10 Things to Check Before Your Car’s MOT Test

Firstly, what is an MOT?

An MOT (Ministry of Transport Test) is an annual safety check that ensures your vehicle meets the minimum road safety standards, including regulated exhaust emissions levels put in place by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

During the MOT test, important components of your vehicle will be checked to ensure that they meet the legal standards and that your vehicle is safe to drive. The MOT test changed on 20 May 2018, with new defect types, stricter rules for diesel car emissions, and some vehicles over 40 years old becoming exempt.

If your car passes its MOT, the MOT tester may still find minor faults and if possible these should be rectified sooner rather than later so as to avoid it getting worse. It could also be passed with advisories, which means you should keep an eye on the issues and repair as and when necessary..

Does my car need an MOT?

If your car is more than three years old, you are legally obliged to have an MOT. Once we have carried out an MOT on your vehicle we will send you a text message reminder 28 days before it is due to expire the following year.

Without a valid MOT you won’t be able to renew road tax or insurance.

What happens during an MOT?

The MOT tester will carry out pre checks, such as the vehicle structure and general condition of the car,  it is free from excessive damage in any particular areas, ensuring the headlights and wing mirrors are secure, that all doors are able to be opened from inside and outside of the vehicle. The MOT tester will look at tow bars (if fitted), fuel/exhaust systems, seatbelts, seats, doors, brakes, tyres/wheels, lights, the bonnet, the windscreen, wipers/washers, the horn, steering/suspension.

How can you make sure that all those things are working as they should?

There will be some parts of your vehicle you won’t be able to check yourself; however, there are some you can inspect to ensure they are in working order before your MOT test.

Below you will find 10 easy checks you can do yourself before your MOT test: –

1.Check Brake Fluid

Open your car bonnet with the ignition off with a cool engine, on a flat surface – and look for the brake resevoir.

You will be able to see markings that say ‘min’ and ‘max’; the fluid within the container needs to be between these two lines. If your brake fluid level is below, make sure you top it up.

2.Check Mirrors

In order to pass your MOT, you must have your obligatory mirrors intact. This means one interior and one offside mirror.

According to the MOT manual, there are three acceptable rear-view mirror positions:

  1. An exterior mirror or device that provides a view along the offside of the vehicle.
  2. An exterior mirror or device that provides a view along the nearside of the vehicle.
  3. An interior mirror or a device which provides a view to the rear of the vehicle.

When checking your car’s mirrors, ensure that none are cracked, severely impairing your view or exposing a damaged edge.

3.Check All Warning Lights

If there are any lights illuminated on your dashboard this will be picked up in your MOT and you will fail, so it’s best to get it done beforehand, and not to let a potentially dangerous problem go on any longer.

This is referred to as the ‘malfunction indicator lamp test’ and came into effect in 2012, If the MOT tester turns on the ignition and warning lights come on, you will fail your MOT, not to mention probably finding yourself with an additional charge to investigate and diagnose what the light means.

4.Ensure Tyres Have Enough Tread

Your MOT isn’t the only reason you should check the condition of your tyres, it’s crucial that tyres are in good condition, if not, it will affect your stopping distance, particularly in wet weather conditions.

If you’re caught on the road with tyres below the required depth, you could face a fine of up to £2,500 and three penalty points per tyre. The minimum legal tyre tread in the UK is 1.6mm.

You can quickly check the tread of your tyres by using a 20p coin. Insert the coin into the tread of the tyre. You should not be able to see the outer band of the coin if your tyres are within the legal limit. If you can see that section of the coin, your tyres could be unsafe, so it would be advisable to get them checked and changed before your MOT.

5.Make Sure Your Lights Are Working

Much like your mirrors, there are obligatory lights that need to be working on your car for you to pass your MOT: the front- and rear-position lamps. The exact positioning of these required lamps does not form part of the inspection, but it’s best to check that both lamps are approximately the same height and that they’re working, not obstructed and in good condition.

6.Test Your Horn

The quickest and easiest test to do, and chances are that if this didn’t work, you’d already be aware of it and have had the fault fixed. So, as you’re doing your full pre-MOT checks, be sure to check the horn.

7.Ensure Your Vehicle Has Enough Oil

The oil check is an important part of an MOT because without it, the MOT tester will not be able to test emission levels.

To check the oil level, ensure the engine is off and parked on a flat, even surface.

Locate the dipstick and pull it out, then wipe off any excess oil to ensure that you’re starting with a clean stick. Next, dip the dipstick back in and remove once more. You should see the oil sitting between the ‘min’ and ‘max’ marking on the dipstick.

8.Check the condition of your Windscreen

Some marks on your windscreen will pass an MOT, whilst others won’t. These marks include chips, cracks or significant scratches. If in doubt, have it checked by a professional.

Whilst you’re checking your windscreen, don’t forgot to check your screenwash level.

9.Get Your Vehicle Cleaned

This may seem unnecessary and are not going to fail your MOT if your car is dirty, however, you need to ensure that number plates are legible and that your lights are not blurred by smudged glass.

10.Keep on Top of Your Maintenance All Year Round

Needing to have an MOT sometimes serves as the only reminder to check certain parts of your car but you should keep your vehicle maintained all year round, to help maintain your car’s performance, as well keeping your car as safe as possible.

What happens if your car fails its MOT?

Your car might fail its MOT if it has either dangerous or major faults. You car can’t be driven until dangerous faults have been repaired. Major faults must be fixed as soon as possible.

Your car fails its new MOT within the existing MOT period

If you’re getting your new MOT before the old one has expired, you can drive your car away to get major faults repaired, but not if it has failed with dangerous faults.

Your car fails its new MOT and the old one has expired

The very latest you should leave your MOT test is the day the old one expires, because driving without an MOT  breaks the law and will invalidate your insurance. If your car fails its MOT on the day it’s due to expire, you can drive it away that day to get it repaired as long as it hasn’t failed with dangerous faults.

Do electric vehicles need an MOT?

Yes. Just like any other vehicle, after it is three years old, electric vehicles must have an annual MOT. The only difference is that the emissions test isn’t part of the MOT for electric vehicles.


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