Friday, August 17, 2012

The German TUV

The German vehicle inspection is this odd episode that you might come into contact with as an American….if you were outside of the US military complex in Germany or working for a German company. So here are my comments and observations.

In each German county, there is a local TUV inspection station….maybe even two of them. Their job in life….is to inspect your vehicle and render it approved or disapproved for driving.

When you buy a new vehicle (brand-new)….the first two years are exempted, so no inspection. You can feel good about this. Then comes your first inspect at the 3rd year, and after that….every two years.

Generally, the simple deal is to have a relationship with a local German mechanic, who does TUV inspections. You drop the vehicle off….he pre-checks the whole vehicle and does what repairs are necessary. Then he or his junior guy take the car to the TUV to walk it through the inspection, where typically… passes easily (usually 99.9 percent of the time on the first inspection).

The cost? Well….the mechanic will usually charge between 100 and 150 Euro, plus the repairs, and the charge by the TUV for the inspection. Yeah, it can add up. And you can figure two days for this whole game.

Could you take the car to TUV yourself? Yes. The odds of you arguing in the best interests of your vehicle? I’d say fifty-fifty. You would be better off to pay the mechanic.

What ends up being the issues? Well….for any vehicle under six years old….it’s typically the tires that might come up with an issue. Rarely will anything fail on a six year old vehicle. Vehicles around eight to fourteen years old? This becomes interesting. An oil leak. A bit of rust on the undercarriage. A brake issue. A parking brake issue. Lights. Alignment. Tires. The smog test. Muffler issues. Take your pick because something will come up and the mechanic will brief you on the added issues. The least of these is usually the lights….the worst case scenario (in my book) is the rust on the undercarriage (it’ll be the end of that car’s chances).

The window cracks? Well….if you have a small spider-crack at the edges of the front windshield….it’ll usually not be noticed and you can get by. Got a five-inch crack in the middle of the windshield…..figure it’ll be noticed and they will force you to buy a new one.

The older the car…..the higher chance of the mechanic advising you to fix or replace things….especially mufflers. The rust issue? Rust can appear on the hood or doors, and they don’t care much. Rust around the wheelwells and the undercarriage? That’s a big issue. If you’ve got an old junker in the fifteen to twenty year range, and the mechanic says it just won’t pass the inspection, then it’s time to junk it and look for a new one.

The leak issues? You can assume a small leak can be rendered as a non-issue by simply steam-cleaning the whole engine area the morning prior to the inspection and hoping nothing much is noticed. It merely buys you another two years….that’s all. A leak of fair portion? They will force into fixing it prior to approving it for the inspection.

Tires? You can always buy a set of cheap tires for 200 Euro (don’t expect them to last longer than eighteen months). You should schedule this on a yearly basis….replacing the summer tires, or the winter, and it ought not be part of the TUV worry. A word of advice….if this is an eight year old BMW and you drive at excessive speeds, then buy the right tires and prepare to pay 500 Euro. If this is a Audi TT….you might be spending eight hundred Euro for the tires.

The first aid kit? Well….in the old days, Mercedes and BMW gave away kits and had a secret compartment in each car. You could buy a kit for the equalivent of eight Euro and the TUV guy just made sure you had the kit and a triangle. Around a decade ago….they started to add a small item here and there to the kit, and insist that it was semi-new. The idea of you driving around in a twenty-year old car with a twenty-year old first aid kit…..just wasn’t acceptable. So you have to have the most recent approved kit, and generally….they run near fourteen Euro. You might find cheaper kits… long as they have the TUV sticker or label….they will be accepted. The possibility of you being forced to buy a new kit in three years? Yeah, it might happen. Just another layer of cost on your back. 

The triangle? Well….here’s the usual problem. You use somewhere and forget to pick it up when you fix the tire. My guess is that 20k triangles a year disappear like this. So if you lose a triangle….no big deal…just pick another one up at the local parts shop.

Stressful? Germans tend to take care of their cars and usually dump a car before it becomes junker. We Americans…..are often driven to junkers….for some odd fascination over having a cheap car. Don’t ask me why. So we might stress more than a German because it’s a gamble whether the sixteen year old BMW will pass or not…..and just how much Huns wants to fix it for the inspection. My general advice is you tell the mechanic to fix up to 500 Euro. After that… need to think long and hard over the issue.

Above all, I always stress this search for a decent German mechanic that you can trust and lives in your local town or village. A guy who readily accepts cash….usually never charges full price. You just don’t ask for paperwork or expect warranty-type situations when cash is the driving force.

Finally, the TUV folks are trying to make sure you have a safe vehicle for the autobahns. They are trying to make your life safe. You may hate the idea of tossing seven hundred Euro into fixing a car for the inspection, but there’s a reason for that.


Fred Bershadsky said...

Yes the simple cope is to have a connection with a local In german auto mechanic, who does Vehicle Inspection . You fall the automobile off.

Anonymous said...

You gona be kidding!.
An american saying things about a german mechanic!.
Really funny.