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Inspection stickers peeling off

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nearly every customer who came to McKeesport Auto Body in the past month for state-mandated inspections had the same problem, owner Tom Borucki said.

"All the inspection stickers we put on last year are peeling off. ... There's nothing you can do to make them stick," Borucki said. "People come to us for this year's inspection and say, 'Hey, can you put the sticker on a little better this time?' "

Borucki and his customers are among many state residents noticing the spotty stickability of the windshield stickers issued by PennDOT, whose officials say they are aware of the problem and working with the manufacturer to fix it.

The issue appears to be with the "insert" on each sticker, showing its month of expiration. That's printed by a separate manufacturer than the rest of the sticker, PennDOT spokeswoman Danielle Klinger said. For a reason unknown, the adhesive on the inserts is not holding. Stickers that partially peel off remain valid.

"The most important message for us to get out is that a partially peeled sticker is still valid," she said. A totally peeled sticker is not valid, and requires replacement or reattachment at an approved inspection station.

If the peeling is "aesthetically bothersome," drivers can go to an inspection station to have the stickers reattached. Klinger said that mechanics might charge up to $4 for a safety inspection sticker and $4.40 for an emissions inspection sticker.

The Pennsylvania State Police was notified about the problem. Troopers can cite drivers for invalid or missing inspection stickers.

"It's a tempting proposition to use a little piece of tape to fix it," said Lt. Myra Taylor, state police spokeswoman. "But in the enforcement world, one of the things we look for is an inspection sticker that looks like it has been altered."

Police said drivers should ask mechanics at inspections stations to fix the stickers so they don't appear to be tampered with.

"When police look to see if a car's inspection sticker is valid ... it could be making it hard to tell the difference between a one and a seven, for example," said Carol LeBlanc, owner of Auto Repair Unlimited in South Park.

Although tests to determine the exact cause of the peeling were inconclusive, PennDOT asked Reading-based insert printer Grafika and international firm OpSec, which prints the "base" stickers in Lancaster, to use a different type of adhesive. PennDOT's contract with the printers sets the prices for the stickers, so the new adhesive will come at no additional cost to the state, Klinger said.

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