So, today you have an appointment to do something painful, and because the dentist isn’t available to do a root canal, you are taking your car to Riteve for its annual inspection.
Riteve stands for Revision Tecnico Vehicular. Cars are required to undergo inspection once a year, and taxis twice a year. It can be a nerve-wracking and frustrating process—first of all, because you don’t know what they are going to find, and secondly, because they are giving you hurried instructions in Spanish, which you may or may not understand. Riteve has a website that you can switch to English by clicking on the little US flag in the upper right hand corner of the home page. The instructional videos, however, are not translated, but a lot can be figured out by watching them.
To make an appointment go to the website www.rtv.co.cr/en/ or call 905-788-0000. There are 13 inspection stations in the country plus 4 mobile stations, so you will likely choose the one nearest you. How do you know when to get the inspection done? Check the last digit of your license plate. So if it is 3, then you have to get your appointment sometime during the month of March, a 6 means June, and so on.
You can take anyone you like with you to the inspection, keeping in mind that any small children should be in appropriate car seats. If you are new to the country and do not speak Spanish, you might want to pay a local that you trust to accompany you. Some take their mechanic.
When you arrive, park your vehicle and go in the office. They will ask to see identification (cedula or passport), driver’s license, and car title, and you will pay for the inspection. The current rates are posted there, but the price is running around $22 for a car.
From there you will pull your vehicle into one of 6 lines and enter the inspection stations. There you will move forward through about 6 inspections stations, each with it’s own objective. The first stop is a basic exterior and interior inspection where they will check your headlights, turn signals, brake lights, windshield wipers, horn, tire tread and seat belts.
Further stops are over sensors and rollers in the floor and check alignment, emissions, brakes, suspension, and the underside of your vehicle. Technicians at each stop give instructions to turn the wheel, apply the brakes, turn on and off lights, and pull forward.
Sometimes they are a little bit hard to understand—especially the guy in the pit talking over a crackly microphone, which is why you might want to take a local with you. I do every year, I take my secretary with me then treat her to lunch. It is well worth it!! And I understand Spanish, not great but I get by.
After leaving the inspection line, you park and go into a small room where they will give you a printout of your inspection results. The column on far right indicates if a problem is minor, major, or dangerous. There is a box at the bottom left of the page that says if you passed or not. If you did, in the lower right hand corner is a sticker that you tear off and put on the inside of your windshield high up on the passenger’s side.
If you didn’t pass, you have 30 days to make the repair, make a new appointment, and return to the same station for re-inspection. The cost will be 50% of the original cost.
Nearly 50% of vehicles in Costa Rica fail Riteve inspections. Gas emissions and brake failures continue to be the main causes.
Two years ago I purchased a brand new car, I mean the damn thing was just months old when I had to do inspection. I FAILED!!! When I pushed to find out why the technician said I had too much oil in the engine. What does this have to do with Safety?? So, I took it to a local mechanic just down the road, he literally removed 2 cups of oil from the engine. 2 CUPS!! I went back to the Riteve station and had to go thru the whole process again. The ass, yes I called him an ass, saw me coming thru again and made some comment I did not understand. Luckily the 2 cups I had removed was enough to pass the test. I think this photo below is of the guy that failed me.
Riteve officials report that at least one driver daily tries to cheat. They have a useless hand brake, so they push the pedal while pulling the “brake” so the brake light shows. They gouge out tire tread to make it seem deeper. They have lights held in by tape. They disconnect a motor injector to alter the emissions. They borrow tires to pass the test and then remount their bald ones afterwards. In Costa Rica, everything that is makeshift is called a “MacGyver.” Jennifer Hidalgo, press officer at Riteve, says inspectors are trained to detect the alterations. “What people don’t understand is that their “macgyver” will not work anymore with us and will end up costing them more.”
There are mechanics that have set up shop near the Riteve inspections stations to help you with the quick fix and save you a second trip for re-inspection. Be sure to communicate thoroughly about what is needed and the cost.
Any inspection causes anxiety, and Riteve is no exception. Add to that the frustration that they failed you on something small that you could have fixed right there, like too dark a tint on the window. They don’t tell you anything as you are going along. They don’t encourage interaction, although some technicians are friendlier than others but most act like they want to be someplace else.