Reality check! The four biggest roadworthy myths busted

June 26, 2018
Posted by: admin

If you’ve ever purchased or registered a vehicle in Victoria, then you know what a roadworthy certificate is. Or do you?

We find that people often think they know what a roadworthy certificate is, but the reality is something completely different. 

Time for a reality check! We decided to put on our myth-buster’s hat and address the four biggest roadworthy myths we know – are they fact or fiction?


Myth: A roadworthy certificate means that my car is perfect

A certificate of roadworthiness certifies that a vehicle is safe to be on the road. It is only required in certain circumstances – when a car is sold, if it has to be re-registered, or sometimes to clear a vehicle defect.

A roadworthy inspection does not check if the car is mechanically reliable or assess the general condition of the vehicle. It also doesn’t check non-safety related components of a vehicle (e.g. the air-conditioning, electric windows, or other accessories like bluetooth).

A roadworthy certificate does not mean that the vehicle is in top condition without any wear or deterioration. It simply means that the vehicle is certified as being safe to drive.

Example: a vehicle can exhibit oil leaks, staining, and seepage and still be considered roadworthy. An oil leak is only considered un-roadworthy if the oil drips onto the ground after a certain period of time, say the length of time that one would wait at traffic lights. This is considered unsafe because if oil drips onto the road, it could cause another vehicle to skid and perhaps cause an accident.

If you want to find out about the mechanical condition, reliability, or full functionality of a vehicle then you need to arrange for a separate vehicle inspection. We recommend RACV or Redbook.

Myth: A roadworthy inspection is basically a mechanical inspection

A roadworthy inspection only assesses specific safety components to make sure that they are in a fit condition for safe road use. These components include:

  • wheels and tyres
  • steering, suspension, and braking systems
  • seats and seatbelts
  • lights and reflectors
  • windscreen and windows, including front wipers and washers
  • vehicle structure
  • other safety related items on the body, chassis, or engine

A mechanical inspection, however, will usually check the overall condition and functionality of the vehicle. It is usually more extensive, in that it will check all vehicle components rather than simply the safety-related components.

Example: A mechanical inspection will usually inspect the functionality of the air conditioning system whilst a roadworthy inspection will not. A roadworthy inspection may certify that oil seepage is not un-roadworthy whilst a mechanical inspection may recommend repairs to address the oil seepage.

Finally, a roadworthy inspection has specific stipulations and guidelines set out by VicRoads. A roadworthy inspection is, thus, completed by a specially trained and certified inspector. In contrast, there are no universal standards for mechanical inspections (apart from manufacturer specifications). Any mechanic has the ability to assess a vehicle and quote for repairs.

Myth: A roadworthy certificate is a guarantee that my car will remain in a roadworthy condition

A roadworthy certificate is valid for 30 days for the purposes of registering or transferring the registration of a vehicle. However, this does not mean that the vehicle will remain in a roadworthy condition for 30 days or beyond.

A roadworthy certificate does not guarantee that any components checked during the roadworthy inspection will continue to function after the inspection.

This is particularly relevant to used vehicles where components are not brand new and have already experienced wear and tear. Any component can meet roadworthy standards during the inspection, but through normal use can deteriorate to an un-roadworthy condition after the inspection is complete.

Example: The brake pads can be assessed as roadworthy during the inspection, but after a month of use could deteriorate to an un-roadworthy condition. A brake light could function during the roadworthy test but then the globe could blow one week later. A well-used rear diff bush could be certified as roadworthy, but after driving on some dirt roads it could split and become un-roadworthy. None of these scenarios mean that the original roadworthy certificate was invalid.

Myth: If I have an issue with my vehicle it means that the roadworthy inspector was dodgy

If you still think that this myth is true, then you might need to go back and read the other three myth-busters again!

A roadworthy inspection only examines specific components of the vehicle and it does not guarantee that any of these components will continue to function after the inspection. Additionally, roadworthy standards are different to the standards that an average mechanic might have before recommending that you pay for him (or her) to complete repairs on your car.

Nonetheless, VicRoads sets out the procedure that you must follow if you have concerns about the roadworthy certificate issued to you. You can find all the information here.

If you do have concerns, we recommend that you get in touch with the dealer and/or roadworthy inspector. If you’ve had the roadworthy completed recently, then the inspector may offer to re-assess the vehicle.

However, if you’ve had the car for three months and you’ve already travelled 3,000kms, then you’re probably better off asking for a good quote rather than asking for a re-inspect.

Did you know? VicRoads requires that roadworthy inspectors keep photos of the various components of the vehicles that they assess. This allows inspectors (and VicRoads if needed) to compare the condition of the component during the original inspection to any other photos taken at a later date.

The process for issuing roadworthy certificates is set out by VicRoads and, as such, is highly regulated. VicRoads have a clear set of guidelines in terms of roadworthy standards and the process that must be adhered to. All roadworthy inspectors are trained and certified and must fulfil particular documentary requirements in order to retain their licence.

If you have any questions about the roadworthy process, roadworthy certificates, or anything else, ask away in the comments. Otherwise VicRoads also has information about roadworthy inspections. Here is a good place to start.


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