Drivers urged to give vans a health check to maintain safety

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has urged van drivers who have been handed an MOT extension to give their vans a health check to keep them road legal and safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

In response to the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has said that any MOTs for vans and passenger vehicles – including those that are due their first ever MOT – which expired on or after March 30 have been extended by six months. This means certificates are still valid, but it doesn’t guarantee that the vehicle is in roadworthy condition.

The government’s MOT extension policy is reliant on owners and fleet managers keeping vehicles in roadworthy condition. Failure to do so could result in a £2,500 fine, three points on your licence or a driving ban.

With delivery drivers considered key workers in the COVID-19 crisis as they help transport supplies to those in need, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has compiled a list of tips to ensure vans are kept safe and legal on the road:

Tyres: Most tyres have tread indicators that you can find to check you’re within the legal 1.6mm depth. If not, then you can use a 20p coin to check that your tyres are safe. Should they be short of tread, you’ll need a new set before driving anywhere.

Brakes: The easiest way to test your brakes is to apply them at a low speed in a safe environment. You’re checking for any judder through the steering wheel, which could be a sign of warped brake discs. Excessive travel on both foot and handbrake could be an early sign of a hydraulic fault. Also check the ABS warning light switches off after you start the car.

Lights: Ranked as one of the biggest reasons for MOT failure, many lighting issues can be fixed with a simple bulb replacement. Make sure you check front and rear bulbs and ensure lights are aligned by pointing them at a garage door or wall at night.

Steering: You can test this by sound and feel. Although a little whining sound is normal on power steering, any more serious squeals or judders are a sign of potential failure. Make sure the van isn’t pulling to the left and that the steering responds to your inputs – any ‘dead zone’ needs investigating.

Number plates: Make sure it’s clean and can be clearly read – and that any bulbs are working properly.

Battery: Lift the bonnet and inspect the battery for any leaking or corrosion as well as loose cables. Weak headlights or a struggling starter motor are signs the battery could need replacing soon.

Windscreen: Make sure wipers are not smearing across the screen; if they are it could be a sign they need replacing or need to be cleaned. The screen itself also needs to be examined for stone chips in your line of sight as these can cause obstructions. It’s always best to get a screen repaired before a chip develops into a bigger crack that needs a full, more expensive, replacement.

Fluids and oils: Under the bonnet run a check on all the vital oils and fluids that will keep your vehicle in tip top condition. Brake fluid, engine coolant, engine oil, power steering fluid and water level should all be within their maximum and minimum limits. Check under your van for any puddles caused by leaks.

Screen wash: Ensure screen wash is topped up. If it’s empty, it’s an instant MOT fail.

Load bay and trailer: Check door locks are in full working order as well as any interior fixings. If you use a trailer, inspect the tow bar fitting and ensure any electrical connections are working correctly.

David Hanna, head of service and parts at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Extending the MOT is great news for many drivers who would be unable to book in for a test but it does put the onus on owners and fleet managers to ensure the vans on the road remain roadworthy.”

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Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a freelance journalist and former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK's biggest selling truck magazine. He writes for both The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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