From Sunday May 20th drivers of vehicles more than four years old face tough new compulsory checks as the French government rolls out a new contrôle technique – the compulsory test of roadworthiness taken every two years that is similar to the MOT in the UK.
Essentially, the new contrôle technique is much stricter than the old one, and almost certainly more expensive, with the tests expected to cost between €10 and €20 more on average than the current price which ranges from €65 to €90.
The test will also likely take around 45 minutes rather than the current 30 minutes depending on the state and model of the vehicle.
Testers will now have to check the vehicles on 134 different points rather than 124 previously and the new test will introduce "critical faults" which "constitute a direct and immediate danger for road safety or that have a serious impact on the environment" (more on this later).
There will be nine different categories meaning there will be a total of a possible 610 different faults compared to 410 previously. For example seat belts, which were tested as one point previously, will now be looked at on four different points.
There are 140 potentially minor faults that could be flagged up. But while drivers should make the necessary repairs they are not obliged to bring the car back for a new test and can continue driving as normal.
However if a vehicle is found to have one of the 341 "major" faults then this will require a follow-up visit to an official test centre within two months in order for the car to be given the all-clear.
Vehicles with these "major" faults can be driven during this period but the repairs must obviously be carried out before the retest.
Up until now there were two possible results of the test: favorable – meaning the car is essentially given the green light and défavorable which meant repairs had to be carried out and a new test taken within two months.
But under the new system a third and far more drastic test result has been introduced.
The driver of any vehicle that is flagged up for having a "critical fault" – of which there are a possible 129 – such as defective breaks, faulty seatbelts, gearbox problems, will basically have until midnight that day to get the car to a garage.
A sticker including the date of the test will be placed on the car's windscreen that will alert police to the fact the car has failed the test and cannot be driven beyond that date.
Drivers risk a €135 fine and having the vehicle's registration certificate (carte grise) withdrawn if they fail to book an appointment with a garage to fix the problem and carry on driving the vehicle. The car must be taken in for a retest within two months.
Drivers should note that the retests, or "contre-visites" as they are called in French, which had often been free in the past, will likely come with a fee depending on how long the test takes.
Figures of between €25 and €30 have been suggested although in some reports drivers have been warned they may have to pay the full price once again.
Drivers of older cars have been panicking that their vehicles will automatically fail the new tests and they will have to trade them in for a new and more expensive car.
But those in the car industry say the new tests will simply be tough on those vehicles that have have not been well-maintained rather than simply old cars.
"If a car, even an old one, is well maintained, then there won't be a problem," Philippe Blondel from car repair company Norauto told BFM TV.
Bernard Bourrier from the National Council of Automobile professionals said only 2 to 3 percent of cars were likely to have "critical faults".
"We are talking about a really critical situation such as bald tyres or a big crack in the windscreen that hampers visibility," he told France Info. "So there's no reason to panic".
But motorists in France appear to be doing just that, with many trying to get their vehicle through the contrôle technique before the new rules come into place.
In April the number of vehicles being checked at the official centres rose by 60 percent and staff have spoken of how there are already several vehicles waiting to be checked when they turn up at work in the morning.
Those who have had the vehicles put through the côntrole technique before May 20th won't be subject to the new system until their car is due for a new test in two years' time.
But vehicles who fail their test before May 20th and are forced to retake a côntrole technique will be subject to the stricter testing that will keep dangerous vehicles off the road.
Automobile associations in France have been generally favourable to the new testing regime, believing it will encourage motorists to better maintain their cars and carry out pretest checks with garages to avoid the vehicle failing the côntrole technique and being forced off the road.
The changes to the car tests have been brought in because of an EU directive, adopted in 2014, that was designed to reduce the number of deaths on the roads by 2020, a part of which sought to take potentially dangerous unroadworthy vehicles out of service.
So this time it is Brussels rather than the government in Paris that has brought about the change as the EU attempts to harmonise the checks on vehicles.
A survey in 2016 revealed that a third of French drivers forget to get their vehicle's contrôle technique done on time.
Other important information about the contrôle technique
- The first côntrole technique must be carried out in the 6 months before the car is four years old
- Tests must be carried out by official certiified test centres of which there are thousands around the country. CLICK HERE to find one near you.
- If you are selling a car over four years old then then it must have a côntrole technique certificate no more than 6 months old
- No reminders are sent out to tell you that a test is due, so it's up to you to remember
- Tests must be carried out every two years