Defect notices

According to VicRoads, approximately 48,000 defect notices or 'canaries' for unroadworthy vehicles are processed each year throughout Victoria.

If you ever find yourself issued with a defect notice, there's no point getting angry about it – get your vehicle fixed.

The Road Safety (Traffic) Regulations state a person must not drive a vehicle in an unsafe condition; this is why you've been given a canary. If your vehicle is unsafe, then you are not only endangering your own life, but that of your passengers and other road users.

Your duty when issued with a defect notice

The defect notice will specify what the unroadworthy items are and the period of time you have to get them fixed, as well as what must be done before the vehicle may be used on a highway.

The time given to fix your vehicle will vary depending on the extent of the faults. For minor faults, you might be given seven days, but any major faults could mean the vehicle must be fixed within 24 hours. The police can order particularly bad vehicles to be towed away on the spot.

You should try to have your vehicle repaired within the specified time and date. After this period, the vehicle can only be driven on the road to get it to a licensed tester for a roadworthy certificate or to a VicRoads office to clear the defect notice, but the car must have been fixed first.

If you don't have the car repaired within the time specified on the canary, you'll have to have it towed to a repairer. Keep in mind the implications if you do drive your vehicle after this time. For a start, disregarding a notice of unroadworthiness is worth three demerit points against your licence and you could also be fined up to $1000. If you drive an unroadworthy vehicle and have an accident, you might not be covered by your insurance policy.

Clearing your vehicle

Once your vehicle has been repaired, you may need to take it to a VicRoads licensed vehicle tester for a roadworthy certificate, and then present this certificate at a VicRoads office to have the defect notice cleared. In some cases where only a minor fault has been found, you might only be required to take your vehicle to a police station to show that it has been fixed.

When a canary is issued, one copy goes to VicRoads and if there is no record of the defect notice being cleared within 28 days of its issue, your registration will be suspended. If you don't live near a VicRoads office, your defect notice might specify a police station at which you can take your vehicle to be cleared.

If the vehicle has been modified you are required to present an engineer's report; a technical assessment issued by a qualified engineer to certify that the modified vehicle has been inspected and complies with the standards for registration.

Once your vehicle has been cleared, the yellow unroadworthy label will be removed. Don't take it off yourself – it must be removed by an authorised person.

Regular vehicle servicing

Remember, regular servicing can help keep your car roadworthy, and if you're planning to use the road during holidays, make sure your car is in a safe condition before your journey. Have it serviced by a VACC Repairer.