The MOT test can make many car owners nervous. A failure could cost you money in repair bills, even take your car off the road!
What is an MOT?
The MOT is your car’s annual roadworthiness examination, and is carried out in accordance with the latest regulations issued by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
Vehicles more than three years old must have a valid MOT before being driven on public roads, drivers can be fined up to £1000 for driving a vehicle with no MOT certificate.
It is also worth noting that insurance companies are also within their rights to invalidate the insurance if there is no current MOT!
To pass, a vehicle must conform to a strict set of safety and emissions criteria, with precise requirements varying according to its size, age and class. If any faults are identified as dangerous or illegal, the vehicle will automatically fail, but less significant shortcomings - such as a nearly worn-out tyre or rusty exhaust - will be listed as an ‘advisory’ and will likely need to be rectified before the next test.
The average test lasting around 45 minutes. (
The DVSA advises that the characters on your number plate must be in the correct font, and that the plate itself must be sized appropriately.
To pass, the number plate must be the right colour (usually black/yellow at the rear, black/white at the front), be fully legible (no significant cracks, scrapes or fading) and display the correct registration format for your car’s year.
Lights and indicators
Every test will include a test of your car’s headlights, which should be aimed properly, switch correctly between dipped and full beam and have clear, unmarked lenses.
The indicators will also be tested at this stage along with the number plate light, reversing lights and any fog lamps will also be checked.
Brake lights should illuminate clearly when pressure is applied to the brake pedal during the test. If your car has a centrally mounted third brake light (which it doesn’t legally need), it has to work. The basic rule is: if it’s there, it needs to function.
Tyre tread depth is easy to check before the test, the minimum average tread depth allowed on UK roads is 1.6mm - or roughly the same as the border of a 20p coin. Most tyres have a little rubber level gauge between the treads to help you know if your tyres need changing
Check the sidewalls for bulges and cracks, as these are not only MOT failures, but highly dangerous at any speed.
Your front wipers should be in good working order, and be capable of effectively clearing dirt from the windscreen. This means the blades themselves must not have any tears or cracks that leave smears across the glass in rainy conditions.
Rear wipers aren’t tested, but if your car has one and it isn’t working, it’s best to get it fixed in any case, for peace of mind.
Windscreen washer jets must be angled and pressured correctly. In some garages showing up with an empty screen wash tank can result in a fail, so top up your water!
Seats and seatbelts
Seatbelts are thoroughly checked during an MOT test. The belts themselves must extend and retract as intended, be in good usable condition and clip securely into the fastener.
An older car might fail its test if the seatbelt anchorage points (usually the top and bottom of the B-pillar) are excessively damaged or corroded.
Fuel and engine oil
The same goes for oil; check your car’s dipstick before heading to the garage to make sure the engine’s not in any danger of running dry. An MOT tester is within their rights to refuse to test any car with low fluids.
What are the most common reasons for MOT failure?
It might surprise you to learn that the most common reason for MOT failure is also one of the cheapest faults to rectify. It is as simple as a blown bulb!
The second most common failure is due to suspension faults.
Brakes and tyres are another area where your car can let you down.
Finally, making sure you can see while driving is an absolute must. Get rid of anything that could obstruct your view of the road ahead – phone holders, air fresheners, sat navs and stickers – and ensure there are no chips or cracks in the windscreen itself.
Beware of the cheap MOT offers, what may look like a bargain MOT price may prove to cost you more. Check the hourly rate for mechanical work that you may be charged if work it needed!