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, get your vehicle fixed.

The Road Safety Act 1986 provides that a police offer or authorised person may, in accordance with the regulations, on discovering a vehicle that does not comply with this Act or the regulations:

  • issue a warning or a vehicle defect notice, or
  • impose conditions on the use of the vehicle, or
  • prohibit the use of the vehicle.

If your vehicle is unsafe, 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 rectify the defects, as well as what must be done before the vehicle may be used on a road.

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 vehicle must have been fixed first.

If you don't have your vehicle repaired within the specified time on the defect notice, you will need to have it towed to a repairer. Keep in mind the implications if you do drive your vehicle after this time. The penalty for disregarding a defect note is three demerit points against your licence and you could also be fined 10 penalty units amounting to $1,554.50. If you drive an unroadworthy vehicle and have an accident, you may not be covered by your insurance policy.

Clearing a defect notice on 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 may only be required to take your vehicle to a police station to show that it has been fixed.

When a defect notice 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 reside near a VicRoads office, your defect notice may 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 defect notice will be removed from your vehicle by an authorised person. As the unauthorised removal or defacement of a defective vehicle label is an offence, do not remove or tamper with the vehicle defect notice yourself.

Regular vehicle servicing

Remember, regular servicing can help keep your vehicle roadworthy, so make sure your vehicle is in a safe condition at all times. Click here to search for a VACC member repairer to have your vehicle serviced.