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A Look Inside:Living in San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica and the Central Highlands

Ah, Riteve… How Do I Love Thee…?

Riteve PASSED!


Let’s NOT count the ways…The list is short, based on personal experience. You’ve got to applaud Costa Rica’s efforts at keeping the roads safe though, and that’s the bottom line. Riteve is the Costa Rican equivalent of our yearly auto inspections in the States. However, unlike in the United States, automobile owners cannot simply go into any repair shop they see that offers inspection services… Here, you must bring your car to the Riteve station that is nearest to you, and subject your vehicle (and yourself) to a battery of experiments and examinations which determine whether or not your vehicle leaves with a shiny new sticker on your windshield OR, if you must leave with a printout that screams out all of the “graves” which need to be rectified prior to passing the test. For our Hyundai Galloper’s previous two inspections, we sent our local mechanic in with the vehicle to get it done. It was a service that he offered and I figured “What the heck- why not”? My Spanish was evolving fairly well in the “sink or swim” methodology, but I figured why not leave something like this to the “professionals” 😉 . This year, I decided to take the old girl in myself and see how the system really works.

Almost any person you talk to here in Costa Rica has a semi-expectant dread of their yearly Riteve inspection. The standards are very high here to pass inspection and the Riteve staff is quick to cite infractions. I was thoroughly impressed by the series of tests and the level of scrutiny that vehicles undergo for their yearly inspections. I wanted to take pictures of the process so I could share them, but the use of cell phones for any reason is FORBIDDEN.

There are what seems to be 4 “levels” of checks as you drive through the inspection line:

#1: All lights, turn signals, the horn, seat belts, windshield wipers, tint of your windows, etc.

#2:  Appeared to be testing the alignment, balance, and overall quality of our tires. They also make you turn you’re wheel back and forth at this station to see if you are able to make a turn easily. (If this is not accurate, please feel free to correct me with a comment- just taking a guess on this one).

#3: You roll your vehicle onto a machine that tests the strength of all of your individual brakes. It rolls your front tires first. They ask you to slowly apply pressure to your brakes until your foot is to the floor. Then you scoot forward so they can check the rear brakes and the emergency brake.

#4: Last station before you’re at the proverbial “end of the line”. You pull your vehicle over an underground pit where they look at the guts of your car from the best vantage point that exists. The attendants also lift the hood and check all of your vital organs and fluid levels.

Now you wait nervously for the verdict.

Our Galloper failed the 1st time through in Alajuela due to four “graves” that had to be remedied. We took care of three of the necessary repairs/adjustments and had to rely on a valid protest for the 4th. They wanted me to remove the adhesive tint from our windshield… The problem is that there IS no adhesive tint on our windshield. It’s the original windshield from the factory. Once I demonstrated that I couldn’t physically remove the tint that has been part of our Galloper’s genetics since “birth” AND I decided to peel off the adhesive tint on the other four windows for good measure, they decided that my vehicle had just barely passed. The staff also sent me away with homework that I had to promise to take care of in the very near future (minor adjustment on my right brakes and a new set of windshield wipers).

So… Although I will probably share in the customary dread that most Ticos share regarding upcoming Riteve inspections, I have zero complaints about the system. I actually appreciate that they are so thorough and unforgiving. It ensures that all the drivers on these wild roads at least need to have their vehicles up to snuff when they’re speeding around like maniacs. Costa Rica has taken responsibility for the safety of it’s drivers in one of the most basic ways it’s able to, and it may save your life one day. Kudos to Riteve!!! <cringe>

At least the Galloper is cool until May 2014 😉


Kim Rubens-Quiros

From NY and San Jose, we are a mixed gringa/tico couple with a dream of sharing our wonderful area of San Ramon with you! Pura vida!


  • Steven Freidmutter 11 years ago

    Frank and Anna, Check out one of my blog posts about Riteve … with a 25 year old car … challenging. Hard to describe.

    • Frank 11 years ago

      I bet. I’ll check it out right now. Thanks, Steven!!!


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