In many countries around the world, “vehicle inspection” is a mandatory procedure to check if road-worthy vehicles conform to national and international regulations concerning fitness of the vehicle and whether it has been fitted with safety mechanisms to avoid accidents and hazards. In recent years, protocol demands that emission tests are also done to check the level of gases and pollutants. In some countries, vehicle inspections are done annually, in some every two years and in a few every five to seven years. The annual inspection is mostly for commercial and public transport; private vehicles have so far been out of the purview of annual inspections. However, several national motor vehicle agencies and associations are mooting the idea of annual inspects for private cars as well to bring down the number of road accidents involving faulty car maintenance.
Some government agencies insist on a ‘proof of inspection’ before issuing or renewing a license plate or a vehicle license. A vehicle that has passed the inspection or fitness test is required to display a label to that effect on the windshield bearing the date of inspection. Vehicles not possessing a windshield like a motorcycle or a trailer should display the fitness label on the body of the vehicle.
In spite of all these safety regulations, there still remains some controversy over the periodic inspection and whether it is really a proven and cost-effective solution to reduce road accidents and improve road safety.
Internationally, a fitness testing is often referred to as ‘Warrant of Fitness’. Every new car that rolls off a factory floor is subject to rigorous testing and safety procedure before it is certified road-worthy. New vehicles are subject to further inspection while issuing licenses and fitness certificates that remain valid for a period of three to five years. As the vehicle gets older, fitness testing is required more often or “periodically” which can range from six months to a year.
A Warrant of Fitness indicates that at the time of testing, a car or vehicle meets the required safety standards during inspection. It is therefore essential that the vehicle is kept in ‘warrantable’ condition at all times to meet and pass the inspection and safety regulations. The length of time a fitness warrant is valid for depends on, among other factors, the date of first registration of the car.
A fitness inspection is a general safety standards check for cars and vehicles. Around the world various aspects are checked according the prescribed guidelines set out in the inspection manual. Some of these include:
• Brake operation
• Condition of tires and depth of treads
• Fuel system
• Headlamps and lights
• Overall structural condition i.e. no rust or residue in interior and exterior
• Safety belts
• Steering wheel
• Windscreen glazing
• Windscreen wipers