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10 key checks to keep vans road legal

The six-month MOT extension puts an extra onus on fleets and drivers to ensure vehicles are roadworthy in line with duty of care compliance and to help avoid fines.

Lights, tyres and number plates all need checking regularly

Although the MOT extenstion for cars, vans and motorcyles came into effect on 30 March 2020, the Government has stressed that vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition and drivers can be prosecuted if driving unsafe vehicles; penalties currently stand at a £2,500 fine, three points on your licence or a driving ban.

And Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has warned that while certificates are still valid, this doesn’t guarantee the vehicle is in roadworthy condition.

It’s compiled a list of tips to ensure vans are kept safe and legal on the road – which should also be used for laid-up vehicles on the return to work.

Tyres: Most tyres have tread indicators which 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 both 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 both 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 or road and that the steering responds to your inputs – any “dead zone” needs investigating.

Number plates: One of the more unusual fails but no less important to check. 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 your wipers are not smearing across the screen, this could be a sign they need replacing or that they just 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: One of the cheaper fixes is ensuring screen wash is topped up. If it’s empty, it’s an instant fail.

Load bay and trailer: For van drivers, cargo is their livelihood so check door locks are in full working order as well as any interior fixings. If you use a trailer, then inspect the tow bar fitting and ensure any electrical connections are working correctly.

All Volkswagen’s Van Centres and authorised repairers across the UK are open during the crisis for essential maintenance for key workers.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news.

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