Car manufacturers are legally obliged to test their own vehicles. This is to ensure they are safe for consumers to drive, but it also allows them to advertise a model’s performance. Key USPs like the car’s top speed, horsepower and mpg are all calculated during the testing phase.
Cars are tested in a variety of environments, conditions and speeds to ensure they can operate evenly across the board.
Below, we discuss the ins-and-outs of the car testing process.
Car testing: what does the law say?
Under UK law, cars must be safe to drive on the roads and any safety issues are wholly unacceptable. If faults are found, then car manufacturers must enact a mass recall on all models. However, testing isn’t just about safety; it’s also about quality.
Under the Consumer Rights Act, all drivers have the right to return their new vehicle after 30 days. As such, fuelled by competition, car manufacturers spend a significant amount of resources quality testing their vehicles.
To learn more about your rights, read our detailed blog on the subject: How to stay protected when buying a car.
By 2022, the UK will need to meet a new set of standards, including the testing and incorporation of new technology such as intelligent speed assistance (ISA), advanced emergency braking (ESA) and lane-keeping technology.
How are cars tested?
Generally, car testing is a long and intensive process for car manufacturers. Testing is undertaken in a variety of landscapes, including on-track, off-road and other real-world environments.
However, what does this “testing” entail? Overall, there are many types of vehicle testing, but the main bulk of it is as follows:
Everyone knows about car crash testing. From the distinct dummy to striking images of the testing process, the test provides peace of mind that the majority of cars are as safe as they possibly can be. However, what is involved in the crash testing process?
To test, car crash testers first drain the car of fuel and replace it with a specialised solution. A variety of collisions then occur from the front and side, which damages the car’s chassis. They then assess this damage, and the damage to the dummy, to minute detail to analyse the car’s safety. For example, spillage of the specialised solution is noted and measured to test the probability of the car catching fire during a crash.
All cars must meet a high baseline of safety, but some cars are earmarked as being safer than others, which is reflected in the car’s description.
While depictions of this test are quite graphic, they should provide peace of mind. Any modern car you drive has been tested thoroughly and car safety standards and technology are improving every year.
Brakes are, obviously, very important in the running of the car. Due to their importance, car manufacturers test them to ensure they last for a significant period. The reasons for this are two-fold: to maintain safety and to decrease maintenance costs.
Braking is tested through a specialised device known as a brake tester. To use it, a vehicle is driven onto the tester in line with a set of rollers. The rollers are then switched on, which cause the tyres to run. The operator of the vehicle then hits the brakes, which creates a force. This force is recorded by measuring the deceleration of the tyres.
After a matrix of recordings has been noted down, testers can then accurately assess how long the brakes will last, as well their metrics.
The vibration cars endure can lead to long-term damage. As such, vehicles must be tested to ascertain the effects vibration has on them.
This area of testing is very sophisticated, with each part of the car needing slightly different techniques to test vibrations on. Currently, waveform replication is used most.
Waveform replication is used in each area of the car to simulate vibration, allowing for data to be recorded on the nature of the vibration. This is done at different speeds and durations that mimic real-world driving, allowing testers to conclude whether the car can cope with the physical demands of driving.
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