Drivers in Germany struggle to adapt cars
June 5, 2007
No tinted windows.
No undercarriage lights.
No booming radio.
This isn’t “Pimp my Ride.”
Ever since new vehicle regulations for U.S. forces in Europe were published to conform to European laws, Manfred Demme has been bombarded with complaints.
An area maintenance manager and technical assistant for Army vehicle registration in western Germany, Demme said he still receives two or three complaints a week.
The changes — which took effect in early December — affect tinted windows, exhaust systems, spoilers, rims — common modifications that car buffs put hard-earned money toward. With no prior notice given, hundreds of drivers have been affected.
“Before you’re going to put a regulation in place, you should let people know,” Demme said of the changes. “But it never happened. … I didn’t see anything.”
Stationed out of Wiesbaden, Germany, Demme said the 17 inspection stations that Army forces in Germany use handle 10,000 cars per year, and he tries to deal with each unhappy customer with care, explaining the policy changes and telling people where to look to see for themselves.
“Many people just see the money they’re going to have to spend to fix their car,” Demme said. “I understand that people have spent a lot of money. … There’s always going to be problems when there’s money involved.”
Because there was no grandfathering in of vehicles, any car not in accordance with policy now fails inspection and can be cited by military authorities. Demme mentioned that exceptions can be made for loud exhaust systems that are factory-installed, but the vehicle owner has to prove that nothing has been modified. Also, inspection stations are not allowed to issue exceptions — drivers must apply for them through vehicle registration offices.
Loud exhaust systems and tinted windows are the two most common issues Demme deals with. Since Dec. 4, cars and motorcycles can not be louder than 90 decibels, and cars are no longer are allowed to have window tinting on front windows or windshields.
“Every car that has these after-market parts … we’re going to fail them … and you still see a lot of them on the road,” Demme said, adding that he hears from angry customers who have shipped vehicles since the regulation has been in effect.
“They should announce [the policies] in the States before vehicles ship. I know different States have different laws, but here it’s the same in Europe. When people ship their cars to Germany, and they have to change this and this and this, they say, ‘I wouldn’t have shipped my car if I’d known that already.’”
For more information, see European service-specific regulations. For soldiers: Regulation 190-1; sailors: Instruction 11240.6S; airmen: Instruction 31-202. Also, soldiers can call Demme at DSN 334-2637.
What regulations say:
Window tinting: After-market transparent or tinted material attached to a windshield or front side windows directly to the left and right of the driver on the passenger side window is prohibited.
Spoilers: Must meet the manufacturer’s installation specifications. Homemade spoilers or spoilers that do not meet the manufacturer’s specifications will be grounds for rejection during inspection.
Body or suspension parts: Vehicle owners must provide certified documentation showing that the alterations do not affect the vehicle’s operation and safety characteristics.
Lighting: Installing the following is prohibited: Any color lights behind the grill for the purpose of lighting up the grill unless equipped by the manufacturer; lights in the wheel wells, under fenders, under the body or behind tires; any lighting around the windshield or any other window that does not enhance safety. Also, vehicles may not have more than two original or additional stoplights in the rear window; decorative lighting around the license plate; and parking, marking, and fog lights of colors other than white or amber as provided by the manufacturer.
Rims and tires: Spinning rims, or “spinners,” are prohibited. Vehicles with tires extending beyond the outermost portion of the fender well when viewed from above are not authorized.
Exhausts: Motorcycles with after-market, straight-through exhaust pipes and motorcycles with original mufflers that have the sound absorber removed will be rejected. Car and motorcycle exhausts not manufacturer- or factory-installed that are suspected of exceeding 90 decibels must be checked with a decibel meter. If it exceeds certain authorized levels, it will be rejected.
Excessive noise: Stereos can’t be played so loudly they can be heard more than 10 feet away with the windows up.