Mandatory MOT testing for vehicle owners will recommence from Saturday 1 August.
In March, vehicle owners were granted a six-month exemption to enable frontline workers to get to work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, as restrictions are eased and more people return to the road, the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership is reminding drivers of the need to ensure that their vehicle is safe.
Drivers with an MOT due date before 1 August will still receive a 6-month exemption from testing.
Sarah English, from the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership (MRSP), said: “Many of us may not have used our cars very often recently. Some may not have driven at all. It’s worth remembering that your car or motorcycle may need more than just a wash before you take it onto the road. Even if your M.O.T test was extended during lockdown you’re still expected to ensure that your car is in a roadworthy and legal condition before driving.”
In 2019 there were 30 collisions in Merseyside in which the condition of the vehicle was highlighted by police as a contributory factor.
There are some simple vehicle checks that need to be carried out before any journey.
Tyres should be checked regularly. Inspect them thoroughly for cuts, bulges and any other damage, particularly if the tyres are old. It’s also worth checking the wheel rims as damage here can lead to tyres deflating.
The legal minimum tread depth on a car is 1.6mm and you can check it by using a depth gauge or by using a 20p coin.
Simply put a 20p coin into the tyre groove and see if the outer band of the coin is still visible.
If it isn’t, your tyre is above the legal limit, and if it is, your tyre needs replacing. Motorcycle tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1mm. In both cases tread depth is measured across the central ¾ of the tyre.
It’s worth remembering that worn tyres may not perform at their best even if their tread is above 1.6mm. Best practice is to change them if you are in any doubt.
Need a replacement tyre? Don’t be tempted to buy a second hand, part-worn one. It’s a false economy as many part worn tyres have as little as 2mm of tread compared to 8mm on a brand new one. Also, you may not know if the tyre has been previously repaired and to what standard.
Tyre pressures are likely to have reduced while your car or motorcycle has been parked or stored so remember to check the pressures as well, preferably when cold. You will usually find them on a sticker inside the driver’s door or fuel cap or in the vehicle’s handbook. For more information about tyre safety visit www.tyresafe.org/ and if in any doubt pop along to your local garage or tyre retailer.
Checking your engine oil levels is quick and easy with many new cars now having a self-checking system in place.
If you have to do it the traditional way then make sure your engine is switched off and cool and your vehicle is not parked on a slope.
You can check you have the right amount of oil by using the dipstick or on some motorcycles a sight glass in the side of the engine casing.
Remember to keep the bike vertical when checking this by getting someone to sit on the bike while you check the oil.
Bear in mind that overfilling will also cause damage, so top up slowly and check the level regularly.
Checking your car or bike’s lights are in good working order is essential. When it comes to checking them, you should make sure that your headlights, indicators, reversing lights, fog light and brake lights all work properly.
This check is simple, but you may find it easier to ask someone to help you. Alternatively, you could park near a window or garage door and use the reflection to see if your lights are fully operational.
Coolant, screen wash and wipers
Running out of engine coolant can be as bad as running out of oil.
This can usually be checked visually by looking at the side of the coolant reservoir.
If the level is low or your temperature gauge shows the engine is running hotter than usual you may need to check the levels, but ideally this should be done by a professional as the systems are under pressure and can be very hot.
If you do have to top up, remember to carefully follow the information in your car or bike manual.
Windscreen wipers are made from rubber which may have perished and hardened during the hot weather and through lack of use during ‘lockdown’. Wipers that leave smears on your windscreen need changing.
Filling up the screen wash is quick and easy and it could save your life. A clean windscreen is essential, particularly with changing weather conditions such as rain and bright sunshine.
Good vision of the road ahead will enable you to identify a hazard and react to it safely and appropriately. Don’t ignore that reminder displayed on your car’s dashboard.
Sarah English, from the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership, said: “Even if your vehicle has a valid MOT certificate, it may not be roadworthy. This is particularly relevant if it has been parked and unused for some time during the recent ‘lockdown’. You can carry out some simple maintenance yourself or take it to a local garage.
“Many garages are now fully open but they may still be working under restrictions. Don’t wait until something goes wrong before you get your car or motorcycle checked. You don’t want to be left stranded at the side of the road, or worse involved in a collision. Remember that the NHS are still dealing with COVID19 so we need to avoid placing unnecessary burden upon them at this, or any time.”
Many people may not have driven at all during the recent COVID19 ‘lockdown’ whilst others may have only driven for essential shopping. As restrictions are gradually being lifted, traffic volumes have increased as more of us get back on the road to return to work and for social purposes.
Some people may be feeling nervous about getting back behind the wheel and may want some advice or support. It may be worth considering taking a refresher driving lesson to brush up on your skills and regain some confidence.
Alternatively just take a short, familiar trip during daylight hours and outside of rush hour to ease yourself back into driving and familiarise yourself with your car again.
It may also help to check your route online beforehand – just in case anything has changed since you last made that journey. Some roads have been closed to traffic during lockdown and we have seen the introduction of ‘pop-up’ cycle lanes that are prohibited to motorised vehicles.
The Merseyside Road Safety Partnership has been offering driving assessments for people aged 60+ since March 2016. Since the scheme was launched, over 2,500 people have registered for a driving assessment and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Rhian Hughes, Chair of Merseyside Road Safety Officer Group, said: “Over the years, there have been some significant changes in road traffic law, road layouts, traffic signs and vehicle design. The natural ageing process can affect individuals in different ways, including eye sight, mobility and reflexes. A Drive Safely for Longer Assessment provides an opportunity for drivers to update their knowledge, improve their hazard awareness and their driving skills.
A simple driving assessment could be all it takes to give reassurance, increase confidence and ultimately help to keep people driving safer for longer.”
Whilst the scheme is temporarily on hold due to COVID-19 it is hoped that it will soon be back up and running. People are still able to register their interest online by visiting www.drivesafelyforlonger.co.uk and they will be contacted as soon as is possible.