Sunday 28 February 2010


I hold cars in even lower esteem than computers in the "if they're working they're great but if they're not I don't want to know" stakes.

This is because I'm a wee bit interested in computers but not even the most vanishingly small bit interested in cars. I'm as interested in cars as I am in electric sockets. By which I mean "I'm happy my TV works because it's plugged into an electric socket but beyond that, I just so don't want to know". Translate that to cars and it's "I'm happy we can go to Sta Cruz every second Friday after the boat's in ..."  You get the picture.

This is the car ...

... and this is an electric socket

In fact, I love electric sockets 145 times more than I love my car (make that 697 times) because I don't have to take my electric sockets to be periodically inspected.

We're talking about what we Brits call the MOT Test. It stands for Ministry of Transport (although probably now rebranded "Directorate of Life Long Motive Solutions"). In Portuguese, it's the infamous inspecção.

The good thing about inspecções in Portugal is they're only every 2 years (every year in the UK) but the bad news on Flores is there isn't a full time garage that does them. Instead, the inspectores visit the island three times a year for three intensive bouts of inspecções of the vehicles due to be inspecçionados.

Imagine my lack of enthusiasm, therefore, to discover from the delphic (to put it at its highest, as we lawyers are fond of saying) notice put through the letter box a while back that our car was due to be inspecçionado in the current bout. 

Having somewhat buried my head in the sand about this, I steeled myself to pull out the last test certificate the car received two years ago. Three of the faults which would involve failure at subsequent inspection if not remedied had been dealt with. But one remained for the simple reason I hadn't an effing clue what it was. Medios baixados or something.

Quick visit to a neighbour revealed it was that the headlights were aligned too high. As I've no idea how headlights are correctly aligned, I approached this by adjusting them to the lowest possible alignment on the basis that, if that would give rise to a fault to be remedied, then at least it would be a different fault.

Feeling reasonably confident, I set off for the inspecção. I had an appointment for 5.30pm but "do the math" as one of my Canadian born neighbours put it - a third of the island's vehicles had to be inspected in the course of 5 days so you're talking about roughly 100 vehicles a day. Little wonder the marcações (appointments) were running a tad em atras (f***ing late).

At around 8.45pm, I was at last waved into the inspection hall. It couldn't have been any more threatening if it had had Arbeit Macht Frei written above the door. The young man wore a white coat and his "kerb-side manner" left a little to be desired: I felt about as invaded as if it was my rectum that was about to be examined, rather than my car.

Having noted the hunted look on earlier clients' faces exiting clutching red "FAIL" notices (a number of them with much newer and posher motors than mine), my bowels lurched when the inspector wheeled up the headlight alignment testing machine. A piece of kit, all mirrors and reflectors looking like the bastard offspring of a solar power station and a microscope, I felt sure it would unmask my crude attempt at inspecção result rigging. As with all white coated torturers, however, the young man gave nothing away as he noted the result on his clip-board (actually, it was a sort of palm pilot thing beaming the results directly to the computer).

When he was all done, the chap said "You may place your car outside and then enter my office" in a "Ve have vays of making you talk" sort of accent. I was half expectng a bunch of goons in leather jackets to exact dire revenge for the headlight malarky so imagine my relief when I see Mr White Coat pulling a green "PASS" notice from the computer!
Three minor blemishes to be sorted prior to next inspecção - No mention of headlights (!) but a reversing light and a registration plate light bulb is out. That's no problem but the third one defies my limited powers of Portuguese comprehension:-

860 - Livrete - Divergencia de dimensões dos pneumaticos, sendo equivalentes

Something about a little book and a discrepancy in the dimensions of my tires being equivalent????

If there are any Portuguese speakers out there who can tell me what this is, then I'd be very grateful. I don't want to have to be thinking about it on 21 March 2012. In exchange, if anyone needs their headlights realigned, then I'm your man.


Marisa said...

we all need a small dose of patience to deal with inspecções, as for the tires i suppose they mean they are not original or as the original ones. I guess...

Kathie said...

I emailed your inquiry re "860 - Livrete - Divergencia de dimensões dos pneumaticos, sendo equivalentes" to a knowledgable amigo on Terceira, then after translating his reply into English had my husband translate it into non-car-lover English so I could understand and try to explain it.

Apparently "livrete" means your ownership documents for the vehicle -- what we call the "title" -- so presumably 860 refers to your car's title number (consistent with your estimate of the number of vehicles on Flores).

Further, while your front two tires apparently match one another, and the back two tires match one another, the front pair may not match the back pair. According to my husband, it's not essential (or even necessarily desirable) for all four to match.

BTW, wouldn't it be more efficient and accomodating to the public if Flores vehicle owners could get dedicated inspection appointment times, so they don't have to wait in a long line? Oh wait, now I remember how slow the lines are in Azorean post offices. To quote Emily Litella, "Never mind."

Kathie said...

Neil and Carol, Was my amigo's interpretation of "860 - Livrete - Divergencia de dimensões dos pneumaticos, sendo equivalentes" correct? I'd like to email back to him to let him know.

Hope it's not too rainy and windy there. We saw on the news first re the floods in Madeira with the huge loss of life, then the landslide near Nordeste, São Miguel, Azores, where a driver and student were killed in a schoolbus landslide accident.

Neil King said...

Kathie - thank you for taking the trouble to e-mail your amigo Terceirense.

S/he is right in as much that the problem is not that the tires on the car are unsafe but rather that they're not the ones entered on its livrete (or Certificado de Matricula as they're called nowadays).

So it's just a paperwork problem and I've since discovered you can have your CdM updated with the current tires.

However, for that I need a declaration from the makers of the car that the current tires are safe to be used with it and I've no idea how you get hold of one of these, given there is no SEAT dealer on Flores and there's no equivalent procedure in the UK.

Last few weeks the coldest period on record here by all accounts but the real serious stuff passed to the east of us.

Kathie said...

Que pesadelo!

Is a SEAT a make or model of car? I realize that, e.g., there are different models of the same makes in different countries, as I have a cousin on São Jorge who has an auto dealership, so we were discussing this very topic at dinner there last fall. Unfortunately my cousin's English isn't strong, so I'll check with my terceirense amigo again re to whom you should write to resolve this situation.

Marisa said...

The easiest way to solve this problem is replacing the tires with the right dimensions, if you don't want to buy a new ones, try to find, at a car repair office, someone that can borrow(lengths?) you some tires that match the rigth dimensions just to pass at the inspecção...It's very complicated to solve the document,although it's not impossible.

Kathie said...

Ah, Marisa, "o jeito"!!! We read about that in a crônica, er, crónica, in Portuguese class.

blogas said...

Hello. I'm the 'amigo terceirense', Fernando. I'm not an expert, but I think that the only things that matter here is the right size of the tires (aproved by the car builder and the obligation of being the same brand on pairs (front/back) or all identical.
The number 860 might be a code for the inspection irregularities found (tires, in this case).
At the limit, Marisas's sugestion of borrowing tires for the act of inspection is a good "portuguese" way to solve the problem!
Best wishes.

Marisa said...

drastic measures to people who dont´have anything to do but annoying the others, it´s not the correct way, it´s a seems that there´s no safety problems with the actual tires.

Marisa said...

And Kathie, the right word, wich many languages would like to have it, is "desenrascanço" ahahah.

Kathie said...

Marisa, sometimes the expression is "o jeitinho." I've seen it in occasional European writings, although I suspect both usages may be more common in Brazil.

V. t. d.
1. Livrar de embaraço(s), de dificuldade(s).
2. Marinh. Desembaraçar (cabo, vela, adriça, bandeira, etc., que esteja enrascado).
V. p.
3. Livrar-se de embaraço(s), de dificuldade(s).
(Novo Dicíonário Aurélio Século XXI)

marisa said...

O "jeitinho" in this case is givenby the person who lends the tires, Neil and Carol do the desenrascanço..

Kathie said...

Marisa, here's the opening of the essay we read in class (3rd year Portuguese):

"Mau jeito nacional"

O brasileiro é esperto, caloroso e criativo. Mais flexível que os anglo-saxões, sabe resolver, com bom senso, situações esclerosadamente burocráticas. Com talento para a oratória, consegue matar a avó toda vez que falta ao serviço sem enfrentar problema. Também, por uma boa causa, vende a sogra por um precinho de liquidação. Colocadas no currículo, tais afirmações já foram verdadeiras e marotamente elogiosas. Mas, o jeitinho brasileiro envelheceu mal. Ex-artigo de exportação, com status de símbolo de identidade nacional, como o samba e o futebol, o jeitinho está com a credibilidade quase tão arranhada quanto a dos ex-ministros do governo Collor... (etc.)

(de Virgínia Leite, "Veja", 29 de Abril de 1992)

Neil King said...

Fernando - thank you for your help. But I think the problem I have lies in your words "approved by the builder of the car". How do I get this approval?

Is this not a problem lots of people have at the inspeccao in Portugal? How do you deal with it? Ignore it? Or is this a new thing?

Kathie - SEAT is a brand - marca - (like Ford, GM etc.)

Kathie & Marisa - calmem se! about the jeito/desenrascanço debate! May I propose the compromise that I would be desenrascanço (like when I went to Corvo on the Sta Iria?) if a jeitinho lent me tires to pass my next inspeccao?

Neil King said...

... oh, and Marisa, the tea arrived today. Muito obrigado but I will write to you separately ;-)

Kathie said...

Calmes-te, Neil ;-)

dar um jeito/jeitinho =
desenrascar com esperteza
(to uncomplicate or untangle with craftiness)

The verb "desenrascar" and the colloquial phrase "dar um jeito" (or "dar um jeitinho") are more or less synonymous. If you switch your tires in order for the vehicle to pass inspection, then you "dá um jeito" (or "um jeitinho"). The person who lends you the tires is simply your accomplice, because s/he's not the one trying to "game the system."

Marisa said...

I´m pretty calm, and i believe Kathie is too. I understood what she is saying, maybe i wasn´t clear enough, that´s ok.
Hope you like the tea, or you can make an offer to your vizinhas (neighbors?).

Marisa said...

Hello again, this post is going to set a new record on comments, i talked with my husband who had the same problem a couple years ago.Here is the thing: you have two choices,besides the fact that you can still circulate with that warning (advertência) until next inspection. First: if the tires are in good conditions and you don't want to change them you must go to the delegation of Direcção de Viação e Trânsito in Flores and require for the alteration on the Livrete. Second you buy new tires with the rigth dimension.If you need new tires say something, my husband has a client who practices very good prices, i mean real good..

Kathie said...

Will there be a follow-up post? Or do you not want "them" to know your "jeitinho"? LOL!