4WD drivers in Australia can modify their vehicles in several ways, and popular parts to change on these vehicles include the tyres, the suspension, the brakes and the chassis. Changes to parts like these can improve the vehicle's off-road performance, but if you go too far, you could find yourself in trouble with the law. If you're thinking of modifying your 4WD, carefully consider the three following crucial facts that could seriously influence your decision.
National vehicle standards are strict
Modifications to off-road vehicles can make driving in the bush safer, faster and more exciting, but some modifications can also create hazardous driving conditions. As such, the Australian government oversees strict standards about the changes you can legally make to your vehicle.
The National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (or VSB 14) lays out all the technical requirements you must meet, and these are often exhaustive. The government publishes VSB 14 in more than 20 separate chapters and checklists. For example, if you want to change the suspension, you'll need to refer to the bulletin for tyres, rims, suspension and steering.
What's more, you may also need to consider state administrative requirements, to make sure you register and document the changes you make in line with local laws.
Change can affect your insurance
You must tell your insurance company about any changes you make to your 4WD. If you make changes and don't tell the insurer, or you don't accurately describe the changes you make, your policy is worthless. If you have an accident, the insurance company will refuse to pay out if they find evidence of undisclosed modifications.
To make matters worse, the insurance company will often not tell you if the changes you have made meet with VSB 14. It's only if you go to claim that a loss adjuster may discover that the change is illegal. If this happens, the insurer will still decline the claim.
It could cost you a lot of money to put a problem right
The traffic police across Australia will pull over any vehicle with modifications that appear unsafe or illegal. If an officer finds something that does not meet the rules under VSB 14, he or she will give you a yellow sticker. Only a qualified vehicle examiner can remove one of these stickers.
Before he or she removes the sticker, an examiner will look at every part of the vehicle. As such, even if you fix the modification that the police noticed, the examiner will find (and force you to fix) any other problem with the vehicle. As such, you could face an expensive repair bill.
Any changes you make to your 4WD must meet all federal and state legal requirements in Australia. Talk to a specialist 4WD parts supplier like Wilkinson Suspension Centre for more information or advice.