A car must have an MOT every year once it is 3 years old in the UK (or 4 years in N.I) to make sure it meets environmental and road safety standards. MOT stands for Ministry of Transport test and there are about 21,000 authorised MOT test centres all around the country that display a blue sign with 3 white triangles.
An MOT does not cover the conditions of your gearbox, clutch or engine but includes checks on lights, fuel system, exhaust system, windscreen wipers, mirrors, seatbelts and brakes.
There is a maximum MOT charge which is set by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency that official test centres can charge but many will actually charge less due to competition from other garages providing an MOT.
Things to check before your MOT
Some MOT tests can fail first time due to the following minor faults that could have been fixed by the owner of the car beforehand.
- Failing to top up the screen wash.
- A cluttered or dirty car including mirrors and windows.
- An incorrect font/spacing on the registration plate (especially if it is personalised) or being dirty or missing characters.
- The driver’s view blocked by stickers, make sure any objects stuck to the screen are outside the windscreen wipers sweep area.
- If there is a warning light showing on the dashboard, make sure you know what they mean and have them fixed before your MOT as this warning light is included in the MOT.
After you have checked the basic reasons your MOT may fail above, you can use the checklist below to identify any other issues that you will need to get fixed before your MOT.
- Check and replace broken bulbs if any of your front or rear headlights, hazard lights or indicators are not working.
- Ask someone to check if your rear brake lights are coming on when you press the brake pedal.
- Check the tread depth on your tyres has at least the minimum legal depth of 1.6mm and make sure there are no cuts, splits or bulges in the tread and sidewalls. Check your tyre pressure and increase if necessary at a petrol station.
- If your handbrake cannot be ratcheted to a set level and slides up and down without any resistance, then you may need this problem looked at by a qualified mechanic.
- Make sure the front and back seatbelts fasten, latch securely, lock when you tug them, and there is no visible damage. The driver’s seat should adjust backwards and forwards.
- If there is any damage to the driver’s central view of the windscreen wider than 10mm or any other damage to the windscreen larger than 40mm then this will cause an MOT fail.
- Make sure your windscreen wipers are free from holes or tears in the rubber and that they clean your windscreen effectively.
- Perform a suspension check by applying your full weight to each corner of the car and releasing it quickly to test the shock absorbers. The corner should return to its original height and not bounce more than 2 times.
- Test your horn to see if it is loud enough to attract pedestrians or other motorists.
- Make sure there are no exhaust leaks by starting the engine in a normal temperature and well-ventilated area and listen for any unusual noises or smoke at the rear of the car.
- The MOT will require enough fuel and engine oil to perform the tests and you may be turned away if you have not provided enough in your car.
If your car fails its MOT
You will receive a VT3O Certificate from the MOT test centre which shows the reasons your test has failed. You need to have these fails fixed and arrange a partial MOT retest to check the issues have been rectified. You may be able to get this test for a free or reduced fee depending on if you leave your car at the test centre to carry out the repairs or have the work carried out elsewhere then bring it back for the retest during a set time limit.
If your MOT has expired
It is illegal to drive your car on the road if your MOT has expired and you can be prosecuted if you do. It also invalidates your car insurance unless you actually have an MOT booked while driving to the test centre.