The dreaded 'Contrôle Technique'. It's like a car fan's version of a visit to the dentisit. Or filing taxes. Or watching 'Little House On The Prairie' reruns. In English it's called a Safety Check, but no matter what the language, it's a pain in the neck. We can all agree that it is important for a car, especially an old one, to meet the minimum safety requirements, but sometimes the smallest thing can force a car off the road.
My Corsa was due for its contrôle technique this week, and I was nervous. It runs fine, but already two years ago (in France you have to pass the safety check every two years) there were a few weak points. They consider two types of problems here, ones that do not require a second visit (like surface rust, a tiny oil leak, or cracked tailight lens), and others that do require a second visit (like a broken windshield, worn-out tires, or a major fluid leak). If you need to go back for a second visit and your car still doesn't pass, you are no longer allowed to drive it until the problems are fixed and you've paid for a new contrôle.
My brakes have been a bit funny lately... they stop the car, but it pulls to the right. I was also worried about the pollution levels. I have changed the engine since the last contrôle, and I had no idea if it was tuned right. An older car like mine, with a carburetor, isn't held to the same standards as a modern car, but it still has to be tuned up and running cleanly.
I let the contrôle sneak up on me, so I didn't have a chance to give the car a good check-up, and had to drop it off yesterday at lunch. I had my fingers crossed all afternoon, and wasn't sure what to expect when I went back to pick it up at the end of the day.
Overall it was a success. The mechanic who looked the car over was very impressed. He said that few 30 year old cars do as well. The pollution was 1/10th of the allowable amount, and there were no significant corrosion or wear issues. The only sticking point was with the brakes, which, as I suspected, were "déséquilibré" (unbalanced). The left side wasn't working as well as the right, so I will have to repair the brakes and go back for a second visit.
Still, all in all, this is good news! I was really worried that he would discover some problem that would force my old car off the road, or require major work. Now that I know what has to be done, I'll correct the brake problem and get the Corsa back in for her clean bill of health, and head off for two more years of safe and satisfied driving!