In the bad old days, we took our car along to Slik Fiks and left our pride and joy in the hands of a qualified MOT inspector who did his thing whilst we got a mate to give us a lift to work. We received a phone call and could hear the mechanic sucking in his breath as he said “sorry mate, but gotta problem wiv your car”. Mmm, you muse I wonder what that could be? “The thing is guv, your brake pads have had it see and the discs won’t last too much longer; about 300 quid should sort it out and you can have your ticket”. What to do? Take it to another garage and waste another day without your car or pay up and shut up? best empty your wallet. Back at the garage the car looks and even drives the same, the old parts have been disposed of because the local gypsy just happened to turn up that day looking for scrap. Ah well, you have another year’s MOT.

A few years ago you moved into the lovely urb’ built by Spanish Dreams R Us and regularly park your car by the unfinished social centre along by the authentic local bar, the George and Dragon. You go to the ITV station and haven’t got a clue what is going on as they all talk foreign, but at the end you are given a piece of paper with unintelligible words on it and your card is marked Desfavorable. You wonder what to do next and why didn’t they just sort the problem and charge you as they did at Slik Fiks?

MOT versus ITV

So here we have the main difference between the MOT and ITV. It has been claimed that MOT testing stations are only out to fail your car so that they can gain more work and the ITV station will fail it because they are too picky. The major difference is that the ITV stations only inspect and not repair giving in my view a totally impartial report, though the discretion of the inspector is paramount, so Real Barca losing or his mujer bending his ear over breakfast may have a bearing on the outcome.

In the UK, inspections are undertaken by garages that have a vested financial interest in your car failing. Now before those honest folk in the motor trade start sticking pins in my effigy, I know that not all garages are the same; many are decent and fair, but the opportunity and power is there for the unscrupulous to take advantage and some do so, especially if you are an office wallah or have long blond hair

The disadvantage of the ITV system is that you have to go elsewhere for repairs which can be inconvenient and once you car has failed, it can only be driven to a place of repair or back to the station and cannot be used generally; this applies even if you took your car for inspection before the due date. In the UK, at least when I lived there, a car can be driven after failure if it was inspected early

Pre-ITV inspection

So, as we live in Spain and drive Spanish cars (well some of us anyway) how can we overcome this? The obvious answer is a pre-ITV inspection but these are carried out at garages that may have a vested interest in finding fault, so we are back to the MOT scenario. There are many honest garages on the Costas who do not take advantage, so check out who these are by personal recommendation and if you have received good service tell your friends so that the garage deservedly gets more work and the cowboys less. Get a written quote and only authorise remedial work after discussing it with them.

I am often asked by customers if they should have a pre-ITV before their car is inspected for re-registration; the response that I give is that if they think that it would pass an MOT, don’t bother but if you have cause for concern then get it checked out. The good thing about an import standard ITV is that the car can be driven afterwards as it is still foreign, so you have time to get problems sorted. There is a small standard charge for re-inspections which is much less than the cost of a pre-ITV

DIY basic checks

Why not undertake some basic checks yourself? Start with the lights; these are an optional extra in Spain especially the indicators, but how do you know that your brake lights aren’t working unless you have your wife stand at the back and check. Be careful not to ask her to check the reversing light as your foot may slip off the clutch and you wouldn’t hear the last of it if you ran her over. A good option is to reverse near to a shop window where you can see all of your lights reflected there. Many of my customers did not know where the rear fog light switch was, but this light is mandatory if rarely used.

On inspecting your tyres, ensure that the tread is above the wear bars and that the depth is even across the surface. Turn the wheel and look at the inside of the tyre as many go smooth due to cornering; this is not easy to spot with the tyres fore-and-aft. Remember that in Spain, the tyres need to be identical on the same axle. The spare is not inspected, so make up a pair using this if you can. Rock the steering wheel and listen for clunking noises which indicate loose ball joints (very painful!) or the remains of a sleeping policeman. Does the car stop in a straight line when braking? Do the horn and wipers/washers work? Is the exhaust growling like a bulldog sucking marbles? Well, I’m no mechanic, so I’ll leave it there. Common sense and good service should see you home and dry for another year or two