One in four Kiwi cars fail their Warrant, here’s how to avoid being one of them
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Last year marked historically high failure rates for Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspections in New Zealand: a steady increase from 36 per cent back in 2015 to a worrying 41 per cent for 2019.
That’s 1,886,104 vehicles that didn’t make it through their inspections.
For the record, Waikato is the worst: a whopping 47 per cent of vehicles fail their first test. But Northland, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Otago and Southland aren’t much better: they’re all 45 per cent or over.
Of the main centres, Auckland is best at 38 per cent. Christchurch (which is included in the overall Canterbury figures) is next at 40, followed by Wellington at 44.
The unfortunate part is that there’s nothing new to report – it’s just a worsening of the same old problems that pop up year after year: lights, tyres, steering/suspension, brakes and wipers are still the main issues. Most could be easily checked by owners and rectified before the car goes under the WoF spotlight.
Motor Trade Association advocacy and strategy manager Greig Epps reckons people simply aren’t paying attention to their vehicles: “We reached this record high failure rate in the middle of last year and it continued through the rest of 2019.
“It shows that many car owners still rely on the Warrant of Fitness inspection to discover any problems.
Epps says that won’t do when the checks are a year apart.
“Drivers need to be doing more to monitor the safety of their cars. Everyone should check the most common issues… at least every six months.”
Epps also highlights the much lower failure rates for commercial-vehicle Certificate of Fitness (CoF) testing – 17-23 per cent depending on vehicle type.
“Commercial operators are safety rated and passing their inspections is an important component of their rating.
“The different system shows that it’s possible to halve the failure rate if there was some incentive to do so.”
Avoiding a repeat visit to the testing station sounds like a good incentive to us. So here are the five most common reasons for a WoF fail last year – and what to look out for.
Lights (27 per cent)
Perhaps lights top the list because you can’t actually see them when you’re driving. Problems only become obvious when there’s complete failure.
Get a friend to stand outside the car and check that all bulbs are working, daytime running lights are operational and indicators are clicking in the way they’re supposed to.
Especially have a look at the high-stop brake light, which is often one of the first things to go.
Unless you’re very handy, it’s likely that’ll have to get professional help to rectify lighting problems. A pain, but if it has to be done - better before the WoF test, right?
Tyres (15 per cent)
The rubber that keeps you on the road is often neglected. Keeping tyres correctly inflated at all times will go a long way towards preventing problems generally – as well as preserving the health of steering and suspension.
But some specifics you can check to ease the WoF pain: the most obvious one is tread, which must be 1.5mm deep (preferably more). Insert a 20-cent coin into the gap with the number at the bottom: if the “20” can be read in its entirety there’s likely less than 2mm tread remaining.
Also, check the sidewalls for bulges and general damage.
Steering/suspension (14 per cent)
Assuming your tyres are correctly inflated and the wheels aligned, stiff steering or the car pulling to one side may indicate problems with your suspension. Keep an ear out for strange noises as well.
Changing power steering fluid in accordance with your vehicle’s service schedule will also help extend the life of the rack: it’s often subject to high temperatures and debris can contaminate the fluid, especially on older vehicles.
Brakes (13 per cent)
Noises, strange vibration or a change in pedal feel can all indicate brake problems.
Brakes might seem a bit specialised, but when in doubt, a quick visual check of major components including hoses and connections can’t hurt. Also remember that corrosion within 150mm of a brake mounting point will cause a WoF fail.
If you have a manual handbrake, make sure it’s properly adjusted. It’s an easy and inexpensive thing to have fixed at a garage. But so often overlooked until you get the bad news at test-time.
Windows/wipers (10 per cent)
The Critical Vision Area (CVA) of the windscreen has to be clear and damage-free. If there are obvious repairs, it pays to bring the repair certificate that shows the fix conforms to AS/NZ2366 or NZS5470.
Check that your side mirrors are securely attached and the glass undamaged.
And wiper systems must be fully functional, including the washer bottle (so make sure it’s full for the test!).