The TÜV: Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside No. 16/2020

Sep 25, 2020
  • In 1926, the Bayerischer Dampfkessel-Revisionsverein (Bavarian boiler audit association) awarded the first certification stamp for official general inspections of motor vehicles
  • Check for road safety and environmental protection
  • “33 Extras”: Exhibits of motoring culture at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Stuttgart. 160 vehicles and a total of 1,500 exhibits are presented in the varied permanent exhibition of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The “33 Extras” are a particular highlight: they can bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life using details that are often surprising. The Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside newsletter series draws attention to the “33 Extras” and focuses on their background stories. Today’s edition is all about the TÜV (German Technical Inspection Authorities).

16/33: The TÜV

1 – 94 years ago: Even before today’s German Technical Inspection Authorities (TÜV) were created in 1938, their predecessor organisations carried out general inspections of motor vehicles. In Baden, for example, cars that were to be used in the grand duchy were already being checked from 1906. From 1926, the Bayerischer Dampfkessel-Revisionsverein (Bavarian boiler audit association) took over official inspections in Bavaria with its newly formed “Maschinentechnische Beratungs- und Revisionsstelle für Kraftfahrzeuge” (mechanical consultation and audit office for motor vehicles) and awarded certification stamps in registration documents for the first time. The HU (official general inspection) badge on the rear number plate, on the other hand, was only introduced in West Germany in 1961, with the corresponding certification seal following on number plates in East Germany in 1963.

2 – No longer a monopoly: Other technical inspection offices and officially recognised monitoring organisations such as DEKRA (formed from the Deutscher Kraftfahrzeug-Überwachungs-Verein or German motor vehicle monitoring association), GTÜ (Gesellschaft für Technische Überwachung or society for technical monitoring) or KÜS (Kraftfahrzeug-Überwachungsorganisation freiberuflicher Kfz-Sachverständiger or motor vehicle monitoring organisation for freelance automotive experts) have also been carrying out official general inspections (HU) for a long time. Nevertheless, the former monopolist has stubbornly remained in common parlance in Germany when it comes to general inspections as people simply say “my car need its TÜV” or “the TÜV is due”.

3 – Statistics: Sounds surprising, but it’s true: the older cars get, the better they will eventually do in fault statistics. At least, this is the case if the car has reached classic status and has been taken good care of by its owner. After all, an owner wants to keep it functional and on the road, and will deal with all the necessary maintenance and repair work. By the way, numerous classics from Mercedes-Benz can be found in the classic cars registration statistics at the very top.

4 – General inspection: With a “visual, functional and effectiveness inspection of certain components not requiring disassembly”, the test engineers assess whether the vehicle meets the German regulations authorizing the use of vehicles for road traffic and can be operated in terms of road safety and environmental protection. For example, they look at the chassis, brakes and lights, as well as the pollutant emission control system. If everything is in order, the vehicle receives a new inspection badge on the rear number plate, and the driver is given a written test report.

5 – Sealed: The valid HU inspection badge, alongside the corresponding entry in the registration documents, has been the sought-after result of the general inspection since 1961. It is affixed to the rear number plate. Prior to this – after its introduction in Bavaria in 1926 – the inspector stamped the registration document belonging to the vehicle. Such an historic stamp of the “Amtliche Prüfstelle für den Verkehr mit Kraftfahrzeugen” (official inspection office for transportation with motor vehicles) is shown in the exhibit of the “33 Extras” series at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

6 – Regular cycle: In Germany, a private passenger car has to be presented for its first general inspection 36 months after its initial registration. After this, there is a two-year cycle. There are different terms for different vehicles – a taxi or rental car has to have a general inspection every year, for example.

7 – Drive right up: In the event of a serious or dangerous fault, the vehicle must be subjected to a re-examination within a month. If the vehicle owner misses this deadline, then they have to book in for a full general inspection. Should the vehicle no longer be roadworthy, the inspection badge is removed and the vehicle can no longer be operated on public roads.

8 – Legally regulated: To start with, the general inspection was voluntary. It was not long before a mandatory inspection was discussed, however. In 1929, the largest German car club  – the ADAC  – held a vote of its members and 90 per cent were against a mandatory inspection. Yet from 1 December 1951, it was introduced in West Germany for all motor vehicles and trailers requiring registration. Vehicles have had to undergo regular inspections ever since. In the former East Germany, the technical inspection of motor vehicles became mandatory in 1963. If the inspection was passed, a coloured badge was added to the rear number plate (from 1980, the badge was replaced with a sticker). The technical inspections were carried out by motor vehicle workshops, “Verkehrssicherheitsaktiven” (active participants in road safety) in companies as well as by the police. They also offered information on when the next inspection was due – no later than with the issue of a new generation of certification seal.

9 – A question of nerves: The older the vehicle gets and the closer the deadline for the next general inspection looms, the greater the worry of some vehicle owners: Will the car pass its test without any issues? Or will it need expensive repairs? And if these aren’t worth it any more, does it make economic sense to keep the car?

10 – Internationality: The general inspection exists in a similar format in France, Austria, Switzerland and the USA, for example. There, too, vehicles have to undergo a regular technical inspection.

Stamp and badge: Since 1926, there has been an official stamp in the registration documents for passing the general inspection: one historic stamp is one of the “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. However, it was not until 1961 that the HU badge was added to the rear number plate in West Germany.
Stamp and badge: Since 1926, there has been an official stamp in the registration documents for passing the general inspection: one historic stamp is one of the “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. However, it was not until 1961 that the HU badge was added to the rear number plate in West Germany.
Trucks also have to pass the general inspection. Mercedes-Benz offers the corresponding service. Advertisement dating from 2013.
It is convenient to have the regular, official general inspection in a car workshop. A look at the former Mercedes-Benz company-owned sales and service outlet in Regensburg at 122 Landshuter Straße. Photo from the 1950s.