Preparations for the holiday started about now, just as school finished. The boat trailer had come out of the sea in April, had its normal check, and needed to be ready for the Boxing Day trip down south.
The boat is not big and the trailer is a little old, and it comes in handy as extra luggage space for the family with three kids. Two weeks at the lake beckoned.
The warrant of fitness (WOF) on the trailer was overdue, but everything looked okay and it could be sorted tomorrow.
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That's how a family member's holiday preparation started a couple of years ago. Except that the WOF inspection showed that a wheel bearing was shot. With most garages busy before Christmas, it was a panicked and expensive repair job that enabled them to get away on time.
WOFs can be like that, especially if you aren't sent a reminder or are away when it expires. The forgotten WOF raises its head around holiday time when there is a whole lot else going on. It's a pretty common issue about now, with garages booked to the end of next week for WOF repairs.
Warrant of fitness inspection regulations were changed in 2014 to provide for annual inspections for vehicles registered after 2000 and, for new vehicles, the re-inspection would not be required until the third anniversary after purchase.
It is a valid question to raise about the relative safety of the national fleet since then, and whether vehicles are increasingly failing WOF inspections.
It is easy to see how the WOF could be forgotten especially for new cars. Another family member was delighted to find a free time limit public carpark, but was dismayed to find a ticket for a two-month overdue WOF and a $200 fine, for his three-year-old Volvo, when he returned.
You would imagine that there shouldn't be too many safety issues with a car like that but, if you travelled 30,000km per year and you relied on the WOF inspection for tyre safety, it is likely that you would need a new set of tyres at the very least, by then.
Trailers tend to be forgotten until they are used periodically and rust never sleeps. A colleague had his trailer being repaired for rust after a WOF failure. The mechanic noticed an issue with a wheel.
The wheel nuts were not seated in properly, resulting in a loose wheel. It turned out that the wheel nuts weren't the right ones and it had not been picked up at the initial WOF inspection. You can imagine the catastrophe of a trailer wheel coming off when you're in holiday traffic.
Infrequently used trailers can have tyres that crack and perish with age, long before the tread wears out. A perished tyre poses a high risk of blowing out, especially when the boat trailer has a heap of holiday paraphernalia piled on as well.
A blowout on a trailer is not only dangerous but can cause considerable inconvenience, especially given that most trailers do not have a spare wheel.
A current WOF makes your vehicle fit for the road at the time it is issued and marginal tyres may only be legal for now. After travelling a thousand kilometres or two, they may not still be legal and fit for purpose.
Our rubber meets the road for the purpose of accelerating, braking and cornering in all conditions and on all roads. It's when your tread is under pressure from unusual or unfamiliar holiday driving that you really want it to work for you.
Check out the safety of all your holiday vehicles, have a happy holiday and consider the many others who will be sharing the road with you.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.