Friday, March 25, 2011

A very different process

Having your car tested in the UK can be both harrowing and expensive. You can check many of the items included in the test yourself before taking your car for its MOT. However, it is difficult for most people to check e.g. the exhaust emissions or brake efficiency unless they have access to some fancy equipment.

In the UK most people will take their car to a normal garage for testing which can lead to nasty surprises and a hefty bill.

I remember taking my wife’s Nissan Micra to a place in Birkenhead that offered cheap MOTs. They claimed that the exhaust emissions were too high and offered to rectify the problem at a price. The resulting fuel air mixture was so weak that the car would not run properly and so I had to take the car to a Nissan dealer to get it sorted out. There was apparently nothing wrong with the original setting. Later on, I took both of our cars to a local garage for MOT. Surprisingly, because we had our cars serviced regularly, both of them failed requiring over £100 worth of work each to rectify the problems.

Wary that garages may fail cars just to provide themselves with work, some of my ex-colleagues would take their cars to the Council depot in Liverpool for MOT tests. Although the tests were deemed to be more through than those in some garages, there was no incentive to fail vehicles to create work.

The full cost of a UK MOT for a car is £54.85. Many garages will charge less if you have a service done at the same time. Some dealers, e.g. Audi, will even offer a free MOT.

Here in Spain, things are different. The equivalent of an MOT is conducted at an ITV centre. There is no such thing as a cut price test, everyone pays the full whack. In the case of my diesel Roomster that was 65.25 Euros (petrol cars are a little cheaper).

The documents you need are the registration document (permiso de circulación) and technical paper (ficha technico). The technical paper describe the conformity of the car to the manufacturers specifications which is one of the things they are looking for in the test. It is important therefore that you have paperwork to cover any modifications from that e.g. a fitted tow bar, blacked out windows or a change of wheel size/tyres.

Once you have registered for your test and paid, you wait in a queue for your car to be called forward.

Unlike in the UK where you would normally leave your car for its test and call back later to pick it up, for your ITV you stay with the vehicle. First off, the tester will check your oil. Then he will ask you to operate all the lights, wipers, indicators and horn. The tester will then get in the car to check the emissions at two points on the rev band. He will then move the car to the rolling road to check the brake efficiency (you can see the results for yourself on the monitor). You get back into the car and drive it over a pit where a second technician checks the underside of your vehicle (which again you can see on a TV screen) – that is it. A very slick process that takes about ten minutes or so.

At the end of the test you get a certificate with four categories ranging from favorable to negativa. If the result is favorable you get a sticker for the windscreen that shows when your next test is due. Otherwise you can rectify the fault yourself if it is minor or take the car away and have it repaired if it is “grave”. I’m not use what happens if you car is deemed to be “negativa” because that basically means it is unfit to drive.

On the back of the certificate is a list of items that could be included in the test and on the front is a list of corresponding numbers that were checked along with the results of the emission, brake and noise level tests. There is also a photo of the rear of the vehicle which shows the number plate printed on the sheet.

What you don’t get is a hand written greasy piece of paper like I used to get in the UK. Nor do you get greasy hand prints on the bodywork of the car, dirty floor mats and a greasy steering wheel like I once got in the UK! This is a clean, efficient and transparent process with no hidden surprises at the end.

NB You don't need your insurance payment slip to get an ITV as some web sites suggest and interestingly, you don't need either your ITV or your insurance documents to pay your local car tax. Of course, if you are stopped by the Guardia, you will need the lot!

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