Law changes may come and go, but the basic rules of vehicle safety remain the same
From July 1, the way vehicles are registered and warranted in New Zealand changed, meaning greater responsibility for owners.
Vehicles first registered anywhere in the world on or after January 1, 2000, automatically moved to an annual lifetime Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspection.
For new vehicles, once the initial WoF inspection has been carried out, they do not require a further inspection until the third anniversary of their first registration.
According to the NZ Transport Agency's website, the reason for the change is due to dramatic improvements in vehicle safety technology since the six-months WoF inspections were introduced in the 1930s.
In addition, analysis of crash data shows that vehicle defects now play a small role in road crashes.
The NZTA said the changes would save motorists time and money while maintaining road safety, which remains their priority. Definitely no arguments on the improvements in safety of our vehicle fleet since the year 2000, but pushing the WoF inspection out a further six months places more responsibility on owners to ensure their vehicles are mechanically sound and retain those WoF standards longer.
While vehicles may be safer than ever before, the aim should always be to take the necessary steps to help avoid an accident rather than hope we aren't injured if or when one occurs.
Tyres are an example: without good tread on the road (especially in the wet months), all vehicles are potentially death traps, regardless of their on-board safety features.
So you shouldn't allow tyre condition and tread levels to fall well below legal limits until the next 12-month WoF inspection.
In addition, ask yourself this question; in the past, how often have you been rejected for a WoF on a mechanical issue that you were fully aware of?
The majority of motorists would find a WoF rejection unwelcome news that highlighted faults that they were totally unaware of.
To help reduce customer inconvenience, many garages now try to combine routine servicing and the WoF inspection together which means potentially a 12-month gap without carrying out some simple and basic mechanical checks.
Hopefully some workshops and proactive WoF outlets will seize the opportunity to make contact with their customers who own vehicles which now qualify for the 12-month warrant inspection, offering them a six-month roadworthiness while-you-wait check for around half the price of the annual WoF inspection?
The differences in the cost of a WoF check and the inconsistency of how the inspection is actually carried out have long been debated both from within and outside the industry.
While all authorised facilities, plus the individual inspectors, are required to meet set government standards, prices and inspection techniques can and do fluctuate considerably.
From my own research, the cost, whether it be done at a standalone testing station or a workshop, currently averages out to $50.
When quizzed on a breakdown of those charges, many will argue it's the actual administration costs as much as the inspector's time that makes up a large part of the owner's final invoice.
So if that cost was removed, surely a mechanical inspection similar to a WoF check could be carried out at a lesser cost and within a much shorter time frame, wouldn't you think? Why wouldn't you pay around $30 for a quick check of items such as the underbody, tyres (condition and pressure), fluid levels, lights, suspension, steering and seatbelts if it was offered in between WoF inspections?
If your vehicle qualifies for a 12-month inspection, then ask your current WoF provider if they plan to offer some sort of intermediate check. If they say no then find somebody else who will.
At the end of the day it's peace of mind for you and also helps retain customer contact and work flow for the facility concerned. You can be assured, the authorities will start looking a lot closer at a vehicle's overall roadworthiness and not just the WoF sticker at random roadside checkpoints in the future.