16 December 2010

Contrôle technique

The temperature this morning is actually above freezing. Any precipitation we get will probably be cold rain instead of snow, and I'm glad of that. However, they are saying that it will get cold again later in the day and snow overnight and tomorrow morning.

Today's weather map — I added some city names for reference.
Saint-Aignan is about 40 miles east of Tours,
right on the line between rain and snow.

As usual, Saint-Aignan is right on the line between the rain and snow areas on the weather maps. That's the nature of this particular area. We have a semi-continental climate with oceanic influences. And we are at low altitude, so that plays in our favor as far as avoiding snow goes. I'll report on the situation tomorrow morning. (I'm sure you can't wait.)

Tonight we'll be in the snow zone, but only for an inch or two.
It's also supposed to snow on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, one of the things I had to get done Tuesday morning was a car inspection — called a contrôle technique in France. « Contrôle » is one of those French words that looks like an English word, but it has a subtly different meaning. Its first meaning is "inspection, examination, verification." For example, a test given to university students is called (or used to be called — my university days are far behine me) un contrôle de connaissances — a "verification of knowledge."

From there the meaning slides into the meaning of the English word "control" — meaning maîtrise, or mastery, as of your vehicle, for example. Or your temper. Of course, in English we also have "controls" on an experiment to check or verify the results against some standard. Anyway, contrôler is a word you have to use carefully in French.

And are they ever careful when they do a contrôle technique on your car. You have to go in every two years once your vehicle reaches the age of four years, and you have to display a current CT sticker or you can be fined by the police for not keeping your vehicle under contrôle... sorry, inspected.

The contrôle technique checklist
for vehicles registered in France.

The list of checks the CT people do includes about 120 items in nine categories, from pollution to brakes, lights, tires, steering, and much more. The company I go to for the CT (and this was my Peugeot's fourth, I think, because the car is now 10 years old) sends me a letter in November to remind me to make an appointment in December.

When you take it in, they drive the car up over one of those pits like the ones they have in oil-change places in the U.S. and they spend quite a while underneath. They have machines that do a bounce test to check the shock absorbers. They race the engine and catch the gases coming out of the tail pipe to see if the car is meeting pollution standards. They tinker and fiddle...

Anyway, it takes a while and for my diesel Peugeot 206 model it costs 70 euros (about 90 dollars). As I said, it's every two years.

How did the Peugeot do? It needs new front tires and an alignment. « Vos pneus avant sont morts ! », the man told me. I knew it was time for new tires in 2011, but I had no idea the front tires were so worn. "You can't see it, because they are worn on the inside," he said. "From the outside they look fine." That's because the front end is out of alignment, he said.

He also said the gendarmes might give me a ticket if they stop me for any reason and decide to look at the tires. Luckily, I don't drive much. And with the snow coming tonight and all through the weekend — if the forecasts are accurate — I certainly won't be out on the road.

So I went to see Dominique at the tire shop and I ordered a set of four new Michelins for the car. He'll put them on next Tuesday. He'll go through the checklist and fix any other minor defects, and he'll do an alignment, which is called un parallélisme in French — the front wheels need to be aligned so that they are absolutely parallèles.


  1. So did the tires and misalignment mean the car failed, or was it just a warning? I like the way the CT garages are separate and only do CTs, so they are independent. I bet the price of 4 new Michelins all at once meant you needed a sit down :-)

  2. Hi Susan, I guess I shouldn't neglect the maintenance on my car so much, but we drive so little. The sorry state of the front tires means I have to have a contre-visite after I get the new tires. Then I'll get my "CT OK" sticker. What I don't know is whether the second inspection will cost or whether it's free.

    The tires are 64 euros apiece. Those are the high-end tires for my Peugeot, according to the garage owner. The middle-range tires were Firestones for 56 euros apiece. I figured for 32 euros I could afford the haut de gamme tires. The full price, including mounting and balancing, will be 328 €. But I knew this was coming in 2011 anyway.

    In California where we used to live, the only car inspections were (and I'm sure still are) pollution controls. The rest of your vehicle can be in very bad shape, as long as the emissions from the tail pipe are acceptable.

  3. Even though I drive only six months a year here in SoCal and very little at that, I take my car to the dealer once a year to be sure that everything is in order. Sometimes I have big surprises.

    I'll go to the dealer in January and I'm afraid I'd have to get a new set of tires. I keep my fingers crossed —but I'm afraid that works only for Martine. LOL

  4. Chm, You're the best! But I don't mind sharing a finger or two or some toes to get your car a clear bill! Martine ;)
    WV = preami: could be an equivalent of 'favourite friend', couldn't it?

  5. Hello CHM, leaving your car sitting idle for so many months out of the year is really bad for it. I'm glad you keep it maintained nonetheless.

    Tires need to be replaced after 5 or 6 years, no matter how many miles you drive. That's what I've read. Mine were due for replacement in 2011 anyway.

    Martine, congratulations on your new apartment. Let CHM know when he can uncross his toes LOL!

  6. I'm so glad the car inspections in Florida were stopped. It was such a racket. For a few dollars, your car could easily pass with flying colors regardless of its actual condition. I once failed the exam, drove out, went around the building, entered a different inspection station and passed.

  7. Wow, San Fran didn't make you do a whole-car inspection? We still have them here, except for the first few years in the life of the car. We started emissions testing a while back, too.

    Glad you got some good tires :) It was interesting learning about the CT today. It is kind of expensive, though, isn't it? There is a kind of piece of mind in knowing that they've inspected some major things on the car, however.


  8. Hi Judy, yes, it's kind of expensive. And in this whole process, I learned something: the price of the CT is not fixed by the government. It's libre. I assumed it was a government-controlled price. One web site said it can vary from 60 to 80 euros, with diesel cars costing slightly more than gasoline cars to inspect.

    I see from some web sites that the contre-visite is free unless the defect you have had corrected required putting the car back over the pit to inspect the undercarriage or engine. Mine should be free.

    I wish I had realized the front end was out of alignment, but there were no symptoms. And as the guy at the CT center said, the tires are worn on the inside and you can't see it at all from the ouside of the car. I looked, of course, and he's right.

    Starman, that does sound like a racket. I wonder if the same thing could happen hear. Of course here, if you fail, you're required to have repairs done and then go back for the sticker.


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