We received a notice at the end of November about the yearly Controle Technique inspection that needs to be done yearly on the car. I put it aside since it seemed so far off. The holiday break began and I found the letter. In fact, instead of a deadline of the end of January, the inspection was due by Jan. 2.
In the US this would be no big deal, we would have two weeks to get it done. But, in Luxembourg, everything shuts down during the holidays. It is a ghost town the whole month of August and the week of Christmas was the same.
Dynamic websites in Luxembourg are lacking, to say the least. Websites are the same as you 10 years ago in the US. Usually there is little more than a homepage. The Societe National de Controle Technique has a quite interesting website. It shows you the multiple papers you need to bring with you and the four, yes just four, stations in the entire country, where you can get your car inspected. There is a tab for “Prise de Rendez-vous” or make an appointment.
On the letter we received it does not give you any information about where to go to get the inspection or how it is done. It is suggested that you make a reservation/ appointment but does not say it is mandatory. We looked for the first available appointment and it was for January 23rd. So we decided we would go without an appointment the next day and just wait in line.
Well, guess what, it is necessary to have an appointment. And how did we find out? We got up early Dec. 23rd and drove a half hour to sit in line for about 20 minutes, after trying to figure out where in the line we should be. We finally asked for directions and were told that we MUST have an appointment. Nowhere on the website or letter did it say this. There were about 20 cars in line and nothing seemed to be moving. We thought we would try to see if we could sneak in without an appointment.
Upon reaching the first inspection stop it was pointed out to us that we did not have an up-to-date insurance card. So, it being a holiday week we called our insurance company and raced into town to get a new insurance card before the holiday break. So, two hours later we trudged home to see what appointment would be available or if there were alternatives. The attendant also mentioned that we could just come by the next week on Monday at 8 am and take a chance to see if there were any cancelations.
Bright and early Monday morning my husband went to get the inspection and came back as he was turned away and told we MUST have an appointment. We came upon a page on the website that listed “partners” that could also do the inspection. Yeah! … Not so fast… After the few garages within a half hour radius, the best we could do was for an appointment on Jan. 6th. Technically you cannot drive your car in Luxembourg without a valid controle technique. But, what could we do?
My husband made the appointment for me (his French is much better than mine his being French and all) and I take care of the inspection myself. We had an address and where told to come at 8:30 am on the 6th. There were two garages with the same name listed near each other online and I wasn’t sure which one to go to. The garage is for trucks – big industrial trucks – and is located in an industrial park that I had been to when I changed the winter tires.
Our GPS is outdated (area unmapped) so I went on Mapquest to make sure I knew where the two garages were located and hoped to find the right one first. The only problem – there are not road signs on all the roads. Thankfully after making three different wrong turns and 10 minutes of circling the same roundabout I found the one garage, there were not two. It was a huge complex that was at least a block long. I could not find the entrance through all the trucks parked outside. I found a truck stall and saw a mechanic inside. I knocked on the window and asked in my fabulous French where the controle technique was. He told me and I pretty much understood what he said but in fact not really. I drove to the next part of the building that looked like it was the right place half way around the building and stepped into an office where they do truck rentals. They again gave me directions that I fouled up. There were dozens and dozens of trucks parked everywhere. I finally found the small sign that pointed to the controle technique.
There were multiple trucks in line and a car. I parked to make sure that this time I was in fact in the right place. Yes! Again my limited French worked and the man behind the counter took me outside and guided me and my car to a scattered line of trucks to wait my turn. Shortly after, an Italian man in his car drove up and he asked if I knew where the line was or where the truck stall was for the controle technique. I told him that the man had told me to wait here in my car and and pointed out the spot where I believed the inspection would be. He spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where he was supposed to go with his car. I had faith at this point that I would get my turn. Trucks continued to go in and out of the lot. Multiple times myself and the trucks and car behind me had to move for the big rigs coming through.
Finally I was up – only one hour later… As I pulled up to the garage, the door shut and the men left the building for a coffee break for 15 minutes. I was just happy to be next at this point. I was also just hoping that the car would pass inspection. I had heard stories of how difficult it can be to pass and when we had the tires changed they told me I had to put digital sensors on in order to pass. I hoped it wasn’t true.
When it was my turn, three men speaking Luxembourgish asked me to put on the lights, wipers etc. and I did not understand and tried my French again. They were very nice and helpful and probably loved hearing my broken French and watching my flailing hands. If they had been speaking in French I would have understood their banter as they checked the car over for loose brakes, suspension, etc.
At the end of the inspection I was wringing my hands. I told them it was my first time with the controle technique and they just smiled. As they finished I asked, “Ca bien?” “Oui!” they said. Ahhhh. I finally let out my breathe. Now I just had to walk back through the truck/inspection stall to the office, pay, come back through the parking lot and inspection stall and get back out to the car. It is definitely old school here.
As I got in my car and tried finding my way back home – unmapped area – I felt a small victory of making it through the dreaded controle technique after only 2 1/2 hours.