Car Advice


New Conditional Registration Scheme

How do I register my vehicle under the conditional registration scheme for historic, left hand drive or street rod vehicles?

On 1 July 2017, the SA Government is making changes to simplify the conditional registration scheme for historic, left hand drive or street rod vehicles. You may be entitled to register your vehicle under this conditional registration scheme and obtain reduced registration fees. To find out how, visit the SA Government webpage here.

Vehicle Recalls

How do I know if my car has been recalled for faulty Takata airbags?

More than two million cars in Australia have now been recalled for airbags that can spray shrapnel. To see if your car is on the list, visit the Government's Takata airbag recalls webpage here. If your car is on the list, we suggest you contact your manufacturer immediately to organise having your airbags fixed. 


How do I know if my car has been affected in the June 2016 recall from Toyota and Mitsubishi?

Mitsubishi and Toyota issued a number of recall notices in June 2016, for a range of safety reasons.
Almost 500,000 Mitsubishi vehicles, including Lancer sedan, Triton ute, Pajero 4WD, Outlander SUV, Challenger SUV, Colt hatchback and the iMiev electric car have been recalled. Faults include electrical problems which can affect turn signals, wipers and lights. Click here to find out if your vehicle is affected.
Toyota has also issued a number of recalls for 324,000 of its vehicles, including the Prius hybrid, Corolla sedan and hatch and Rukus box-shaped small car built between October 2008 and February 2015. Toyota says the recall is due to the possibility that a crack may develop on the fuel suction plate assembled to the fuel tank. Toyota has also issued a recall for an airbag-related issue. Click here to find out if your vehicle is affected. Owners of the affected Mitsubishi and Toyota cars will be notified by mail and asked to make an appointment to take their car to the nearest dealership, where repairs will be made free of charge.

How do I know if my RAV4 has been affected by the Toyota seatbelt recall?

About 98,000 RAV4 vehicles in Australia will be recalled by Toyota due to a potential issue with both outboard seat belts of the second row seats. The recall includes vehicles built between August 2005 and November 2012. 

Toyota have warned owners that there’s a possibility that in the event of a high-speed frontal crash, the seat belt webbing could contact a portion of the metal seat cushion frame, become cut and separate, meaning it may not properly restraint the occupant. 

Vehicle owners will be notified about the recall process via mail, with Toyota dealers to add resin protection covers to the metal seat cushion frames once parts are made available in June this year. 

For more information, vehicle owners can contact the Toyota recall helpline on 1800 987 366 or visit 

There have been no accidents or injuries in Australia as a result of this issue.

How do I know if my car has been affected by the Toyota power window switch recall?

About 300,000 cars in Australia will be recalled by Toyota due to a faulty power window switch. Certain Aurion, Camry, Corolla, Kluger, RAV4 and Yaris vehicles built between August 2005 – August 2006 and January 2009 – December 2010 will be recalled. Toyota will notify impacted car owners, but to find out more you can visit or call the Toyota recall campaign helpline on 1800 987 366.

Toyota has advised car owners that the recall is a precautionary measure, due to the power window master switch potentially being manufactured with an insufficient amount of grease. If insufficient grease was applied, under certain conditions the switch may develop a short circuit that can cause the switch assembly to overheat and melt. In the worst case, a melting switch can produce smoke and potentially lead to a fire. There have been no reported accidents or injuries in Australia.

VW Emissions Issue

What is the Volkswagen emissions issue?

Certain diesel vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi, were fitted with software that can affect their emissions during a dynamometer test and hence the emissions levels may not meet the regulatory requirements when the affected vehicle is driven under normal conditions. 

How do I know if my car has been affected?

More than 90,000 vehicles in Australia made between 2008 – 2015 across Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda have been affected. To see if your car is affected, you can enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) via a link on the relevant manufacturers website – Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen; or call the dedicated call centre on 1800 504 076. You can also contact your dealer.

If my car is affected, what do I need to do?

If your car is affected you don’t need to do anything immediately. The VW Group contact those vehicle owners that are affected, once a technical solution is available. Rest assured; there is no safety risk associated with this problem, so you can continue to drive as per normal. However, if you are concerned and would like more information you can contact your dealer, call the dedicated hotline on 1800 504 076 or visit the website of your relevant manufacturer.

If I’m concerned about the emissions, what can I do?

If you are concerned about the level of emissions emitted by your vehicle, you can stop using your vehicle or minimise its use. The environmental affect is unknown at this stage, but the VW Group are investigating the matter. Remember, there’s no risk to your safety if you continue to use your vehicle.

Cruise Control

How does cruise control work?

Cruise control is a device used to keep the speed of a vehicle constant when given consistent road and weather conditions. The speed of the wheels is constantly being measured and information is fed into a cruise control system that regulates the engine's output to a predetermined road speed. Under a condition where the driving wheels have broken traction, such as an aquaplane situation, the sensor would measure an increase in wheel speed as there is less friction on the tyre. The cruise control system would then reduce the amount of throttle to maintain the set speed. Cruise control systems can be deactivated upon application of the brake pedal, which are usually deployed in emergency situations.

How do I use cruise control safely?

The safest way to operate a vehicle is to ensure that you can control the vehicle (brake, corner and accelerate) in a safe manner under all driving conditions. So it’s best to use cruise control under steady driving conditions. When deployed, cruise control will attempt to keep the car at a constant speed set by the driver. Hence if it has been set at 100km/h, the car will automatically enter a corner at 100km/h. If this is an inappropriate speed for the corner, the subsequent braking to reduce speed will affect the balance of the vehicle which may in turn create instability. This will affect the vehicle handling and if not correctly compensated for by the driver and can in a worst case, result in a loss of control of the vehicle. Accordingly the driver should assess the conditions of the road and adjust vehicle speed to a safe speed suitable for that road. Reference should be made to the vehicle owner's manual to better understand safe operation of its cruise control.

Is it ok to use my cruise control in wet weather?

Driving in wet conditions can be more hazardous than driving in dry conditions as the excess water affects the tyre's ability to grip the road surface. In order to maximise the grip available to the tyres; water is dispersed via the tyre’s grooves. At higher speed the tyre, particularly if worn, may fail to disperse the water, allowing the tyre to ride on a plane of water and lose contact with the road surface. This is commonly referred to as aquaplaning or hydroplaning. Cruise control should only be used when driving conditions are favourable. So during periods of heavy rain, where visibility is reduced and the road surface will be more slippery, it would not be safe to use cruise control.

Fuel and LPG

What type of engine oil should I use?

Vehicle manufacturers regularly work with oil companies to develop oil that will ensure their engine performs to the best of its ability. The type of oil you use can determine how quickly the engine wears; it assists in the engine’s cooling and can affect fuel consumption and emissions. Your vehicle owner’s handbook will specify a range of oils suitable for use in the vehicle, and will include a viscosity specification. The range of the viscosity or 'thickness' of the oil allows for variations in the climate and conditions that the engine may have to operate within. To be sure that you have oil that will perform to the latest level of performance and quality in a petrol engine, look for a SJ classification as well.

If a car is designed to run on Premium Unleaded Petrol (PULP), can any harm be caused if normal unleaded (ULP) is used instead?

The effect or Premium Unleaded Petrol in a vehicle varies from model to model. It’s best to consult your vehicle owner’s manual for the individual limitations of your vehicle. However, generally most engine management systems used in late model cars have the ability to adjust the engine’s operating parameters to achieve the best compromise between optimum performance and still not allow the engine to be damaged. It does this by using sensors that relay information about temperature, speed, throttle position and gear selection back to on-board computers. If a lower octane fuel is used, the sensors may detect a fault and the on-board computer may adjust the engine performance to prevent engine damage. If Premium Unleaded fuel is unavailable, operating on regular unleaded fuel should be kept to a minimum. The vehicle should be driven carefully until Premium Unleaded fuel is added when available. Remember when you add ULP to PULP, the fuel’s octane rating is not instantly lowered to the ULP octane. There is a mixing effect so the octane rating is somewhere between ULP and PULP. 

How often must I check my LPG tank?

LPG tanks are made of steel and have to be inspected and tested for damage and deterioration, such as corrosion, every ten years. If you have purchased the vehicle with the LPG system already fitted, you should check when it next needs to be inspected and fitted. The cylinder will have an expiry date stamped on it. In most cases the tank has to be removed from the vehicle to be tested. Depending upon the location of the tank the labour cost to remove, test and refit the cylinder would normally be around $500 to $800. However, it is wise to shop around and get a quote before authorising the testing of the tank. The test determines the remaining life expectancy of the cylinder and related pressure control valves. Specialised technicians are required by law to carry out maintenance on LPG systems. 

What's involved in converting a car to LPG?

Click here to find out how to convert your vehicle to LPG.

Tyres and Wheels

How do I select the best tyres for my car?

You need to consider a variety of factors when choosing tyres for your vehicle, including the type of driving you’ll be doing, the type of roads you’ll be travelling on and of course, price and personal choice. Most cars have a tyre placard decal fitted to the vehicle, which has the manufacturer's recommended size and rating suitable for the vehicle. This placard is usually located in the glovebox, the door or door pillars. Check your vehicle’s owner manual for its location. When purchasing new tyres, make sure all of the tyres are the same brand and size, to avoid causing any damage to the vehicle. Any impact damage, like rubbing or bumping over kerbs, can cause damage that’s not visible on the outside but may lead to causing internal damage to the tyre casing, rending them useless. 

How do I check my tyre pressure?

Tyre pressures should be checked regularly; preferably every week. It’s best to do this when your tyres are cold, before you’ve driven too far on them, and don’t forget to check the spare tyre too. Make sure to use an accurate gauge. Many petrol stations now offer a fixed tyre gauge where you can set the desired tyre pressure and then it automatically adjusts to the selected pressure. RAA has found these units to be generally more accurate and reliable than the type that have the gauge at the end of the air hose. Heavy loads or towing puts an extra strain on your tyres. So if your vehicle is fully loaded with passengers and luggage, the general rule is to add 28kpa (4PSI or 4lbs). At high speed or 100km/h the rule is to add 28kpa (4PSI) to your minimum pressure as stated on the tyre information placard. Don't inflate your tyres above 40PSI or 280 kpa.

How do I check my tyres for wear?

For tyres to be legal, they must have tread across the full tread area and at least 1.6mm of tread depth. Most tyres are fitted with “tread wear indicators”, located in the tread groove, and once these indicators are able to touch the road during normal operation, this means the tyre needs replacing.

Your mechanic can check the tread of your tyres as part of your regular servicing. When you get new tyres fitted, make sure the mechanic also does a wheel alignment and wheel balancing check. Any misalignment may cause the tyre to wear unevenly and cause steering problems.

Repair or Replace?

It is recommended that repairs should be undertaken only by qualified tyre technicians, because sometimes tyres with apparently minor external damage have actually sustained unseen but serious internal damage. 

What size mag (alloy) wheels can I legally fit to my car?

You can find information about the recommended tyre and rim sizes for your vehicle either in the owner’s manual; or on the tyre placard, usually found in the glovebox, or the driver’s door or pillar area. You may increase or decrease the displayed rim diameter by 50mm (approx 2 inches). The overall diameter of this new alloy wheel and tyre package must not exceed 15mm. No part of the tyre or rim may foul on the body or suspension or protrude outside the bodywork with the wheels in a straight ahead position. The rim must have its diameter, width, offset and manufacturer ID marked on it. Beware of some poor quality, imported rims as they may not carry these markings. 

Should I use Nitrogen in my tyres?

The subject of using nitrogen to inflate car tyres has received considerable publicity over the past few years; particularly since some tyre retailers have begun promoting its supposed benefits.

It is well known that nitrogen gas has been used to inflate the tyres of racing cars, aircraft and heavy commercial vehicles for some time. However it is only relatively recently that it has come into use in normal passenger cars.


So what is nitrogen?

Nitrogen is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, and non-toxic gas that forms about 78% of the Earth's atmosphere. The benefits claimed for using nitrogen over compressed air for inflating tyres are that it:

  • Reduces the tyre's running temperature
  • Improves the ride quality
  • Increases tyre life
  • Keeps tyre pressures more constant
  • Slows the rate of pressure loss
  • Doesn't react with the tyre and rim materials

The following is a discussion of these points.


Reduces the tyre's running temperature

While there is some truth in this statement, the difference relates to the moisture content of the inflation gas rather than the use of nitrogen per se. In fact, dry compressed air will also produce a cooler running tyre. It's also only likely to be of benefit in cases where the tyres are operating at or near their maximum load and/or speed capacities.


Nitrogen improves ride quality

No explanation has been offered as to why this should be the case. There should be no significant difference in the way air and nitrogen behave at normal tyre operating pressures and temperatures.


Nitrogen increases tyre life

A tyre's operating temperature plays a part in how rapidly it will wear. A reduction in temperature at high speeds and loads will be beneficial. However claims by some supporters that nitrogen will double tyre life are questionable.


Reduced pressure build up

The reason that tyre pressures should only be checked when cold is that the tyre’s inflation pressure increases in relation to temperature. Nitrogen is claimed to provide a more stable pressure range in relation to tyre temperature. However once again the moisture content of the inflation gas plays a bigger part than the gas itself. Any benefits are likely to be achieved only under heavy load and/or high-speed conditions.


Pressure loss is slower with nitrogen than with air

Tyre liners and tubes are to some degree porous, and as a result air will eventually leach out. Hence the need to regularly check tyre pressures. Nitrogen, due to its chemical structure, is slower to leak out than compressed air. Therefore the pressure loss is slower. However that doesn't mean that regular pressure checks can be neglected as there is still the possibility of a puncture or some other form of slow leak.


Nitrogen doesn't react with the metal wheel rim or the tyre materials

Probably true. The presence of oxygen and moisture inside the tyre can cause oxidisation (rust) of the metal components. There is also a suggestion that air reacts with the rubber of the tyre itself, however it is not clear if this is detrimental or in any way reduces the life of the average car tyre. Because nitrogen is a relatively inert gas (though not a member of the 'noble' gas family) and because it is dry, this problem is, in theory, eliminated. However, unless the tyre is evacuated (i.e. the air is removed) before the nitrogen is added, there will still be some air and possibly moisture in the tyre. 


Disadvantages of nitrogen

Nitrogen also has a few disadvantages that should be taken into account. These include:

  • Cost
  • Maintenance
  • Availability



The typical charge for nitrogen is between $5 and $10 per tyre for a passenger car.



Once your tyres are filled with nitrogen it's important that only nitrogen is used for top up purposes. Adding normal compressed air will negate any benefits of the nitrogen.

If you are in an area where nitrogen is not available and top up is necessary, normal compressed air will have to be added.  If you wish to reinflate with nitrogen later you will need to locate a nitrogen outlet, deflate the tyre and then reinflate it with nitrogen.



Nitrogen simply isn't readily available everywhere. It's generally restricted to specialist tyre dealers.


A few things to consider

The earth's atmosphere is comprised of roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen with a few trace gasses mixed in, so when you fill your tyres with compressed air, you are getting about 78% nitrogen anyway.

Not all aircraft use nitrogen in their tyres. In fact generally only larger aircraft with high altitude capability and high landing and take off speeds and high loads use it. The reason given by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to support its use is that nitrogen, being a relatively inert gas, reduces the risk of high altitude tyre explosions that could damage or destroy an aircraft. Obviously this is hardly a consideration for the average passenger car operator.

Nitrogen is also sometimes used in the tyres of vehicles that operate in potentially hazardous areas, such as mines, to reduce the risk of fire. It is also commonly used in off-highway vehicles where the tyres operate at their maximum load and are highly stressed.

A number of tyre manufacturers have produced position papers on nitrogen, as has the Australian Tyre Manufacturers Association. Some tyre manufacturers have declined to comment. Most have indicated that tyre warranties will not be affected by the use of nitrogen.


  • While using nitrogen in passenger car tyres may produce some benefits in some applications, it is questionable if the average motorist will derive any measurable benefit from its use.
  • Using nitrogen does not remove or reduce the need to check tyre pressures as the risk of a puncture or a slow leak is not altered.
  • Many of the benefits claimed of nitrogen could be achieved by using dry compressed air from a properly designed and maintained compressed air system.
  • Nitrogen cannot replace regular maintenance. Regardless of what inflation gas is used, maximum tyre life will only be achieved if the vehicle and tyres are properly maintained. That means regular checking of tyre pressures, wheel balance and alignment.





Car Maintenance

Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake?

The most common cause of steering wheel shake when the brakes are applied is a condition called brake shudder. It occurs when the brake disc becomes unevenly worn. This causes the brake pads to contact the high spots of the brake discs and results in a vibration. This vibration in turn causes a brake shudder that is felt by the driver through the steering wheel. The remedy for this condition is normally to have the discs machined so that they have even surfaces again and the wheel bearing adjustment checked. The brake pads will also need replacing. Any vibration or shudder through the steering, without brakes applied, would normally be associated with wheel or tyre imbalance and is not necessarily a brake fault. 

How often does my timing belt need to be replaced?

The timing belt is located at the front of the engine and is driven by the crankshaft, which in turn drives the cam shaft, usually in a clockwise direction. In most cases, the timing belt in your vehicle should be replaced every 100,000kms or five years, whichever comes first. Make sure you are aware of when the manufacturer has scheduled the timing belt to be replaced. Failing to replace the belt when required can result in expensive engine repairs should the belt break. When purchasing a used vehicle, it’s a particularly good idea to find out from the previous owner when the timing belt was last changed. Because while the car might have done very few kilometres for its age, it still has an age limit of sorts especially given it’s made of rubber. It’s also a good idea to check with the vehicle’s manufacturer to see if the replacement interval for the timing belt has been changed or brought forward. This is something your local mechanic could help you assess as part of your regular servicing or a vehicle inspection prior to purchase.

What does it mean if I have to keep topping up my radiator?

The cooling system in most modern cars is a basically sealed system, which means that when filled with coolant it should not require topping up between services. These systems work by allowing the coolant to expand from the radiator into a small recovery bottle located in the engine bay. Then when the engine is turned off and the coolant cools and contracts, the radiator cap will allow the coolant to flow back into the radiator from the recovery bottle. This keeps the radiator full and able to operate efficiently. If you are constantly topping up the coolant, check for any external leaks. This is best done when the system is under pressure so it will have to be done while the coolant is hot. Be careful as you are dealing with a fluid that will cause severe scalding burns if it sprays on to you and never release the radiator cap of a hot engine during this process. The far safer alternative is to have your mechanic pressure test the system with a special pump that does not rely on the engine being hot. Leaks from hoses or joints, water pump, Welsh plugs and the radiator are possible causes, but also check the floor below the heater as any leak from the heater core will usually leave dampness on the floor below. 

How dark can the tint on my car’s windows be?

New window tinting regulations were introduced into South Australian in 2010, which provided consistency with regulations in other states. The visible light transmission (VLT) of driver and passenger windows is 35 per cent for SA motorists. The VLT for front windscreens is 75 per cent for vehicles built after 1971, and 70 per cent for older vehicles. Remember, no tint film can be applied to the front windscreen. To view the Transport SA fact sheet click here.

Car Security

What can I do to protect my car from vandals or theft?

The best way to protect your vehicle from vandals or theft is to store it in a locked garage as often as possible, rather than on the street. Click here to read a few tips from SA Police.

Beyond that, there are a range of protection measures you can take that range in cost.

At the most basic level, you can purchase a steering lock for about $40 and apply it to your steering wheel each time you leave your vehicle unattended. Steering locks can also complement any other system you might choose to use. You can purchase a steering lock from any RAA Shop.

If you just want to stop thieves from driving off with your car, an immobiliser is a good idea. You can usually get a good immobiliser for less than $200. Make sure it meets Australian Standards; which means it should disable at least two of the vehicle’s three essential starting systems: fuel, ignition or starter motor. The only down side of an immobiliser is that it won’t stop thieves from breaking in to steal valuables in your vehicle.

If you want to stop people from entering your car altogether, you should consider installing an alarm. A basic alarm usually costs no more than $400 installed. A siren will be activated if anyone breaks into your vehicle. These days many of us have become complacent about alarm noises but thieves will generally not want to risk drawing attention to what is happening, and will usually leave the scene. The siren should not be looked at as a tool to expect intervention by passers-by or members of the public, do not approach anyone that you suspect is trying to steal or break into a vehicle. Some alarms also have sirens inside the car that make it very uncomfortable for a thief to stay in the car while it continues to sound.


What is an airbag?

Airbags are known as Supplemental Restraint Systems (SRS). An airbag is a fabric bag that inflates rapidly when required from the steering wheel centre or dashboard. It’s not a substitute for the use of seatbelts.

The SRS airbag inflator contains a solid chemical gas generator. The solid chemicals are safely stored in a metal chamber inside the SRS airbag module. Each inflator is sealed to keep out moisture. SRS airbags are designed to deploy in moderate to major crashes only and should not deploy in minor crashes.

For the particulars of your vehicle’s system you should consult your vehicle owner’s manual. If airbags are fitted, the steering wheel cover and/or dashboard cover will usually have the words ‘airbag’ or ‘SRS airbag’ moulded into them.

How does an airbag work?

In an impact, sensors in the vehicle detect the sudden deceleration. If the crash is severe enough electricity flows to the inflator and causes ignition of the gas generator. The gas generator then rapidly burns in the metal chamber. The rapid burning produces inert gases and small amounts of dust. The inert gases and dust are cooled and filtered during inflation of the airbag. The inflating airbag splits open the trim cover. The airbag then rapidly unfolds and inflates in front of the occupant. Note: These first three steps take place in a fraction of a second. After inflation, the gas is vented through openings or open weave areas in the airbag. Airbags deflate in under a second and may be pushed aside for occupants to exit.

What causes the airbags in a vehicle to be deployed?

Typically, the driver and or passenger airbags deploy in head-on collisions where the force of the impact is equal to or greater than striking an immovable and non-deformable barrier (such as steel or concrete) at a speed of around 18-25 km/h or higher. In offset collisions or in a head-on collision, the speed would generally need to be significantly higher than 25 km/h for the airbags to deploy. Airbags designed for frontal impacts usually do not deploy in rear end collisions, side impacts, rollover accidents or in most under ride accidents.

In addition to the frontal impacts described above, airbags may deploy in cases where:

  • A moderate to severe impact has been sustained by a vehicle’s undercarriage such as when striking an elevated median strip or kerb.
  • A wheel has struck a deep (severe) hole or pothole, or when driving down a very steep slope and the front strikes the ground at the end of the slope.

Damage to vehicle body panels may appear relatively minor in these cases.

What are some common misconceptions about airbags?

There is a general misconception that airbags provide a soft cushion and will prevent bruising or other minor injuries in low severity crashes - this is incorrect. SRS airbags are designed to reduce peak loads on the head and chest in severe crashes (those where death or long term brain injury are possible). When deploying, the airbag is firm, but it absorbs energy as the gases are released through the vents.

While airbags significantly reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury in crashes, there are some risks from the deployment of airbags in low speed crashes. For this reason modern cars use a range of intelligent sensing functions to ensure that a crash is really happening and to fire airbags at the best time.

Modern design and construction methods used in today’s vehicles include progressive crumple zones in the body and frame structure to reduce the rate of deceleration in severe frontal impacts. For this reason, damage sustained by a vehicle in a head on collision may appear quite extensive and the airbags may not have deployed because the crumple zones have absorbed a significant amount of the energy of the impact. In these cases, the airbag sensors have detected that the rate of vehicle deceleration has not been sufficient to require triggering of the airbags.


What are bull bars?

The bull bar’s exact origin is sketchy, but they are believed to have been born in the bush, where they were designed to protect vehicles from collisions with animals on isolated roads. In a collision, the bar protects the front of the vehicle (especially the cooling system), reducing the chances of the driver being left stranded with a damaged vehicle in a remote location.

Bull bars are popular, and can be essential equipment in the bush where the risk of hitting an animal is high (and hitting a pedestrian is less). However, with many of these vehicles driven mainly on metropolitan streets, the bull bar has moved from an essential piece of vehicle protection, to a danger to other road users in the suburban environment.

A bull bar poses a risk on two levels. Firstly to traditionally vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. In addition, bull bars also pose a threat to other vehicles, in particular those that are smaller than the vehicle sporting the bull bar.

What are the requirements of bull bars in Australia?

The new Bull Bar standard (Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4876) describes a range of requirements for bull bar design, installation and performance. Many bull bars constructed in recent times would possibly already comply with many of the principles the standard embraces. The new standard is not designed to ban all bull bars or force their removal. Rather, it will compel all motorists to ensure their vehicle’s bull bars comply. While the new standard applies to new bars sold, traffic authorities are expected to take parts of it onboard to assess and moderate dangerous pre-existing bull bars – which could result in some owners being asked to modify the bar, or remove it altogether.

What are the new laws (introduced June 2013) regarding bull bars?

In June 2013 the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure advised that new Standards to comply with the Road Traffic Act 1961 are a requirement for Vehicle Frontal Protection Systems (VFPS) more commonly known as Bull Bars.

Bull Bars fitted to vehicles with a GVM of less than 3.5 tonnes and manufactured on or after 1 July 2013 must conform to AS 4876.1-2002 (except clause 3.2)

Road Traffic (Vehicle Standards) Rule 30A is in breach if a non-compliant VFPS has been fitted to a vehicle manufactured on or after 1 July 2013. Sections 117, 118 and 145 cover non-compliance and vehicle defect situations where a minimum expiation of $373 could apply.

Key features for a satisfactory bull bar that provides protection to the vehicle bodywork, but does not unreasonably increase the risk of injury to other road users, include:

  • The bull bar shape would be similar to the frontal shape and slope of the vehicle to which it is fitted. Sloping backwards from the bumper to the top is most desirable.
  • The bull bar must be no wider than the vehicle body.
  • Attachment to the vehicle must be secure enough to achieve the purpose of protecting the vehicle. All supports should be free of hazardous sharp edges or exposed projections.
  • Other than the main replacement bumper, entirely tubular construction is preferred. Tube should be at least 40mm outside diameter and 50mm or larger is preferred. All exposed sections of the bull bar and fittings must be made from large diameter tubing, be deburred and should be designed to reduce the risk of injury to any person who may come into contact with the bull bar. All edges must be generously rounded, with no radius less than five mm. All tube ends are to be sealed.
  • All brackets for lights, antennae, fishing rod holders and so on must be behind the bull bar. They must not protrude beyond the front face or above the bull bar. Items, such as winches, must be mounted behind the bar and covered to protect pedestrians from sharp edges or projections.

While many people believe that bull bars provide protection to occupants in the event of a crash, they can actually risk injury if fitted to vehicles with airbags. Fitting a bull bar changes the front stiffness of the vehicle which may cause a different signal to go to the airbag control computer and make the airbag deploy later than when needed.

A nudge bar (which is much smaller than a bull bar but still protects your vehicle’s cooling system) is an excellent alternative to a bull bar for city and suburban use, where the risk of colliding with a large animal is much less.

If you’re sure you definitely need a bull bar, contact the vehicle manufacturer or a professional installer, who can advise you of the best bar to suit your needs.

Braking Systems

Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)

The most common braking system is ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System). When the brakes are applied very hard, such as an emergency stop and the wheel locks (stops rolling) your ability to steer and slow the car is diminished. The tyre’s greatest grip for steering and braking is obtained when the brakes keep the wheel rolling, close to the point of locking, but not actually locking. ABS has sensors in the wheels that detect when an individual wheel locks and the ABS then momentarily releases the brakes on that wheel to get it rolling, then it instantly re-applies the brakes to keep the wheel on the threshold of locking. It does this around 15 times a second.

Although ABS is a braking system it also improves the steering in an emergency as the rolling wheels allow the car to be steered away from an obstacle and trouble. ABS is particularly good on wet slippery roads as it optimises braking and reduces the braking distances.

The downside to this technology is that when it does operate the system sends a pressure pulse up the brake pedal that can be felt by the driver and although it can be disconcerting it is totally normal. You must keep pushing the brake pedal as hard as you can until you have steered out of trouble.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

ESC (Electronic Stability Control) which is also known by many other names that vehicle manufacturers call their systems. These names include VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), ESP (Electronic Stability Program), VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) but they are all substantially the same technology. It piggy backs on the ABS system, using the ABS’s sensors, plus other components to detect when the vehicle is starting to slide, then it de-powers the engine and applies the brakes to individual wheels to bring the vehicle back under control.

With computer power at a substantial level nowadays, and the quality of the actuating process that makes it all work, ESC can process and correct in milliseconds, faster than human intervention and with accuracy that is quite astounding. ESC represents the first substantial steps towards intelligent crash avoidance technology and can be found accompanied by the suite of other safety technologies including air bags, pre-tensioning seat belts, active headrests, roll over detection, lane change detection and there's even more on the horizon! Our local manufacturers now include ESC on most models too so it's great to see the technology on the local products allowing them to achieve 5 star crash ratings.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) can help avoid crashes altogether or at the very least slow the vehicle and thus lower the risk and severity of a crash. The technology uses forward-looking radar, lidar and video cameras to monitor the view ahead of the car and alert the driver of impending dangers. If the driver doesn't respond to the alerts the car starts to brake itself.

Brake Assist (BA)

BA (Brake Assist) monitors how quickly the brake pedal is pressed, to determine if the driver is panic braking. When it detects this it instantly boosts the brake pressure to the maximum and holds it there as long as the driver has their foot on the brake pedal to give the shortest braking distance. This system also over comes the problem of increased braking distance caused where vibrations from the activation of the ABS unsettles the driver and cause them to lessen their foot’s pressure on the brake pedal.

Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD)

EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) manages the front to rear brake pressure balance so that conditions such as cornering with an uneven load or rough road surfaces does not cause the brakes to lock and require the ABS to manage the locked wheel.

The stability of a vehicle is affected by anything that causes the tyre to lose grip with the road and this can happen when too much power is applied. Although not a braking system it works with the brakes on some occasions as the TCS (Traction Control System) monitors when one wheel is spinning faster than the other wheels under acceleration and then it depowers the engine or uses the brakes to grab the spinning wheel or a combination of both to restore tyre grip and traction.

Roll Stability Control (RSC)

RSC (Roll Stability Control) uses roll sensors to measure the angle of the body and when it tilts beyond a critical angle and is likely to roll it depowers the engine while at the same time severely applying the brakes to one side of the car to induce understeer to pull that side of car back around and allow it to come back on all 4 wheels.

Car Batteries

Will any battery fit my car?
No, different cars require different size batteries. Purchasing from an RAA patrol ensures your car is fitted with the correct size.
Can the RAA fit my car with a new battery at the roadside?
Yes, all RAA patrols in the metropolitan area and many contractors in country regions are able to fit the RAA Battery.
How do I dispose of an old car battery?
93% of old car batteries can be recycled. To safely dispose of your battery return it to the place of purchase. If you have a battery fitted by an RAA patrol have them take it away for safe disposal.

RAA Approved Repairers

If I am an RAA member and use an Approved Repairer will I receive a discount?

RAA Members can now receive a discount of up to $30 from selected Approved Repairers on parts and labour. You can search for a repairer here; for member discount look for the repairers with the piggy symbol. Also, some repairers offer discounts for pensioners and have specials that they advertise from time to time in the media. Ask the repairer if a discount is applicable to your repairs or circumstances prior to commencement of the repair. 

Why should I use an Approved Repairer?
Over the past 24 years RAA Approved Repairers have grown to be a highly respected and integral part of the automotive industry in South Australia. They are respected by the motoring public for their trustworthiness, professionalism, reliability and their modern and progressive attitude towards the automotive industry in general. On completion of repairs the approved repairer will guarantee the effectiveness of the work for a minimum of three (3) months or 5,000 kilometres, which ever comes first.
Are there Approved Repairers in country areas?

Yes, there are a number of Approved Repairers in regional centres. To find an Approved Repairer near you search here.

How do I identify an Approved Repairer?
Approved Repairers are most easily recognised by the large, yellow Approved Repairer sign located on the outside of their business. The sign also displays what type of repairer the business is - mechanical, crash or specialist.
How do I become an Approved Repairer?
If you are interested in becoming an Approved Repairer send a letter expressing your interest and providing business details to the Technical Liasion Manager, 101 Richmond Road, Mile End, SA 5031.

Automotive Acronyms

What do all of the automotive-related acronyms mean?

Have you ever wondered what all of those acronyms explaining the features of a car stand for? Click here to download a comprehensive list of automotive acronyms

Car Storage Tips

I'm not going to use my car for some time, what should I consider when storing it?

When going on holidays for any period, it’s worth thinking about storing your vehicle somewhere secure. RAA Technical Advisors suggest these few tips to ensure the car storage process doesn’t give you too many headaches.

  • Check if any security codes are required for your vehicle’s radio. You will need these if you disconnect the vehicle’s battery.
  • It’s preferable to store your vehicle under cover, away from the elements. If you have to store your vehicle outside, a good quality car cover may be desirable. Although, constant buffeting by the wind may cause the cover to chafe on the body work, so keep this in mind when making this decision.
  • It’s important to secure your vehicle as best as possible. If it is obvious the vehicle is not being used, it may attract unwanted attention.
  • Always remember that using battery chargers, lifting jacks, safety stands or any type of garage equipment can be dangerous. Please read and understand the instructions, and if unsure, seek professional advice and/or assistance.
If I’m going to store my car for 2 to 12 months, what do I need to do?

If you’re going to store your car for a relatively short amount of time, say 2 to 12 month, RAA suggests to:

  • Disconnect the battery, or
  • Consider using a fully automated float style battery charger for storage periods up to 6 months
  • Inflate tyres to a higher pressure, approximately 280kPa (40 psi)
  • Top up all fluids (i.e. engine oil, coolant, brake fluid)
If I’m going to store my car for more than 12 months, what do I need to do?

If you’re going to store your car for more than 12 months, RAA suggests to:

  • Disconnect and/or remove the battery
  • Inflate tyres to a higher pressure, approximately 280kPa (40 psi)
  • Change engine oil, coolant and brake fluid. This can prevent corrosion and contaminates affecting vital components of your vehicle while it’s not being operated
  • Consider raising the vehicle, if safe to do so
What do I need to do to my vehicle when I want to use it again?

After the stored period, here are a few pointers to ensure it runs well once you start to drive it again.

  • Plan to take a few days to get the vehicle going again, so you have time to manage any little problems that may arise.
  • Check the registration expiry date and re-register if needed.
  • If you stored the vehicle on stands, carefully remove and place the vehicle on the ground, ensuring the handbrake is on.
  • Check the battery, and if discharged have it recharged and tested if you are unable to do it yourself. Depending on the age and condition of the battery, it may need replacing.
  • When the battery is back in and the key is turned to the on position, check the dash lights to see if they are all normal and then start the car ensuring it is out of gear and the handbrake is applied.
  • Let the vehicle run for a short while to allow the systems to stabilise.
  • Before moving the vehicle, check that the brake pedal is firm and has a good height.
  • When operating the vehicle for the first time, try the brakes again at low speed (5km/h) to ensure they stop the car effectively.
  • If all feels good proceed with a short drive around the block to double check the operation of the vehicle before heading to the service station to return your tyres to the correct pressure.
  • Check all fluid levels (i.e. engine oil, coolant, brake fluid), to ensure they’re topped up.
  • If you are unable to check the tyres yourself, ask your mechanic to check them for you when you take the vehicle in for a quick check up of the lights, belts and hoses, oil etc. if it has been in long term storage.
Does RAA offer a vehicle storage service?

RAA no longer provides a car storage service. If you are looking for a vehicle storage service, RAA recommends Andrew’s Airport Parking, which is located at 20 Chief St, Brompton. RAA Members receive 10 per cent discount on short and long term bookings. Click here to find out more, speak to one of RAA’s Travel experts on (08) 8202 4589 or visit your local RAA Shop.