gas so deadly is that it is virtually impossible to detect. Before you know it, this gas will shut off oxygen to your brain and suffocate you. If there are any holes in the exhaust system, there is a danger that this and other gases will leak into the vehicle. Usually the holes just result in noise that can prove distracting. If the exhaust system has a problem, be sure to have it fixed right away. A faulty exhaust system pollutes the air, lowers gas mileage, reduces the efficiency of your vehicle, and increases maintenance costs.

Mirrors, Windows, and Windshields


An image of a car's driver side mirror

Mirrors help you monitor the space around your vehicle.

Your mirrors are tools to help alert you to vehicles approaching from behind as well as for backing up. All vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1970 must be equipped with a mirror that reflects a view of the road to the rear for a distance of at least 200 feet. Most vehicles now have at least two mirrors: the rearview mirror and a side mirror affixed to the left-hand side. Many also have a third mirror mounted on the right-hand side. Be sure to adjust them properly to give you the maximum possible view of the rear.


Vehicles are manufactured with windows that are made of safety glass. Unlike normal glass, the glass used for side and rear windows does not break into sharp, often jagged pieces when struck. Instead, it breaks into small pieces that lack sharp edges. This feature helps to reduce the potential for injuries in a crash or when a window breaks.


An image of a car's windshield wiper

The windshield protects you and your passengers from the environment.

Windshields are made of strong glass. Fibers and plastic are often laminated within the glass to keep the windshield from shattering completely in a crash. All vehicles made after July 1, 1970 have been required to have windshields. Why are they so important? The windshield helps you see ahead and protects you and your passengers from the environment. Always make sure you keep it clean. Have you noticed how easily windshields get dirty? If you look at the front of your car below the windshield, you may see bugs splattered against the body of your car. Other objects also go right by. Some people may not mind getting bugs in their teeth, but when you go 60 mph you don't have time to dodge. At high speeds, the impact of bugs flying into you can even sting. The windshield stops the wind from flowing into your face and eyes and also protects you from rain, snow, hail and flying objects such as bugs.

An image of a car's windshield wiper

Windshield wipers help keep your windshield clear in fog, snow and rain.

All motor vehicles with a windshield, excluding motorcycles, must have properly working windshield wipers. Vehicles may be equipped with either two wipers, one to clear the right side of the windshield and one to clear the left side, or a single wiper that is capable of clearing both sides. Under ordinary weather conditions, wipers should be able to clear fog, snow, or rain.

Safety Tips for Windows

Always make sure your windshield is clear before you drive. You need good visibility to drive safely. It is illegal to drive a vehicle on the roads if your vision is impaired to the front or rear by a poorly maintained or defective windshield or rear window. Windshield obstructions such as stickers or objects hanging from the rear-view mirror are also dangerous because they may block your view of other cars or pedestrians in your path. You may also be cited if your view through your windshield or rear window is obstructed.

You may display stickers, signs or other similar materials in a five-inch square on the driver's side, or a seven-inch square on the passenger's side. On the rear window, you may place an object only in a seven-inch square on a corner furthest from the driver's seat. Don't use sun screening devices on the front side windows unless you have a letter from a physician, surgeon, or optometrist. Sun screening devices used on the rear window may not have a reflective quality exceeding 35% on either the inside or the outside. Tinted safety glass is only allowed if it conforms to U.S. Department of Transportation standards and does not affect your ability to safely operate your vehicle.

Vehicle Lighting

Lights are a required safety feature on all cars. Their purpose is to increase your visibility, help you see when you drive, and to increase your car's visibility to others. Your car should be equipped with headlights (high beams and low beams), taillights, turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, and emergency hazard lights. Always keep these lights clean and in good working condition.

An image of a car's headlights

Headlights increase visibility so you can see the road ahead when driving in darkness or adverse weather conditions.

Headlights are the most important of all the lights in your vehicle because you need them when driving in darkness or adverse weather conditions. They increase visibility so you can see other vehicles and objects while also helping other drivers see you. You must turn on your headlights from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Headlights are mainly used at night, but you should also use them during the daytime in these situations:

  • Fog, rain, snow or any other weather condition that decreases your visibility (use only low beams in fog and snow because high beams will reflect off and cause glare, making visibility even worse).
  • On mountain roads or small country roads.
  • Driving through canyons or extended tunnels.
  • Any other time you have difficulty seeing.

NOTE: Remember, if you have difficulty seeing other vehicles, their drivers probably have the same difficulty seeing you.

An image of a car's brake lights

Brake lights warn other drivers that you are slowing down or stopping.

Vehicles sold after September 19, 1940 are equipped with multiple beam headlights that have a low beam and high beam. If you are using high beams, you must switch to low when an oncoming vehicle is within 500 feet. When you are approaching another vehicle from the rear, the high beams must be switched to low when you are 300 feet of the vehicle you are approaching.

Brake Lights (or stop lamps) are located on the back of the vehicle. There is one located on each rear side with most newer vehicles also having a center brake light located on the back window. You activate these lights when you press down on the brake pedal. The purpose of brake lights is to give other vehicles advanced warning that you will be slowing down or stopping.

An image of a car's tail light lights

Taillights and backup lights alert drivers behind you.

Taillights are located in the same area as the brake lights at the rear of the vehicle. These lights turn on when you switch on your headlights. Most vehicles have red reflectors that allow these lights to be red. The purpose of taillights is to indicate to drivers behind you of your presence at night or any other time when visibility is low. When you turn on your headlights and taillights, a white light that illuminates the rear license plate should also activate.

Backup or Reverse Lights are located on the back of the vehicle next to the brake lights. These lights are white and usually smaller than the brake and turn signal lights. They go on automatically when you put the car into reverse. Most trucks and some vehicles have a warning or beeping noise that sounds as the light illuminates to give extra notice that the vehicle is backing up.

An image of a car's fog lights

Fog lights should be used along with headlights; not in place of them.

Fog Lights are designed to cut through fog and mist to provide you with better visibility. They cast a short, wide beam in front of the car. In addition to helping in adverse conditions, they help illuminate the sides of the road (to improve your chances of spotting pedestrians or animals). They should be used along with headlights, not replace them. A vehicle may be equipped with no more than two fog lamps. They must be mounted on the front of the vehicle no lower than 12 inches and no higher than 30 inches.

Warning and Signaling Devices

Emergency Hazard Lights or Flashers are the same lights that are used as brake lights. There is a switch or button inside the vehicle that will activate your hazard lights. These lights, when activated, will flash at a regular interval until turned off. You should only use emergency hazard lights whenever you are stranded on the side of the road or when stuck in the middle of traffic with a vehicle problem or emergency. These flashing red lights warn other drivers that you have a problem and imply they should use extra caution around you.

An image of a car's right turn signal flashing

Always make sure your turn signals are working.

  • Check to make sure your turn signals are working.
  • Signal before pulling towards or away from the curb.
  • Signal before changing lanes.
  • Always use arm signals in case other drivers cannot see your signal lamps (especially during daytime hours if it is very bright outside).
  • Signal during the last 100 feet before turning, and on the freeway, it is best to signal at least five seconds before changing lanes.
  • Use brake lights to signal your intention to stop or brake quickly.


Every vehicle must have a device capable of emitting sound that other drivers and pedestrians can hear. As a warning mechanism, there is nothing more effective in your vehicle than the horn. Unfortunately, the use of this device has become a spark plug for road rage situations. However, you should not be afraid to use the horn because, when used properly, they can help to save lives. Follow these basic rules before using the horn:

An image of a car's horn

Use the horn only when necessary to avoid a collision or to ensure the safe operation of your vehicle.

  • As a rule, you should use the horn only in emergency or distress situations. It must be in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible from a distance of at least 200 feet. However, it cannot be unreasonably loud or harsh, and it must not sound like a whistle, siren or bell.
  • If the roadway doesn't permit your vehicle to travel completely to the right side of the lane when approaching a curve with an unobstructed view of less than 200 feet, you should use the horn to warn other drivers of your presence.
  • Don't use the horn to attract the attention of other drivers unless necessary to avoid collisions or for the safe operation of your vehicle. When driving on a mountain road where visibility is impaired and you cannot see at least 200 feet ahead, sound the vehicle's horn to warn other drivers of your vehicle's approach.
  • Be sure your horn is working properly. It is illegal to drive without one that functions correctly.

Vehicle Tires

An image of tires

Your vehicle's tires need traction in order to brake properly and stick to the road.

Your tires are the only things that connect you to the road while you drive. Tire traction allows your car to brake, stick to the road, and corner better on roads covered with ice or snow. Therefore it is extremely important to keep all four tires in proper condition. When checking your tires, you need to look at two things: the pressure and the tread.

Tire Pressure - Your vehicle uses pneumatic tires, which are tires capable of being inflated by compressed air. The pressure in your tires (psi) is the level of air that provides them with the capacity to carry loads. This also affects the overall performance of your vehicle. Your tires must be properly inflated to prevent tire failure. Make it a habit to check the pressure of your tires at least once a month. A good time to do this is when you fill up your gas tank. You should also check before you go on long road trips.

The information you see on the sides of your tires shows the maximum pressure, so do not inflate the tires to that level. To find the suggested pressure, look at the tire information placard that's mounted inside the frame of the driver's door, in the glove box or inside the fuel door. You can also find that information in your vehicle owner's manual. Check tire pressure when the tires are still cold or have been in use for no more than a mile.

An image of someone measuring tire tread

This tire is still good because the tread is covering Lincoln's head.

Tire Tread - The grooves you see in your tires provide a function. These treads provide traction and push out water on the road. They also allow your tires to grip the road to obtain the traction that keeps you from slipping, especially when the road is wet, icy, or otherwise slippery. Each tire must have a minimum tread depth of one thirty-second (1/32) of an inch in any two adjacent groves at any location.

Your tires should have tools that let you know when they need to be replaced. Most tires have tread indicators, which are raised sections located in the bottom of the tread grooves. When they are even with the tread, you need new tires. Another way to check tread depth is to use a penny. Put it in the tread with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, you need new tires. In the picture, the tread is covering Lincoln's head, so the tires are still good.

In addition to the above, you should also rotate the tires regularly as recommended by the vehicle manual. This will allow your tires to wear evenly.

Also watch for any cuts, breaks, or snags on the tread and sidewall that are deep enough to expose the body cord, as well as any bumps, bulges, or separations. These are indications of problems in the tires. As a commercial says, "There's a lot riding on your tires." Make sure to replace them whenever necessary.

Vehicle Brakes

An image of a foot readying to brake

This brake pedal operates the vehicle's service brakes.

The brakes are one of the most important safety features in a vehicle. When you start driving, you will notice just how much you depend on them. In fact, you can't drive safely without them! Brakes work best when your tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread.

Any vehicle that you drive on the roads of Nevada must have both service and parking brakes, which must also operate independently of each other. Your service brakes are dual hydraulic and are the ones that operate when you press the brake pedal. The parking brake is manually or mechanically applied, either by pressing a second brake pedal to the left or by lifting a hand brake between the driver and front passenger seats (larger vehicles such as vans may have a power-assisted parking brake). Your brakes must be able to stop the vehicle through all four wheels. They must also be able to hold the vehicle under all loading conditions on any grade.

If you plan to tow a trailer or semitrailer, it must have brakes on all wheels when the gross weight of the trailer or semitrailer exceeds 3,000 pounds.

For most passenger cars, the service brakes must be able to stop the vehicle within 25 feet from a speed of 20 mph. A car towing a trailer with no brakes (gross weight under 3,000 pounds) must have brakes that can stop within 40 feet from a speed of 20 mph. The brakes must be in good working order to stop within these distances, and because brakes are essential to safety, proper maintenance is mandated by law.

What's so great about the parking brake?

An image of a parking brake

A properly working parking brake can keep the wheels locked to limit movement.

The parking brake keeps the vehicle from moving while it is parked. The main problem with it is that few people actually use it. Many drivers mistakenly believe that a vehicle parked while still in gear (or in "park" in an automatic transmission vehicle) will not roll. This is not always true as the vehicle is still capable of moving. Although it is only a supplementary system, the parking brake has great value for its ability to keep the vehicle from moving when it is set in place. When properly working, it can hold the vehicle on any grade and lock the wheels to limit any vehicle movement. Therefore you should always set your parking brake when you park your vehicle.

Types of Brakes

Most motor vehicles driven today have either drum or disc brakes, or in some cases, both. Disc brakes are found in most passenger vehicles, and those that have both types usually have drum brakes in the rear to minimize costs and weight. The following paragraphs explain these two types of brakes.

An image of a drum brake

Drum brakes tend to lose effectiveness when too much heat builds up within the drum.

Drum Brakes - Drum brakes consist of a brake drum attached to the wheel, a wheel cylinder, brake shoes and brake return springs. Hydraulic pressure from the master cylinder causes the wheel cylinder to press the brake shoes against the brake drum. This creates friction between the shoes and drum to slow down or stop your car.

This basic design proved capable under most circumstances, but it had one major flaw. Under demanding braking conditions, like descending a steep hill with a heavy load or repeated high-speed slow downs, drum brakes would often fade and lose effectiveness. Usually this fading was the result of too much heat build-up within the drum. In addition, larger and heavier vehicles also require larger and heavier drum brakes.

The principle of braking involves turning kinetic energy (wheel movement) into thermal energy (heat). For this reason, drum brakes can only operate as long as they can absorb the heat generated by slowing a vehicle's wheels. Once the brake components themselves become too hot, they lose the ability to halt a vehicle, which can be somewhat disconcerting if you were driving.

An image of a disc brake

Disc brakes dissipate heat and stop the vehicle more effectively than drum brakes.

Disc Brakes - Disc brakes consist of a disc brake rotor, which is attached to the wheel, and a caliper, which holds the disc brake pads. Hydraulic pressure from the master cylinder causes the caliper piston to clamp the disc brake rotor between the disc brake pads. This creates friction between the pads and rotor, causing your car to slow down or stop.

Though disc brakes rely on the same basic principles to slow down a vehicle (friction and heat), their design is far superior to that of drum brakes. Unlike drum brakes, which allow heat to build up inside the drum during heavy braking, the rotor used in disc brakes is fully exposed to outside air. This exposure works to constantly cool the rotor, greatly reducing its tendency to overheat or cause fading.

Not surprisingly, it was under racing circumstances that the weaknesses of drum brakes and the strengths of disc brakes were first illustrated. Racers with disc brake systems could carry their speed "deeper" into a corner and apply greater braking force at the last possible second without overheating the components. Eventually, as with so many other automotive advances, this technology filtered down to the cars driven by everyday people on public roads.

Antilock Brakes

Most of the recent models have an antilock braking system (ABS) ) installed as a standard or optional feature. All passenger cars equipped with ABS have four-wheel ABS, while some SUVs, trucks and vans with ABS have either four-wheel or rear-wheel (two-wheel) ABS. If you have this system installed, you will see an ABS indicator light on your instrument panel when you turn on the ignition. Your vehicle owner's manual will also mention ABS. It is a safe and effective braking system when used properly because it keeps your tires from locking up when you brake. ABS allows you to maintain directional stability, control oversteering, and in some situations, reduce stopping distances during emergency braking situations, particularly on wet and slippery road surfaces.

In the old days, drivers had to know how to "pump" the brakes or sense the lockup and release foot pressure in order to prevent skidding. This meant that if only one wheel lost traction and started to skid, the driver would have to reduce braking force to prevent a skid. The advantage of ABS is that the brakes on the wheels with good traction can be used to the fullest possible amount, even if other wheels lose traction.

Anti-lock brake systems are designed to do a self diagnostic every time a vehicle is started and every time the brakes are applied. The system evaluates its own signals. If it detects a problem, the system will turn off, leaving normal braking unaffected.

How does ABS work?

If standard brakes are applied too hard, the wheels "lock" or skid, which prevents them from giving directional control. If directional control (steering) is lost, the vehicle skids in a straight line wherever it is going. When your brakes lock up on wet and slippery roads or during a panic stop, you lose steering control and your vehicle can spin. If your vehicle has antilock brakes, you will be able to maintain steering control.

ABS works by limiting the pressure to any wheel which slows down too rapidly. The wheel speed sensors at each wheel send electronic pulse signals to the ABS control unit if they detect wheel lockup (caused by rapid deceleration) during brake application. The system then signals the valve unit to limit the hydraulic pressure on the affected wheel. This allows maximum stopping force to be applied without the brakes locking up or skidding.

Rear wheel ABS prevents wheel lockup so that your car stays in a straight line. If your car has ABS control on all four wheels, you also keep control of steering. If you have steering control, it is possible to avoid a crash by steering around hazards if a complete stop cannot be accomplished in time. ABS brakes should prevent your vehicle from skidding.

How do I use ABS?

To use ABS properly, you must press down on the brake pedal as firmly as possible. This will activate the ABS mechanism, and the system will pump the brakes automatically and continue as long as you maintain pressure on the brake pedal. You will also be able to steer around obstacles, if necessary. When activated, you may feel some pulsing in the brake pedal, almost as if it were pushing back at you. You may also hear a clicking sound. These are not signs of trouble but are indications that your ABS brakes are at work. In an SUV, truck or van with rear-wheel ABS, the front wheels can still lock. If your vehicle has rear-wheel ABS and the front wheels lock up, you need to ease up on the brake pedal until the front wheels roll again. You will then be able to steer out of trouble.

The antilock brake system is a safe and effective braking system as it is designed to help you maintain control of your vehicle during emergency braking situations, particularly on wet and slippery road surfaces. However, you should not expect it to help you stop more quickly. Your stopping distance may actually be lengthened in a few cases, such as on surfaces covered by loose gravel or snow. The best thing you can do is to drive carefully in wet or slippery conditions, maintain a steady and appropriate speed, and keep a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead of you.