When you’re using your car as a workhorse, the way you pack your gear and materials for those DIY jobs needs to be done to ensure it’s safe for you and everyone on the road.
From protecting and securing loose objects, to understanding how to safely utilise all the space available, and knowing the rules around overhang and towing limits – here are the best tips for making sure each journey is a safe one when you’re in the thick of your next DIY project.
Protect Anything Fragile
Before you start loading items into your car it’s important that you protect anything fragile, including the interior of your vehicle.
If you’ve got smaller items that might slide around and cause damage or get damaged while the vehicle is in motion, it’s a good idea to wrap them. You can use easily found items around home such as newspaper, blankets, or a tarpaulin to protect these potentially breakable items while you’re out on the road.
To protect the interior of your car from anything wet or getting covered in dirt, use cargo mats or trays on the floor of the boot, as well as car seat covers to protect the car upholstery. It can be much easier to remove and shake or wipe off the dirt than trying to clean up the mess inside your car.
Secure Loose Items
Even items as small as a water bottle could potentially cause injury in a moving car, if not stowed away properly. Before hitting the road, make sure that any loose items are secured safely in the glove compartment, or in the storage spaces found beside or behind the driver and passenger seats.
For larger items, avoid piling them up in front of the rear windshield so it blocks your rear vision. Ensure that nothing is stored over the headrests too as they could become a projectile missile should you have to stop suddenly.
Consider installing a cargo barrier for wagons or SUVs or even hatchbacks with rear seats that fold down, if the car allows for it. This protects the driver and passengers from moving items and allows you to load up the rear area higher than the height of the top of the seats.
If you are towing with a trailer or loading up the back of your ute, secure large items with at least two lashings to prevent the load from twisting or rotating. For bulk items such as sand, gravel, garden waste and wood chips, cover with a tarpaulin to prevent the load spilling onto the road or blowing away.
Watch Your Weight
Every vehicle has a maximum load capacity (gross vehicle weight), so know what yours is and make sure you don’t overload the car (including passengers). An overloaded car can create safety issues and affect the handling, and you’ll also use more fuel.
Heavy and large items should be loaded first and try to get them in the middle of the boot to help with the distribution of weight. You’ll then have more space to pack and secure lighter items on top.
Take Advantage of Anchor Points
Many vehicles come with a number of anchor or tether points, which are designed to safely secure items to your vehicle. Anchor points can be seen in the form of a small metal loop inside the boot area of your car, as well as on the railings of the sides of a ute.
You can use anchor points to effectively tie down your load with the use of bungy cords, cargo nets or ropes for additional strength.
One thing to consider is the types of knots you use, as this can make a huge difference to the reliability of your anchor points. Try to use knots that not only keep your load as secure as possible, but are also easy to untie once you reach your destination – there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to untangle a messy knot!
Use Ratchet Straps
Ratchet straps, also known as tie down straps, are great for securing materials and equipment to your vehicle. You can use a number of straps depending on your needs, and there are ones that are more heavy duty than others.
When using ratchet straps, check the maximum lashing capacity to ensure that you don’t overload it.
Utilise Roof Racks
Roof racks are great for transporting items that won’t fit in your car. Evenly distribute objects along and across the roof rack and be careful carrying long or bulky objects. Both the lashings and the roof rack need to be strong enough in the event of strong head and cross winds. There are custom mounted boxes available to connect to your roof racks to stow away items that need extra protection.
Refer to your vehicle's instruction manual to find out whether you can easily fit roof racks to your car, and what the maximum capacity or load is.
Know Your Overhang & Towing Weight Limits
When it comes to loading up your vehicle with heavy or long items such as timber or gravel , knowing the overhang and towing limits not only ensures that you’re being safe on the road, it might also help you avoid a costly fine.
Vehicle Overhang Regulations
The overall height limit for a car or ute (light rigid vehicle) is 4.3 metres, including the load you’re carrying.
If you’re carrying a load, the items you’re carrying can only overhang the outside of the body or deck of the vehicle by 1 metre to the front or rear, or 200mm to the left or right side. If you plan on exceeding these limits, you will need to attach a warning device to the overhanging end(s), such as a clean white, or fluorescent red, orange or yellow flag. Click here to find out more about the different devices for day and night time applications.
Towing Weight Limit
Your vehicle’s manufacturer rated towing capacity in kilograms for an unbraked and braked trailer can be found in your vehicle’s instruction manual. Most trailers you hire from the garden centre or petrol station will be unbraked and their towing capacity will be much lighter than a braked one.
Your towbar will also have a label that specifies the braked and unbraked towing limits and this should match your vehicle.
When packing items on a trailer, load them as close as possible to the axle or where the tyres are). Avoid placing heavier items towards the rear of the trailer and ensure there is a downward force at the point where the trailer is connected to the towbar. This will improve the handling when you are towing. If you remove some of the items during the journey, you may need to rearrange and re-secure the rest of the load.
For more details around towing regulations, check out NZTA’s Guide to Safe Towing.
Safety Comes First
It’s important to consider these tips next time you’re DIY-ing, especially because you may not be used to thinking about them on a daily basis. Following these guidelines will ensure you stay safe on the road, so you can spend more time getting that next job done.
If your current car is lacking the space or capacity to handle the requirements of your ongoing projects, it might be time to upsize to a larger vehicle like an SUV. Check out our complete Guide to Buying a New Car for all you need to know.