MOT checklist 2024: Pre-MOT checks

MOT checklist 2024: Pre-MOT checks

Last updated March 8th, 2024

If your car is over three years old and below the MOT exemption age, you need to have an annual MOT test (Ministry of Transport test) to ensure it is road-safe and legal. An MOT is an extensive check of your vehicle, and it must be passed to prove your car is roadworthy.

If your vehicle fails its MOT, any faults must be fixed before the car is retested, otherwise it is not roadworthy. In some cases, where your vehicle is beyond help, the result of an MOT might be that you realise it is more economical for you to just buy a new car. Not having a valid MOT certificate could land you a fine, points on your licence or even a temporary driving ban.

An MOT will also impact the value of a car – so if you’re buying a second-hand vehicle, be sure to check its MOT history for a round-up of any faults or fixes.

Value your car in under 30 seconds

Preparing your car for an MOT

  • Clean your car. Remove any debris from the boot and clean the interior. A dirty or cluttered interior could lead to MOT failure.

  • Don’t forget to clean the number plate; your reg number should be clearly legible.

  • Inspect the windscreen wipers. Make sure they are in good condition and there are no tears. Replace them if necessary.

  • Check all the lights are working. Ask a friend or family member to observe your car from the outside and confirm whether each light is working as it should.

  • Check the tyre pressure and tyre tread depth are within the legal limits.

  • Top up the screenwash, oil and brake fluid.

  • Test the horn.

  • Check that all mirrors are intact and secured.

  • Check that the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is clearly visible and matches the VIN referenced in your V5C logbook.

Can an MOT test be done early?

It often pays to be proactive, so you may be wondering, “How soon can I MOT my car?”

Your car can be MOT tested one month and a day before your current certificate expires - and the original anniversary date will still apply.

To find out when your current MOT expires, enter your reg number into our free MOT check tool.

What if I fail my MOT, but my previous certificate is still in date?

If you renew early and your car fails its MOT, the old certificate will still be valid, meaning you can still drive the car (unless any ‘dangerous’ faults were highlighted).

However, you should still rectify any issues raised promptly.

What does an MOT test involve?

During an MOT test, the mechanic or engineer will test and examine the following parts and areas:

  • Electrical equipment - Checking the brake lights, fog lights, headlights and indicators.
  • Tyres - Checking tyre condition and tread depth.
  • Steering - Checking the strength and overall condition of the steering wheel.
  • Suspension - Checking for wear and corrosion - and inspecting the shock absorbers.
  • Brakes - Checking brake efficiency and the condition of the pedals.
  • Exhaust and emissions - Checking for leaks in the exhaust and fuel systems.
  • Seat belts and seats.
  • VIN - Checking that the VIN is clearly displayed.

The tester will check each of these parts and grade them against strict criteria to determine whether the vehicle passes or fails.

Common causes of MOT failure

There are many reasons why you may fail your MOT. However, faults related to the lights, suspension and brakes are especially common.

Here is a table showing the most prevalent MOT defects:

MOT defect category % of defects

Lights & signals








Driver’s view


Fuel & exhaust




Seat belt




Reg & VIN




How can I prepare for my MOT?

Before taking your car in for a test, you should take steps to ensure that you are presenting your vehicle in the best possible way. Make sure that your car is clean, inside and out, so that the testers can go about their jobs easily.

You should also ensure that you have prepared all the documentation you need to take to your MOT.

MOT checklist

As mentioned above, the MOT testers will work against a DVLA MOT check sheet to ensure that your vehicle is suitable for use on UK roads. The MOT will include checks on:

  • Brakes

    • When it comes to your car’s safety, brakes are among the most crucial components of all - and must work reliably to pass your MOT test.
    • To assess brake function, MOT testers will place the car on rollers and test whether the brakes decelerate efficiently.
    • They’ll also check whether the brakes are properly balanced; if they are, the car should stop in a straight line.
    • The tester will also check that the pedal rubber is not excessively worn.
    • The ABS warning light must also work correctly, if anti-lock brakes are fitted to the vehicle.
    • The handbrake must work correctly and hold the car steady, even on a steep gradient.
    • Finally, the tester will lift the bonnet and check the brake servo and master cylinder.
  • Doors

    • The tester will check that all doors can safely be opened from the inside and outside of the vehicle.
    • They will also ensure that all openings (including the tailgate and bonnet) can be closed securely.
  • Horn

    The tester will sound the horn to check whether it is loud enough to be heard by drivers in the vicinity.

    Please note: Novelty car horns that play multiple notes or melodies are not permitted and will cause an MOT failure.

  • Registration plate

    Ensure your number plate is clean and legible – a quick wash is sufficient. The font and spacing of the number plate characters must also comply with the legal requirements.

  • Lights

    All lights should be working properly. That includes headlights, taillights, indicators, hazard lights, sidelights, brake lights and rear fog lights. Headlight alignment is also checked, so you may want to check alignment at home beforehand by parking your car 25 feet from a wall and placing a piece of tape horizontally 4 feet high in front of your vehicle. You should turn on your low beams and adjust the headlights until they shine on the tape.

  • Steering

    Steering faults are not easy to check or fix, so it may be an expensive fix if your vehicle has them. Steering bearings, bolts, clamps, gaiters and universal joints will be checked. Power steering will be tested with the engine running.

  • Suspension

    During the test, shock absorbers are checked for corrosion and wear.

  • Windscreen and wipers

    If your windscreen is damaged, this will cause an MOT failure. Wipers will also be checked and should operate correctly with the rubber blades in good condition.

  • Screen wash

    The screen washers must provide enough fluid to clean the windscreen. Therefore, an empty screen wash container or blocked jet can cause an instant MOT fail. Prevent this by topping up your screen wash and checking the jets before the MOT.

  • Seats and seatbelts

    Seats and seatbelts are crucial to the safety of your car. Seats should be securely fixed to the car, and belts should be securely attached too. Reel belts should expand and retract properly, without catching.

  • Wheels and tyres

    All four wheels should be securely fixed to the car, with all their attachments in place. Rims will also be examined for damage, so beware of cracks or distortion.

    Tyres will be tested for cuts or bulges, as well as tread depth. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm through the continuous band. To check tread depth, you can place a 20p coin into the grooves of the main tread and ensure the outer band of the coin isn’t visible. If you cansee the outer band of the coin, your tread is below the legal limit.

    The same sized tyres should be fitted on each axle, and all the axles should be aligned properly.

    The spare wheel is not part of the MOT test, but if it is kept on the outside of the car, it should be mounted securely.

  • Fuel emissions and engine oil

    Fuel-powered vehicles have their emissions tested during an MOT using specialist equipment connected to the car’s exhaust. The legal emissions limit depends on the age of the vehicle – newer cars have stricter rules.

    The engineer will also check that the exhaust system and fuel filler cap are secure to prevent leaks.

Servicing and MOTs

In addition to MOT testing your car on an annual basis, you should also have it serviced at regular intervals.

Services are more comprehensive than MOTs, which merely assess roadworthiness. A service is essentially a ‘health check’, where a mechanic carries out routine maintenance and checks various parts of your car to ensure it is in good working order.

During a service, the mechanic will usually check the oil, tyres, brakes, exhaust, suspension and other important components. They may also top up any fluids that have fallen below the optimal levels – and carry out minor repairs such as tightening belts. The mechanic may recommend more extensive repairs, if they are beneficial.

Whilst unlike the MOT test, car services are not compulsory, they can help to identify any faults and concerns before they take your vehicle off the road. The manufacturer’s recommendation for how often you should service your car will vary from model to model.

Regular servicing will ensure you maintain a complete service history, which can reassure prospective buyers that you have taken good care of the vehicle when you decide to sell your car.

What happens if your car fails its MOT?

  • Since 2018, MOT tests have categorised defects as ‘dangerous’, ‘major’ and ‘minor’.
  • If you receive one or more dangerous or major faults, you will automatically fail your MOT. You’ll also receive a VT30 form (a ‘refusal’ of your MOT certificate).

Can I drive my car after a failed MOT?

  • If your car has failed its MOT, you can continue to drive it if your previous certificate is in date and no ‘dangerous’ defects were highlighted on the failed MOT. However, you should rectify any faults as a matter of urgency, then retest your car.
  • If the previous MOT certificate has expired, you can only drive it to a pre-booked MOT appointment or for repairs to bring the vehicle to a roadworthy standard.
  • If your car has ‘dangerous’ faults, it cannot be driven under any circumstances until they are rectified.
  • You may receive a hefty fine and penalty points on your driving licence if you are caught driving without a valid MOT.

What are my options for selling an MOT failure?

It is perfectly legal to sell your MOT failure. However, if you choose to sell your car privately, you should disclose its MOT-less status in any listings you publish.

You may find it difficult to find a suitable private buyer, unless you find someone who’s keen to restore your motor. Many car dealerships won’t buy MOT-less cars. However, you may be able to find one that’s willing to take yours off your hands if you take the time to ask around.

Selling your MOT failure to webuyanycar is simple and hassle-free. You can sell your car to us, regardless of its condition or MOT status. Here’s how it works:

  • Enter your reg number into our free car valuation tool.
  • Book your appointment at any of our 500+ UK branches.
  • Drive to your appointment. Happy to sell? We’ll sort the paperwork and send the money to your bank.