Car Care: Onus is now on owners
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Three years can sometimes be an awful long time gap between WoF inspections
As most owners now know, the length of time a Warrant of Fitness is issued for light motor vehicles is calculated based on a vehicle’s date of first registration in New Zealand or overseas, and can range from between six months and three years.
Apart from vehicles registered pre-January 1, 2000 which still require an inspection every six months, the new rules now place a greater responsibility on owners to ensure their vehicles are kept up to WoF standards at all times.
Regardless of a vehicle’s age, better build quality or safety features fitted, three years can sometimes be an awful long time gap between WoF inspections. And with service intervals also being pushed out further, it means visits to the workshop are less frequent than they use to be.
Anything to keep the cost of motor vehicle ownership lower is definitely not a bad thing but personal responsibility now means paying a lot more attention when warnings are given out at WoF time or recommendations are being made during routine servicing.
Some private individuals and companies who operate late model vehicles (post-January 1 2000) have more to worry about than others under the new WoF rules. It’s a time-based system only and does not take into account vehicles that may travel well in excess of the average distance of around 14,000km a year.
I’m starting to hear more and more stories from my contacts about late model vehicles coming into their workshops for regular servicing with tyres that have gone well beyond the minimum tread depth and are considered extremely dangerous.
In the past, these sorts of vehicles would have most likely failed their WoF inspections a lot earlier, simply based on tread depth, or received a warning if the depth was legal but very borderline.
Even if owners ignored the warnings given, the tyres would have been automatically rejected six months later under the old system. Under the new rules they can be left to wear to extremely dangerous levels between inspections especially if they have carried a high workload over a short distance.
A high percentage of vehicles that qualify for the extended WoF inspection are fitted with safety features including Anti-Locking Brakes (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which are both designed to detect a loss of steering control and offer assistance to help restore vehicle stability.
These systems make an automatic assumption that other safety critical components such as tyres are in good condition and play their part in helping to restore control of the vehicle as required.
In some cases it could be argued that an older vehicle fitted with a set of good quality tyres inflated correctly, is actually safer than one fitted with ABS and ESC but running on worn out and underinflated tread.
If this week’s column is a reminder that your tyres were borderline at the last WoF or service then go do something about it sooner rather than later. If you don’t know the general condition of the tyres on your vehicle then most tyre stores will offer a complimentary check.
One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of same-side tyre rotation front to rear (where possible) once a year is to check general tyre condition and tread depth, as well as spreading the life of the tyres out as much as possible.
I like the idea of having fewer visits to an authorised WoF outlet, but owners need to realise the safety of both their vehicles and other road users is now very much in their hands.