Keeping your car roadworthy

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Keeping your car roadworthy is an important part of vehicle ownership. It's also essential if your car is going to pass its road-worthiness test during registration renewali. Pre-empt problems that could render your car unsafe to drive with our quick tips.

To test that your car is roadworthy it must be taken to an authorised vehicle tester for safety checksiii. A roadworthy test will ensure that your car is safe for normal road useii.

Regular maintenance checks can reduce the likelihood of future expensive repair costs. Source: iii.

Some common problems picked up in roadworthy tests include:

Although it's important to take your vehicle to a mechanic for difficult maintenance, you can pre-empt some of the common problems by doing regular checks to discover which parts require maintenancevi. The following are tests that you can do yourself.

Check your vehicle's fluids: Your vehicle needs to be regularly checked for fluid leaks. Leaks could see levels drop in your coolant, engine oil, transmission or brake fluid. Among other problems, a drop in fluid below minimum levels could damage your engine, cause a breakdown or make your vehicle unsafe to drivevii. Significant drops in fluid levels are also indicators to larger problems, like a leaking radiator or a problem with the brakesvii,viii.

Check your tyres: Worn or damaged tyres can greatly reduce your vehicle's grip on the road, making it less safe to drivevi. Your tyres must be in good condition (including the sidewalls), and have adequate tread and air pressureix. This will make your car safe to drive and allow it to pass the roadworthiness testvi.

Roadworthy tests must be conducted by an authorised vehicle tester, operating from a specified garage or service station. Source: iv

Check your lights and horn: One of the easiest steps is to check that all lights are workingvi. This is essential for everyday driving as well as when taking your vehicle for a roadworthy testv. The most effective way is get a friend to help check if they are workingx. Don't forget to check all your lights - headlights, front and rear parking lights, turn indicators (blinkers), brake lights, reversing lights and number plate lights.

Windscreen, wipers and washers: Make sure your windscreen is free of damage including chips, cracks, scratches and discolouration. The area in front of the driver is particularly important. If there is damage consider consulting a windscreen expert to see if repairs are possible or if the screen needs to be replaced. You should also make sure windscreen wipers and washers should also be in good working orderxi.

Check the interior: Checking the interior of your car for unsecured or damaged items is essential in preventing potential injury. Loose items can dislodge while driving or in an accident and cause serious injuriesvi.

Roadworthy tests

Roadworthy test regulations differ between states and territoriesxii. You may require a roadworthy test or safety check for:

Before taking your vehicle for a roadworthy test, make sure you are aware of the specific regulations that are relevant in your state or territory.

Following these relatively simple checks can help you avoid failing a roadworthy test, prolong the life of your cariii and improve safety.

i Road and Maritime Services 2013, Is your car road worthy?, viewed 5 November 2013,

ii VicRoads 2013, Certificate of Roadworthiness, viewed 5 November 2013,

iii Keys 2 Drive 2013, Maintenance, viewed 5 November 2013,

iv Monash University Accident Research Centre 2000, The effect of vehicle roadworthiness on crash incidence and severity, viewed 5 November 2013,

v National Transport Commission 1999, Australian Vehicle Standards Rules 1999, Australian Government, viewed 5 November 2013,

vi Drive 2008, ‘Why regular servicing is a must’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May, viewed 5 November 2013,

vii Department of Infrastructure, Energy & Resources, Tasmania Government 2013, Roadworthiness, viewed 6 September 2013,

viii Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure, South Australia Government 2013, Defective vehicles in South Australia, viewed 5 November 2013,

ix Department of Infrastructure and Transport 2013, Third Edition Australian Design Rules, Australian Government, viewed 16 September 2013,

x VicRoads 2013, About the Drive Test, viewed 6 November 2013,

xi Road and Maritime Services 2013, Road Users' Handbook, viewed 20 November 2013,

xii Premier of Victoria 2013, 'Roadworthy overhaul to reduce red tape', Premier of Victoria, 29 July, viewed 6 November 2013,