Germany’s TÜV inspection is one of the toughest vehicle safety inspections in the world, and my 260,000 mile diesel, manual Chrysler Voyager Minivan has been getting its ass kicked by it since 2020. It was then that I went through the inspection three times before finally making it through; with that under my belt, I was certain the vehicle would pass all subsequent TÜV inspections for years to come. I was wrong. Just today, the van failed; here’s why.
My biggest worry with Germany’s TÜV inspection is that technicians sometimes don’t know the ins and outs of all the cars they’re dealing with. That may seem like someone venting their frustrations, but it’s not — it’s acknowledged as a major problem by the “Oldtimer” car community here in Germany. Take two of the reasons why my 1994 Chrysler Voyager failed its inspection back in 2020 (see below): The rear brakes were considered too weak and the steering column wasn’t locking properly.
Neither of these were actual issues. The steering lock was just behaving in a way that the inspector didn’t understand (the inspector wasn’t used to there being a separate “off” and “lock” position), and the rear brakes were in perfect shape. I later called The Chrysler Voyager King of Germany, Tizian, who told me that all of his Voyagers tended to fail TÜV due to the inspectors’ scorecards containing overly optimistic target values for rear braking force.
Luckily, this time around, my inspector didn’t fail the van for the weak brakes or an ignition he wasn’t used to or anything like that, though he did find some things.
First, the inspector claims the headlights are too dim; he’s not wrong that they’re dim, but Chrysler headlights from this era just were dim. My van’s bulbs are new, the wiring has been replaced, and the light looks about as bright as what I’m used to in 1990s-era Chrysler products. I know he’s got target light output values that my van needs to hit, but any inspector used to dealing with 1990s Chryslers would say “Yeah, these suck, but that’s just how these things are.”
Actually, looking at that photo, maybe he’s got a point. Those really, really suck.
Second, my inspector discovered grease leaking from an outer CV boot that I had replaced. He’s totally right on this one, though I do think he’s being a bit picky. The boot is new, and it’s not cracked; it appears that the clamp is a little loose, and a bit of grease has oozed out. Could this affect braking performance theoretically? If it somehow gets to the brake pad or disk. I don’t expect that it will; still, this should be an easy fix — just tighten the clamp, and boom: done.
The problem is that the headlight fix will not be easy. In fact, I’m really worried about it. Euro-spec headlights for a Chrysler Voyager (they’re mounted differently than U.S.-spec headlights, which weren’t required to have a leveling feature to keep the lights down when the vehicle’s rear was loaded, plus the beam pattern is a bit different) are basically unobtainium. Here’s a single New Old Stock for $330:
Used ones are often listed at over $100, and they’re probably in no better shape than the ones in my vehicle:
So what’s the solution? I don’t know yet. I’ve purchased some better bulbs than the crappy gas station ones I’d snagged for 5 Euros, and I have a lens restoration kit, which I hope will allow more light through:
But I don’t think these two are going to be enough, and I don’t know what other options I have. Looking in my engine bay, it appears based on the paired relays near each headlight that someone already installed a headlight booster kit (which, if I understand it correctly, allows for a more direct path from the battery to each bulb to maximize brightness). Here’s how a booster kit looks:
And here’s the setup in my car (yeah, I know, it’s a rat’s nest. The previous owner was messy with wiring):
So if the wiring is okay, the bulb is good, and I can’t afford new headlight housings, then what’s the solution? I really don’t know yet, though the aforementioned Chrysler Voyager King of Germany suggested I send my headlight housings out to be restored. There are services like “Reflektorklinik.de” in Germany that will re-coat the reflectors in the headlight housings for about $60 a pop, though I’d have to carefully remove the lenses using heat; check it out:
Here’s a look at my Voyager’s reflector situation; you can see how some of the reflective coating has faded away, and black plastic is showing through:
Who knows; maybe the new bulbs and the lens cleaning kit will get me over the hump. I sure hope so. Tighten the clamp, squeeze out a few more lumens from those headlights, and I should be good.
In all honestly, this inspection could have been so much worse. A few months ago, as my dad was driving the van, the thing just shut off. After a bit of diagnosis, I learned that the problem was that the engine computer wasn’t sending a steady signal to the fuel shutoff solenoid valve, meaning the valve would close and shut the engine off. The output from the computer appeared to be eight volts, which seemed low to me, so I just used it to trigger a relay, which sent 12 volts to the solenoid to allow fuel flow. This didn’t work either — at least, not under heavy acceleration, as the signal seemed to cycle the relay and shut off the fuel intermittently. During low pedal applications, it worked fine.
I fixed this by bypassing the engine computer, so that — instead of the engine computer triggering the relay to send 12 volts to the fuel valve — the ignition switch did the triggering. I actually used the underhood OBD connector (see above) — which feeds 12 volts to the OBD reader when the ignition is on — as the source for the relay trigger (I also wired in a cutoff safety switch in the cabin, hence the two relays below). Now the van works great (though the computer can no longer shut the car off to protect itself — hence the safety switch), though even the inspector mentioned that he wasn’t thrilled to see this wiring situation:
Still, he gave me a pass, his CV boot assessment is technically correct, and he’s not wrong that my headlights are dim, so overall, this time around wasn’t too bad. Though getting these lights bright enough may be a bigger job than I’d like.