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Vehicle Inspection, Maintenance, Repairs and Breakdown Recovery

France - Vehicle Inspection, Maintenance, Repairs and Breakdown Recovery

All vehicles in France which are more than 4 years old and which weigh 3.5 tonnes or less must undergo an inspection every two years. This is similar to the annual MOT test which is compulsory in the UK. The test establishes the level of roadworthiness for a vehicle, although it is only optional for motorcycles. If you have a car which is considered to be collectible (véhicule de collection) that is more than 30 years old then it only needs to undergo an inspection once every five years. The inspection test is known as the ‘contrôle technique’.

Once the vehicle dates 3.5 years from first registration you should be making arrangements for it to undergo its first contrôle technique. By the time the four year point is reached this certificate needs to have been acquired. Only certain testing centres are recognised by the authorities so you need to ensure that you use an authorised testing centre. The Ministry of Transport website can link you to an authorised test centre in your area.

The contrôle technique is valid for two years for private cars. The car will be given a label for the windscreen which tells you when the next test is due, but it must be taken before the old certificate runs out. If you are using a car for commercial purposes, such as a taxi, then you need to ensure that the vehicle is checked every year for emissions.

The test itself takes around one hour and when the car has passed the contrôle technique certificate can be put with the ‘carte grise’, the document which is required for registration. If the car fails then you are given a period of two months in which to resolve the problems and have any necessary repairs carried out. When you have the work done and return to the test centre the car will only be checked for that particular problem. If it takes longer than 2 months then the car has to undergo the full test again and you will be liable for the fee.

Driving a car which is considered to be in poor repair is an offence. The police do carry out spot checks at the roadside on occasion and if the stamp on the windscreen tells them that the contrôle technique is out of date then you can be fined.

There are a number of reasons why a car may fail a test and these are similar to those test standards in other countries. If the tyres on your car are in a poor state of repair then this could be a reason, you should also ensure that you check all the lights on your vehicle are working and replace any bulbs before the test if necessary. If your car’s emissions are too high then this is another reason for it failing. If there is a problem with the brakes your car will not pass the test and if there is any problem with the body work on the car it can also lead to a fail. The details of the problems will be given to you at the end of the test so that you can have them fixed.

The cost of the test will vary depending upon the centre that you use and you need to make the payment directly to the centre. Most will accept cash and credit cards.

If you want to sell your car you must ensure that the contrôle technique certificate is not more than 6 months old. It is your duty to have the test and any necessary repairs carried out before you sell the vehicle.

If your vehicle should breakdown while you are out you need to wear the high visibility vest or jacket that you are legally obliged to carry with you. You can be fined for not having it and you need to keep it inside the car rather than the boot, as you must put it on before you get out of the car. The warning triangle – also a legal requirement – needs to be placed 30 metres from the car as a warning to other drivers.

There are no national organisations for breakdowns such as the AA in the UK. There is a service called ‘touring secours’ which works in the larger urban areas but you need to pay for their help. Payments must be made at the time of the recovery.

If you need to contact the police you can connect to the local station by dialling 17. For the emergency services you can call 112.

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