Vehicle compliance inspection and mechanical test

The DMV’s inspection and test is called a “collaudo”. When you show up for your appointment, you may have to wait for some time before a technician will visit you. You should have the copy of the registration document that they gave you last time.

The technician will mainly check for two areas:

1.       The existence of an European standard compliance symbol on few or all of the following:

  • Windows (every piece of glass)
  • Seal belts Tires Headlights (sealed-beam headlights are not allowed)
  • Rear lights Blinker turn signals: both have to be amber-colored, not red.
  • Existence of side markers (light up but not necessary to blink)
  • Speedometer with kilometer unit

2.       Brakes in working condition

Again, it depends on the person who is doing the inspection, especially the first part. That person may check every single piece of the listed parts, or he does not even bother to see them. I have experienced both.

Here is something very important to remember: Do not take what the employee says at face value, always double-check it yourself carefully if he states something is missing or not compliant. If you start with the assumption that he is attentive at his work, it may cause you plenty unnecessary money and hassles later.

Here is my experience demonstrating exactly that, and saved myself almost one thousand euros:

A day in January, I came for the scheduled appointment. The technician at the Motor Vehicle office checked all around my car and examining each piece that interests him. Although I had not an idea at the time what he was checking.

The first two issues he raised were the lights and seatbelts. He said it was strange that the tail lights had the marks but the headlights don’t. I had no idea what he was looking at until he pointed out the symbol. Which shows it’s compliant with European vehicle standard. I tried to search for it on the headlights, but couldn’t find them at first.

Then, the he told me the seat belts are not approved as it also must have that symbol on the label. However, these seat belts are the same as used in this model sold in Italy and certified as E. U. standard compliant in the homologation document.

The third issue surprised me as it was a crack on the lower splitter part of the bumper, which is only cosmetic issue, and I had that for years. He said I have to replace it.

Last, he asked me to drive my car into the garage to perform tire and brakes test using computer-based equipment. My car passed with no problem despite having tires of almost six-years-old, and brakes almost ten (though only about 65000 miles).

After the test completed, the examiner said my car did not pass it (collaudo) because the seat belts and headlights are not compliant with the CE (European Community) standard. I need to rectify them and make another appointment.

However, he did not inspect them properly. After he went back to the office, I wondered about how it could be possible that only the tail lights have the compliance marks. So I opened the hood of my car and I found the sign on the edge of the headlights. I mean, who is supposed to be doing the job here? He was not meticulous at all. I waited over forty minutes in the snowing cold, and told him when he finally came out again to look at what I found. He agreed that he missed it and I don't need to change the headlight. Because I took the time to think and doubt him; and by being meticulous I saved myself probably 400 euros or more of unnecessary expense.

What does the homologation symbol actually look like? Find out by purchasing my ebook.

However, I did not find the marks on the seatbelts. I asked him if he knew how much it would cost to change all FOUR of them, he didn't know and most likely didn't care. My seatbelts are in perfect condition, why do I have to change them when they are the exact same things sold here. The next few days I went around getting a price on the seatbelt replacement. A Toyota dealer told me is would be 550 euro for the belts and 250 for installation, plus 20% tax, so the total is more than 900 euros! That's insane to replace working seatbelts with exactly the same things! Not only it is a waste of money, but a waste of time and resources.

So I tried to find other solutions over the next few weeks. One day suddenly I decided to inspect the vehicle technical characteristics document I had, which is used for registration process. I found on this document it is clearly written the seatbelts are approved for European Community (C. E.). On February Fifteenth, I went back to the DMV and showed the document to the man in charge of the foreign vehicle section, which states the seat belts are conforming to C. E. standard. I explained him the above, including the waste of money, time; and inefficiency to replace something that doesn't need to be replaced. However, being a difficult bureaucrat he is, he does not want to accept it. Even though he understood the seatbelts are compliant with the European standard and they are the same as what are sold here! What's more ironic is that because he wanted to get rid of me, the employee told me "It's the law" that I must have that symbol on the seatbelt. While in the office, another employee would smoke freely in front of everyone and ignoring the sign on the wall prohibiting smoking! This is truly an example of people interpreting rules as they please.

I tried to think of various solutions without replacing the seatbelts. One day, I checked the backseat and pushed aside the cushion that meets the frame, and looked a bit deeper. There I found the labels with the symbols! They were hidden, and once again I did the job of the technician and by not listening to the official technician, I saved myself several hundred euros.

In the meantime, I decided it’s time to change the car’s tires and brake pads as routine maintenance. I also replaced the damaged part of the bumper. When the time came for another appointment, I was determined to not let them give me another problem as the these issues gave me two months of anger and frustration.

I took my car to the second test. This time, it was another technician who had a very different attitude. He asked me what he needed to do, and I explained him what happened last time. He just asked if I rectified the issue and I explained to him. He didn’t even bother to check anything. We went straight to the brake test. I thought to myself, why did not I get this guy to check my car in the first time?

At the brake test, the first time my car failed. I was very surprised as I passed last time with old tires and brake pads, and now I have new ones. So I told him, and we tried again. It failed again. He tried to adjust the computer setting, and we tried it two more times with slight improvement, but not enough to pass the time. Finally he gave up and told me to take my car to my mechanic to diagnose the problem and make another appointment. I emphasized the fact that I have new brakes and tires again, but he has not explanation for what I need to check. I couldn’t believe my luck, another problem! I was furious.

I went back to the office and waited about one hour before someone became available to make an appointment with me. I explained to the worker what happened, and he looked at me and said “Excuse me for a minute” and went to the back. After about two minutes, he came to me again, and said “Excuse us, you must have patience, because the machine that the technician used to test your car was malfunction since yesterday evening. Now I will tell him and you can bring you car to the back to get another test right away.

Once again, they didn’t do their job! If I had not expressed my doubt at the outcome, it is unlikely this person would have mentioned this fact. Had I just listened to the technician and left, I would have wasted more time and money checking for a non-existing problem. So I took my car for the test again, and the technician was not apologetic. My car easily passed the test.

After this step, I went back to the office, and they gave me a carbon copy of the car registration application as a temporary registration permit and told me that the next time I come; I can pick up my license plates and the final registration document from the normal office. It may take sixty days.

Here is a story from an American owner who imported his 2003 Honda Civic:

In 2003 we imported a 2001 Honda CRV from the US without problems (well, relatively speaking: they didn't make us ship it back!).

What we needed to obtain was a spec sheet that affirmed the EU-worthiness of the car, including a lot of details that US dealers won't have. The title on the document is :"Certificazione delle Caratteristiche Tecniche dell'Autoveicolo" and it was provided by Honda Automobili, S.p.A. (tel. +39 045 82.89.311. We had to pay Honda Italia about $150 for the document. We also imported my ancient Saab, but Saab gave us the doc for free.

You will also have to make sure, if you already haven't, that you go to the Italian embassy in the US before you ship, to make a declaration of the goods you are planning to import, including the car (to claim exemption from customs) "Dichiarazione Consolare di Rimpatrio". THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT! We were held up at the port in Naples because of a typo in the VIN number in this declaration, but fortunately there was someone at the embassy in the States at that hour and we were able to send a flurry of faxes back and forth that cleared up the matter. They do look closely at your declaration.

Among other things, you will also need to have a certified translated copy of your current registration; we did the translating and got it certified at the consulate.

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