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Is Your Car Roadworthy?

Author: Sherryn de Vos
Date: 2018-10-09
Driving a roadworthy car is a legal requirement in South Africa yet 80% of cars surveyed are unroadworthy, what about your car? Make sure you check this list.

It is a legal requirement that every car on South African roads must be in a roadworthy condition. All buses, taxis and trucks must undergo a roadworthy test annually and the owners will not be able to renew their licences without the presentation of a valid roadworthy certificate.

When cars change ownership you also need to present a roadworthy certificate before the car can be registered in your name. Usually, the dealer selling you the car will take care of this on your behalf, but if it is a private deal you will have to make the arrangements yourself.

Roadworthiness is a pre-requisite of taking out car insurance. If you read your car insurance policy document you will find that your insurance company clearly states that they are not obliged to meet any of your insurance claims should it be found that your car was not roadworthy at the time of an accident and that the un-roadworthiness was the cause of the accident.

Driving a car that is not roadworthy is seen by insurance companies as being reckless and they do not insure recklessness.

During a test carried out by the National Vehicle Testing Association on more than 1 000 cars in Kwa Zulu and the Western Cape it was found that up the 80% of the cars on South African roads were not in a roadworthy condition.

Here are a few guidelines to follow to check if your car is roadworthy.

Vehicle Identification

The vehicle is identified by the engine and chassis numbers. Remember that if any of these numbers differ from the vehicle identification on the vehicle registration certificate, the vehicle will have to be sent for a Police Clearance.  

Electrical System

The electrical system, which is the biggest reason why vehicles fail their roadworthy test and include head and dip lights, parking and number plate lights, indicators, stop and tail lights, hooter, windscreen wipers, battery, generator, alternator and wiring. Here you will need to ensure you have no missing battery clamps, which are readily obtainable and easy to fit, as well as check you have no loose or exposed wiring.

Headlights must be in focus in the right direction. Cracked lenses can also be unsafe if the gap allows moisture to collect in the lamp reflector and cause rust and other damage in this area. With regards to lights, the law states that all lamps fitted to a motor vehicle must be undamaged, properly secured and capable of being lighted at all times.

Door And Handles

All doors on your vehicle should be able to open and close easily, from the inside and the outside, and they should be firmly attached at the hinges. Inner door panels should also be in a good condition and not have any sharp edges that could cause injury.  

Windows And Window Winders

Ensure the glass used for your windows is safety glass and clearly identifiable as safety glass. Also, check that all windows can open and close easily and that all window winders are fitted on your vehicle.

Safety Belts

Seat belts must fasten and release with ease, and make sure the belt is not torn, frayed or damaged in any way. Ensure your belt has the SABS approval mark or another acceptable national or international approval mark.  


Assess whether your seats in your vehicle are firmly secured and the bolts or screws used for this purpose are also secured. Padding material and springs must also not be exposed.  

Fuel Tank And Cap

Ensure you have a fuel cap and that it works effectively, whether it is fitted with a cable release mechanism or a key-operated lock or an ordinary screw-on-cap.  

The Chassis And Under-Carriage Rust

This is a high priority safety item as any weakness in the structure of the chassis is a danger to the whole vehicle. If there is any rust in this area it is not roadworthy and the best method of repair is to affix a metal plate by means of welding.  

Body Rust

One needs to see if there are any corroded sharp edges that can cause injury to pedestrians or cyclists, or damage to other vehicles. Common spots for rust are normally in the cavities of the body which is hollow and allows for the accumulation of moisture.


Inspect your wheels to see if the tread is at least 1mm deep on the whole tyre and even your spare wheel should conform to this requirement. Causes of tread-wear on a tyre include incorrect tyre pressure, wheels not properly aligned, worn shock absorbers and also wheel bearing play.  


Check the brakes of your car with extreme diligence. Simply changing the front disc pads is dangerous if no attention is given to the rear. Ensure that the brake disc is not badly grooved or concaved. The best method is to skim the brake disc facings before replacing the disc pads. 

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