Why do you need an MOT?
Every car needs an MOT certificate after its first 3 years of registration. The test is designed to make sure that your car is roadworthy and safe to drive.
Your MOT test outlines any areas of your vehicle’s performance and condition that don’t conform to the levels required by law. You must have your car tested every year to maintain the consistency of its good condition and to make sure that the standard of all vehicles on the roads in the UK are safe for drivers, passengers and other road users alike.
Failing your MOT
If a vehicle fails its MOT, then it’s no longer legally permitted to be driven on the road. Therefore, passing your MOT is a must, and passing the first time is a bonus when it comes to saving time and money.
If you do fail your MOT or think you’re likely to, then it’s worth considering a test centre that offers free retests. This gives you the chance to resolve any issues and not be charged the full price of the test a second, third or even fourth time.
The new MOT grading system 2018
In May 2018, the Department for Transport introduced a 3-tier grading system.
Faults are now categorised as minor, major or dangerous. Major and dangerous faults will cause an automatic test fail.
Minor fault fails will now show as a pass with defects, and it’s suggested that any ‘defects’ should be repaired as soon as possible.
How much does an MOT cost?
The price of an MOT is legally set to a maximum of £54.85 for a car. Test centres can charge less if they want to, often offering special offers to attract customers; so if you’re looking for a good deal, it can pay to shop around.
Passing your MOT test
Choose a trusted mechanic, test centre or garage
It’s recommended that when it comes to choosing a mechanic or garage to look after your pride and joy, it pays to find one that you can trust.
Finding a mechanic that won’t ‘invent’ problems or carry out unnecessary work that you don’t need is an important part of car ownership. If you haven’t already tracked down such an ally, then find one with good references. Ask your friends and work colleagues for their recommendations.
Once you’ve found one, they should be able to advise the best place to have your test carried out, if indeed they aren’t capable of it themselves.
Many will have a good relationship with their preferred test centre, which will allow them the time to put any problem areas straight.
MOT tips and tricks
We’re not guaranteeing a pass if you check all the items on our list, but we are confident that with a little care and attention you can better your chances of getting through your MOT unscathed.
Pay attention to the following areas, and you should maximise your chances of attaining the pass you need.
For tyres to pass the MOT test, they must have a minimum of 1.6mm of tread across the central 3/4 width of the tyre. This is an automatic fail. Other automatic tyre fails include any significant damage resulting in cuts, bulges and cracking.
- Car lights, brake lights and indicators
If any of your lights are inoperative, then that’s also an automatic fail. Check all bulbs: headlamps (full and dipped beam), sidelights, fog lamps, breaking and reversing lights—even the rear number plate light. Bulbs are cheap to replace. Having to fork out for a second MOT test isn’t.
- Car windscreen and windscreen wipers
Chips and cracks in your windscreen won’t necessarily cause an MOT fail—it depends on the size and location of the damage.
Chips smaller than 10mm in the direct line of sight of the driver, or in the area covered by your windscreen wipers, will still achieve a pass. Anything outside that area can be as large as 40mm before they earn a fail.
Your wipers must be able to clear the screen effectively, so perished or damaged rubber will need replacing. The washers must work too, so make sure that your jets are clear and that the screenwash reservoir has enough liquid for the testers to operate them.
Given their role in the safe performance of your vehicle, it’s imperative that your brakes work correctly.
If at any time you feel your brakes are spongy, pulling to one side, making unusual noises, not stopping you as fast as they should or are emitting excessive dust from your wheels—get them checked.
Both your handbrake and brake pedal should always be 100% operational. If not, it will cost you a fail.
- Registration plates
You can fail your MOT for something as simple as dirty number plates. By law, your vehicle’s registration must always be visible, so make sure they are clean and clear. Your number plates should be professionally manufactured from the correct reflective material, with the letters showing the required amount of spacing.
- Exhaust and emissions
We’re not expecting you to have the tools to test your car’s emissions, but you should be able to notice any excessive smoke from your exhaust or noisy pipes and back-boxes. If it’s loud or blowing, you’re likely to have some holes or cracks in your system, and if there’s a load of smoke blowing behind you, it’s a clear sign of an unhealthy running engine. Poor emissions will likely follow suit.
Poor bodywork isn’t necessarily going to fail you your MOT but bodywork issues that are close to structural key points can. Any bodywork that is damaged enough to be considered a danger to passengers or pedestrians will also fail your test.
- Steering issues
An overly worn steering column will fail your MOT test. If your car pulls to one side when driving or you hear or feel knocking when steering, it’s a sign that something is damaged and on its way out.
While you probably aren’t in a position to fix this yourself, it’s well-worth seeking advice on what it will cost to repair. If it’s more than the value of the car, then it’s pointless wasting money on an MOT test and rectifying other issues if it’s only going to fail anyway.
All the car seats should move as designed to, so check they slide along their rails easily and that they’re not wobbly or insecurely fastened in place.
Your seatbelts must lock fully in the event of a collision, so tug sharply to test that they will. They also can’t show any sign of damage or wear at any point of their length, so pull them right out to make sure there are no nicks, cuts or tears.
- Car horn
If your horn doesn’t work, then get it fixed. It might not seem as important a component as your engine, tyres or seatbelts, but it will still register a fail at your MOT test if it isn’t in working order.
Check all your fuel and fluid levels
It seems silly to say it, but if there isn’t enough fuel in your car for it to run for the full length of the test, the incomplete test carries an automatic fail.
The same goes for engine oil, brake fluid and all other consumables, where low levels could spark up a warning light on your dashboard.