In order to legally keep a car on the road in the United Kingdom, it has to have an MOT certificate. This shows that it has passed its MOT test, proving that it is mechanically sound and its exhaust emissions are within the accepted limits. The abbreviation MOT comes from ‘Ministry of Transport’, the then government department which first introduced the test in 1960.
In the Czech Republic, the equivalent of an MOT test is also known by a set of initials – STK. These stand for Stanice technické kontroly / Technical Inspection Station. Whilst in the UK, once a car is three years old, it has to pass an MOT test annually, in the Czech Republic the STK test only has to be undertaken once every two years.
As I wrote in my June 2009 post entitled “Driving on the ‘right’ side of the road”, my RHD Renault Scenic underwent its first STK test in December 2008, as part of the complicated procedure of obtaining a Czech registration document and Czech number plates for it. But as I explained in a subsequent post entitled ‘Check this Czech car out!’, I didn’t successfully achieve this until 25th June 2009.
Knowing that any vehicle has to have an STK test once every two years, I had assumed that the ‘Carly’, as it is affectionately known, would need to be tested again in December 2010. But when I asked my good friend Adrian Blank of Nepomuk, who helped me negotiate the minefield to get the car registered here in the Czech Republic in the first place, he assured me that the date the authorities would use would be two years from the date of registration, meaning that it did not need to be tested again before 25th June 2011.
Theoretically, I could have taken the ‘Carly’ to any STK centre in Prague for its test. But being aware of both my limited Czech and recurrent expression by many Czech people of their belief that you cannot register a RHD car here, I decided that it would be wise to once more work through Adrian, even though it would mean a journey out into the south-western Bohemian countryside. Therefore last Thursday, two days before the second anniversary of the ‘Carly’ becoming Czech, I set off.
Adrian suggested that, rather than travelling via Nepomuk, I should drive directly to the test centre at Horažd’ovice and he would meet me there. Fortunately, this worked out perfectly as we arrived at the centre within thirty seconds of each other. There is no system of booking a test at Horažd’ovice – you just turn up and wait your turn. Adrian discovered that there were two other cars in front of us so, having paid the test fee and handed over the car’s paperwork and keys, we went off and enjoyed coffee and cake together in a nearby outdoor coffee shop.
Upon our return to the test centre, I was pleased to discover that the car had duly passed both its emissions and mechanical tests and my papers had been dated and stamped for a further two years. But, much more importantly, I had two new little hexagonal stickers on my rear number plate – one green for emissions and the other red for the mechanical test.
As in many continental European countries, the way the police can easily check as to whether a car has a current STK test certificate, is to look at these two stickers as illustrated in this photograph. On the outer rim of each sticker, is a hole between ‘5’ & ‘7’ indicating June, the sixth month. Then on the inner part of the sticker, there is a hole in the same box as ‘13’. My STK certificates are now valid until June 2013.
Adrian had also kindly ordered a new sensor for the crankshaft to try and resolve the occasional recent problem of the ‘Carly’ not wanting to start, despite the starter motor turning over. So after the STK test, I drove across to Nepomuk where it only took one of Adrian’s mechanics half an hour to fit before I was able to drive on back home to Prague.