What makes a car unroadworthy?

When did you last get your car checked over? Are you sure your brakes, wipers and lights are all in good working order? And what’s your tyre tread depth?
Cars are complex pieces of machinery, so there’s a lot that can go wrong. Plus, the average vehicle  travels thousands of miles per year, causing wear and tear to components.
If your car fails a roadworthiness check, you could face a hefty fine and other penalties. You might well require specialist convicted driver insurance to get you back safely and legally on the road.
So read on for our guide to what makes a car unroadworthy.


What does the law say?

A roadworthy car is one that’s safe to drive. All important elements are in good condition, so the vehicle is unlikely to present a danger to you or other road users.
Many drivers get an annual MOT carried out on their vehicle, then forget about its condition for the rest of the year unless a noticeable fault develops.
However, there could well be things you’re missing – and as a driver, it’s your responsibility to make sure your vehicle is safe to drive.
The police have the power to stop a vehicle to check that it is roadworthy. If your car is found to be in a dangerous state, you could end up being fined up to £2,500, disqualified from driving, and given three penalty points on your licence.
Those penalties apply per fault – so two tyres with a tread depth of less than 1.6mm, for example, could land you with six points on your licence!
Plus, if your vehicle’s condition causes you to have an accident, you could face additional charges and penalties.
For commercial drivers, the rules are even stricter: you could be pulled over for a DVSA roadside check at any time, and face an unlimited fine if your vehicle is found to be dangerous. You’ll also be given penalty points and a possible ban.
If you’re convicted of using a vehicle in a dangerous condition, you might also struggle to get insurance cover. At Insurance Factory, we specialise in arranging convicted driver insurance for motorists in your situation.

What about selling vehicles?

It’s also a criminal offence to sell an unroadworthy vehicle, unless the buyer is fully aware of the issues. This applies to private sellers as well as motor traders, and you face a hefty fine if you’re convicted.
So if you’re looking to sell your car, best get it checked over by a garage first. If you can’t get it into a safe condition, consider selling it for scrap.

How often should I check my vehicle’s condition?

According to official government guidance, every time you get in your car to drive, you should make sure that the windscreen, windows and mirrors are clean and secure; and all lights and brakes work.
It doesn’t take a minute to walk round your car and run through these tests quickly – and it could keep you and other road users safe.
You should also consult your vehicle manual to find out more about in-depth checks – see below for our quick guide. And don’t forget to stick to a regular service schedule with a trusted garage.
They may be annoying and inconvenient, but such checks could prevent accidents and keep you on the right side of the law. If you are convicted of a motoring offence, you’re likely to require specialist car insurance for convicted drivers to get back behind the wheel, so get in touch with Insurance Factory for a quote.

What parts of my vehicle should I check?

Modern vehicles will alert you to many issues, i.e. if your oil levels are low. So don’t ignore those dashboard lights!
Here is a list of roadside checks that can be carried out by DVSA officials on commercial vehicles;  they’re a good guide for private car owners and drivers too. Alternatively, take a look at the official guidance for drivers on car parts checked at an MOT.
We’ve drawn on these lists to put together our quick guide below. It applies mainly to petrol or diesel vehicles – if you’re an electric car owner, you don’t need to worry about your exhaust!
This list is not comprehensive, so if you have any concerns, get your vehicle checked over by expert mechanics who understand your make and model.


1. Lights

Are your front, rear and indicator lights all in good working order? Are they the right colour, and positioned correctly? Don’t forget to keep them clean, too – give them a thorough wipe after any muddy or dusty journey.

2. Steering and suspension

These are a lot harder for non-experts to check, but you might well spot warning signs that something’s amiss.
With steering issues, you might hear a grinding or squealing noise. Your steering wheel might feel stiff or unresponsive. All signs that you need to get to a garage pronto for expert checks.
With suspension problems, you could feel that your car is riding bumpily, drifting or pulling to one side during turns, or dipping when you brake. You might be able to see that one corner sits lower than the others, too.

3. Wipers, washers, windscreen and mirrors

You need to be able to see the road and traffic ahead!
Make sure your wipers are in good condition, and the rubber is not worn. If you notice a streaky effect when you try to wipe away rain, it’s time to change them – it costs just a few pounds. Top up your screen wash regularly, too.
And make sure your windscreen offers good visibility. Clear it of frost or dirt before you set off on your journey, and get it replaced if it’s chipped or cracked.
Your mirrors must be fixed securely in position. Exterior mirrors must be visible to the driver and give a good view of the road.

4. Fuel system

A fuel leak is an obvious hazard due to the highly flammable nature of petrol and diesel. Plus, if your car fills with carbon monoxide gas while you’re driving, it will make you dizzy and unable to control your vehicle.
So look out for tell-tale signs, such as drops of fuel on the ground where your car is parked. You might also smell fuel in your car while you’re driving, or notice that you’re having to fill up more often than usual.
If any of these issues arise, take your vehicle to a garage right away.
And don’t forget to fasten the fuel cap back correctly after you’ve filled up with petrol or diesel! It’s an easy mistake to make, but one which can cause a fire risk.

5. Exhaust emissions

These will be tested during your MOT, and are hard to check at home.
But take a look at your exhaust pipe for corrosion or cracks. If you spot anything worrying, or hear unusual sounds from your exhaust, then get to a garage. Some places will even carry out free checks to keep you safe.

6. Brakes

As you’d expect, working brakes are an essential component for any roadworthy vehicle! So test yours out before setting off on your journey.
You should also be alert to any signs that trouble is brewing with your brakes. If you hear a squealing sound when you press the brake pedal, it’s likely to be from a worn pad. If your car pulls to one side, it could be a fault with the brake calliper. And if you need to slam the pedal all the way to the floor before your car begins to slow, you could have an issue in your brake system.
Those are just a few of the most common signs you might spot. Regular services will pick up any potential problems, too, keeping you safe and legal on the roads.

7. Vehicle structure

If your car’s a rust bucket, it’s not merely a cosmetic issue!
Rust and corrosion will weaken the body of your car, leaving it prone to further damage. You could end up with sharp, rusty metal on your car – a serious risk to your safety. Plus, if you notice rust on your car’s bodywork, there could well be a problem underneath, too.
The first sign of rust is often bubbles in your paintwork, so get your vehicle checked out if you spot these.

8. Doors

There’s nothing like a satisfying ‘clunk’ of a door to make you feel you’re at home in your car!
If your doors aren’t opening or closing correctly, get them checked over. In an accident, you need to be able to get yourself and your family out of your vehicle to safety fast.
Don’t forget to check the boot and the bonnet: you really don’t want these flying open while you’re driving!

9. Wheels and tyres

Tyres are one of the most common areas of your car to develop problems. It’s hardly surprising – they’re sandwiched between your heavy car and the hard road surface!
So check them regularly for signs of wear, tear, or cuts. Make sure there are no sharp objects like stones or nails caught in the tread.
Check the depth of treads by using either a tyre gauge or the 20p test. The minimum depth is 1.6mm, and you should consider getting your tyres changed well before this.
And pump up your tyres regularly. This both makes it easier to steer your car, and prolongs the lifetime of your tyres.
Faulty tyres are a visible problem, so you could get pulled over by police if they notice an issue. If convicted, you face a fine and points on your licence, and your insurance costs are likely to rise. Insurance Factory are specialists in arranging convicted driver cover, so contact us for a quote.

10. Electrics and battery

Even in petrol and diesel vehicles, electric failures can be alarming: in the worst case scenario, they could cause your engine to cut out. So if you spot warning signs like dim lights or trouble starting your engine, get your car’s electrics checked out.
If you smell a burning or melting odour, that could be a sign that something’s amiss with the wiring, too. Contact a garage straight away: it might be a minor issue, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

11. Seatbelts

These need to be accessible, in good condition, and work well. If any belts in your car fail to release or retract, if the buckle isn’t securing the belt properly, or if you spot any fraying on the webbing, get them fixed or replaced.

12. Registration plate

Your registration plate has got to be clean, secure, and legible. There are regulations around the permitted format for number plates too, so if you get yours changed for any reason – i.e. you buy a personalised version – then make sure it complies.
Check your number plate light is working, too, otherwise you could find yourself pulled over by police at night.


13. Horn

Last but not least, give your horn a quick, light blast from time to time to make sure it’s fully functional.
You should only ever use your horn when your vehicle is moving and you need to warn another road user of danger. You might not realise yours isn’t working until you’re in an emergency situation.
Your horn also needs to be a suitable type for your vehicle, so check this before carrying out any modifications.

Get a quote from Insurance Factory today

Owning a car is a huge responsibility, and it’s easy to fall foul of the laws on roadworthy vehicles.
At Insurance Factory, we won’t judge you if you’ve committed a motoring offence – we’ll just help you find suitable convicted driver insurance to get you back on the roads with as little hassle as possible.
We search a panel of trusted providers to find policies that suit your requirements and your budget.
We’ve got over 20 years’ experience in helping motorists with driving convictions, so contact us today to discuss your situation.
Get a quote for convicted driver insurance today.