If your car is over three years old, 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 in order for your car to be approved for use on the roads.
If your vehicle fails its MOT, any faults that caused it to fail must be fixed before the car is re-tested, otherwise it is not road legal. 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 result in you being landed with a fine, having points added to your licence, or even temporarily banned from driving.
During an MOT, a mechanic or engineer will look at several parts of your car and grade them against a strict criteria, to determine whether the vehicle passes or fails.
In May 2018, the UK government introduced tougher MOT tests, and it is expected that the MOT test will only get more rigorous, as clampdowns on emissions increase.
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.
Check your windscreen wipers are in a good condition, check all lights work properly, and check tyre tread. You can also top up all fluids: screen wash, brake fluid and oil. Double check that the vehicle identification number (VIN) in the logbook matches the number on the body.
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:
All lights should be working properly. That includes headlights, taillights, indicators, hazard lights, side lights, 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 faults are not easy to check or fix, so if your vehicle is found to have them, it may be an expensive fix. Steering bearings, bolts, clamps, gaiters and universal joints will be checked. Power steering will be tested with the engine running.
During the test, shock absorbers are checked for corrosion and wear.
If your windscreen is damaged, this will cause MOT failure. Wipers will also be checked and should operate correctly with the rubber blades in good condition.
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.
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. Legal tread depth is at least 1.6mm deep 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 is visible. If you can’t see 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 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 in order to prevent leaks.