What to be aware of at MOT time
Once your car reaches three years old, it
requires an annual MOT test at an approved test centre before it is allowed on
the road for a further year. This ensures your vehicle is safe to drive and
that it is not polluting excessively.
This test is thorough and will highlight both
failed items plus aspects which will require attention soon. It does not
replace planned services and you must still ensure your vehicle is properly
maintained and legal to drive.
You will be presented with a pass or fail
certificate and MOT information is recorded on-line by the MOT tester.
Since 20th May 2018, the MOT test has three new
categories. These are dangerous, major and minor. Minor failures and advisory
items will still allow a car to pass but are there to make the owner aware that
remedial work could be needed in the near future.
What's checked in an MOT test?
Here are the main items tested:
• Lights, including the alignment of headlamps
• Brakes, for both operation and condition including the hydraulic pipes and the parking brake
• Condition and structure of the car, looking for corrosion, accident damage, leaks etc.
• General items such as number plates, horn, mirrors, seatbelts
• Tyres, wheels, hubs, wheel bearings, shock absorbers, suspension
• Transmission parts, including engine mounts and the exhaust system
• Emissions, including visual checks, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and lambda (air/fuel ratio)
What else has changed from 20th May 2018?
Stricter rules around diesels now mean a fail if
the tester can see smoke of any colour coming from the exhaust or finds
evidence that the diesel particulate filter (DPF) has been tampered
The tester will also check:
• if tyres are obviously under-inflated
• if the brake fluid has been contaminated
• for fluid leaks posing an environmental risk
• brake pad warning lights and if brake pads or discs are missing
• reversing lights on vehicles first used from 1 September 2009
• headlight washers on vehicles first used from 1 September 2009 (if fitted)
• daytime running lights on vehicles first used from 1 March 2018 (most of these will have their first MOT in 2021 when they’re three years old)
Cars older than 40 years are MOT exempt. They
can be registered as historic from the April following their 40th anniversary
of first registration, which exempts them from the need from an MOT test,
although they must still be legal to drive.
What isn't tested?
There are still some aspects of a car which are
not tested. The condition of the engine will not be checked and problems might
only be highlighted if there are excessive emissions or something mechanically
unsafe is spotted. Similarly, clutch and gearbox wear and tear will not be
considered. Nor will the items such as the battery, heating and air
conditioning be assessed.
What can I do to improve my car's chances of passing an MOT test?
Many cars fail on simple items which can be
checked easily before the test. These are things any car owner or driver should
check regularly anyway. It will only take a couple of minutes but addressing
them early could be the difference between driving away from the test centre
with a pass, or needing to organise and pay for a retest. Here are our top
• Check all the bulbs work, including brake and fog lights, and even the small bulbs which illuminate the rear number plate.
• Check your tyres have more than the legal minimum tread depth (1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre in the UK, although we recommend changing tyres before they are this worn)
• Ensure your number plates are clean, undamaged and that the font and character spacing is legal.
• Ensure your windscreen view is clear. Damage larger than 10mm in diameter within the wiper sweep area (or 40mm anywhere on the screen) is a failure point. You should remove stickers and poorly positioned equipment such as portable sat-nav screens. Your wipers must also be in good condition. You must also have sufficient washer fluid to test the mechanism.
• The driver’s seat must move forwards and backwards properly. All seatbelts should operate correctly: a sharp tug will show they lock up as they are supposed to under heavy braking.
• The horn can be checked with a short press of the button.
• Check the level of the oil, coolant and fuel. The MOT test centre will need your engine running so will not wish to run out of fuel or damage the engine; you may be refused a test if levels are too low.
What if my car fails its MOT test?
If your car fails its MOT test, you can still
drive it home or to a garage to have more minor faults fixed if its previous
MOT certificate is still valid and the car is still roadworthy.
You will need to fix any faults and take it for
a retest. If you return to the same test centre within 10 days, you should only
be charged for a partial retest. If you take your car elsewhere or it is longer
than 10 days, you will be charged for a full retest.
Can I drive my car without an MOT?
The simple answer is ‘no’ (and you could be fined up to £1,000) but there are two exceptions:
• You are allowed to drive to a test centre where you have a pre-booked appointment for the car to be tested or retested.
• You are also allowed to drive to a garage where any repairs will be done.
In either case, you could be still fined if your car does not meet the minimum standards of roadworthiness.
Where can I check my car's MOT status and history?
The MOT history of any car is freely available
on the government website here. This includes any failure and warning items listed.
Image acknowledgement: Crown copyright
About the Author
Andrew is a freelance motoring journalist with a background in IT and the vehicle leasing industry. With a lifetime’s passion for all things automotive, he can be found behind the wheel of everything from vans to supercars. In addition to reviewing the latest vehicles and technology, Andrew also runs a couple of classic British motors. He lives at the edge of the Peak District with his son and cat.
Andrew Wright @theMotorWriter