Nine tips to keep your van in working order during the coronavirus pandemic

  • You don’t need an MOT right now but your van does need to be roadworthy
  • Simple things you can check to help keep it working right
  • Spot trouble before it happens to avoid unscheduled downtime

Van MOT checklist and advice

You might not need to renew your MOT for the next six months, but you should still keep your van in good order – perhaps even more so during the coronavirus pandemic, as it may not be as easy as usual to get the van fixed if something goes wrong.

These nine tips from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles should help you check the most important stuff, spotting a problem before it becomes a disaster is probably more important than ever right now.

On top of which, this will also be a useful list to check once the MOT exemption ends and your van needs to go back in for a test to remain road legal.

NIne things to check on your van to help keep it running right:

1) Tyres

Most tyres have tread indicators to help you check you’ve still got the legally required 1.6mm of tread depth. If you can’t find these, don’t worry - you can use the edge of a 20p coin to check that your tyres are safe. You’ll need to replace any tyres with less than 1.6mm of tread depth before driving anywhere.

Always try to match tyres across the axle, and replace in pairs if both are getting worn.

2) Brakes

The easiest way to test your brakes is to apply them at a low speed in a safe environment – so in a quiet low speed road rather than on a motorway.

A consistent squealing noise means your brake pads are getting low, while any judder through the steering wheel could be a sign of warped brake discs. If the van pulls to the left or right when braking that’s also a problem.

If the brake pedal or handbrake move a long way before the brakes start to work it could be an early sign of a hydraulic fault. Also check the ABS warning light switches off after you start the car.

3) Lights

One of the most common MOT failure points, many lighting issues can be fixed with a simple bulb replacement.

Make sure you check both front and rear light clusters (you might need a mate to help you check the brake lights) and ensure lights are correctly aligned and not dazzling other motorists at night by pointing them at a garage door or wall in the dark and checking the beam doesn’t shine too high.

Instructions on how to replace bulbs can be found in the handbook, or failing that you’ll often find instructions online (read the comments to check that people have managed to follow such instructions successfully, though).

4) Steering

You can usually detect steering faults by sound and feel. Although a little whining noise is normal when turning power steering, more serious squeals or judders are a sign of potential failure.

A quiet road can be used to make sure the van isn’t pulling to the left or road and that the steering responds to your inputs – any ‘dead zones’ or other strange feeling responses need investigating.

5) Number plates

Another MOT failure point that’s often overlooked. Make sure your number plate is clean and can be clearly read – and that any bulbs that light it up are working properly. It goes without saying that the plate must be to the correct legal standards and not damaged in any way.

6) Battery

Located under the bonnet, the battery should be inspected for signs of leaks and corrosion as well as loose cables. Weak headlights or a van that struggles to start are signs the battery could need replacing soon.

7) Windscreen, wipers and screen wash.

If the wipers smear the screen this could be a sign they need replacing – but they might just need a clean. The windscreen itself should be examined for stone chips in your line of sight, an MOT failure point as they are regarded as an obstruction.

Chips can often be repaired, but you’ll need to do this before they develop into cracks – a cracked screen will have to be replaced, as it’s considered a safety issue, and could attract the attention of the police.

Make sure your screen wash is topped up. If it’s empty, this is an instant MOT fail.

8) Oil, water and other fluids

A regular check under the bonnet on all the vital fluids is important to keep your vehicle in tip top condition. Brake fluid, engine coolant, engine oil and power steering fluid should all be within their maximum and minimum limits.

You can watch for potential leaks by checking for puddles of fluids under the van (though in hot weather this can be condensation from the air-conditioning, if fitted).

9) Load area and trailer

As a van driver, your cargo is your livelihood. You are probably already keeping a close check on door locks to make sure these are in full working order, but you should also keep an eye on any interior fixings – whether that’s simple load lashing points or added racking.

If you use a trailer, then inspect the tow bar fitting and ensure any electrical connections are working correctly. Check light bulbs and mechanical features such as the brakes on a regular basis, too, and look out for signs of wear and corrosion.

Also read:

>> Do I still need to get an MOT for my van during the COVID-19 pandemic?

>> Coronavirus – van warranty and servicing advice

>> Coronavirus (COVID-19) – advice for van and pickup drivers