Written by Ann Wilkinson
21 June, 2019
If your car is more than three years old, it has to pass an MOT test every year to check that it’s roadworthy and that it meets the legal standards. An MOT isn’t the same as having your vehicle serviced as it doesn’t check the engine, clutch or gearbox. Previous MOTs failed cars with dangerous faults, while less serious problems were rated ‘advisory’ issues. Following new changes introduced in May 2018, cars are measured against a four-tier fault hierarchy, with the most serious issues designated dangerous and less serious faults labelled major, minor or advisory.
Taking your car in for its MOT can be a daunting experience, especially considering the changes to fault definitions, greater emphasis on diesel car emissions and a subsequent shift in risk scores. But there are some checks you can do prior to your MOT that may help you avoid some of the common reasons for failure.
MOTs are carried out by a local impartial authorised testing centre each year once a car turns three years old. An average test takes around 60 minutes, but if your car fails the test or requires repairs, this will take significantly longer. As outlined by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, MOTs currently cost £54.85 for cars and £29.65 for motorbikes, but some garages may charge less than this. The new MOT categories and definitions as of May 2018 are as follows:
Some new items that are now tested in the MOT include under inflated tyres, contaminated brake fluid, brake pad warning lights and daytime running lights. If your car fails its MOT, the test centre will provide you with a VT30 Certificate outlining the reasons for the fail. A test centre is not allowed to let drivers take away cars that have failed their MOT unless the problems are fixed, the car is being taken to have the faults rectified, or the existing MOT certificate is valid.
Lights: One thing many motorists forget to check prior to an MOT test is their headlights, rear lights, fog lights, brake lights, indicators and hazard lights. The best way to check your lights is to ask a friend to press the brake pedal while you inspect the car, or reverse up to a reflective surface so you can verify that your lights are secure, not obstructed and correctly positioned. If you spot any blown bulbs, be sure to check your car’s manual to see if it’s safe for you to replace them yourself.
Wipers: Check wiper blades for any damage and ensure that they aren’t stuck in a position that would obstruct the driver’s view of the road. To check that your wipers are able to effectively clear the windscreen of rain, use a watering can filled with room temperature water to test their performance. If the wipers are worn, it’s generally more cost-effective to buy a new set of blades in advance rather than relying on the MOT centre.
Number plate: Inspect your number plates to ensure they are in good condition, securely attached and are the right colour. They must show your car’s registration number correctly, otherwise you could be fined up to £1,000 for driving with incorrectly spaced or coloured letters and numbers. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to order a new set of plates from a registered and reputable number plate supplier if you spot an issue.
Wheels and tyres: You should check that your wheels and tyres are undamaged prior to an MOT test, and you can either do this yourself or consult a local tyre fitter for a professional opinion. Look for any splits in the tread or curls in sidewalls, and check that all tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. The legal minimum tyre tread depth is 1.6mm.
Windscreen: Take a look at the windscreen to ensure that there aren’t any chips, cracks or significant damage to the glass. Any damage less than 40mm will result in a fail, as will any chips or dents that are wider than 10mm in the area swept by the wipers.
Fluids: You may not know that your car could fail its MOT for having low levels of screenwash, so make sure that the washer container is topped up in advance. You’ll also be rejected from the test centre if your car has insufficient levels of engine oil or fuel required to check the emissions levels. Check for exhaust leaks by starting the car and checking for any unusual noises or abnormal smoke.
Horn: This is an easy one to check, but one that drivers often miss in the run up to their test. Make sure that your horn is functional and that it’s suitable for the model. While you’re inspecting the interior of your car, you should also check that the vehicle registration number (VIN) matches the VIN recorded in your car’s log book.
Seats and seatbelts: Ensure that the driver’s seatbelt can be adjusted easily and that all seats are securely fitted, with all seatbacks in the upright position. Check the entire length of the seatbelt for damage, pull on them sharply to check that they tighten correctly, and ensure that they latch securely. When testing the driver’s seat, be sure to check that the steering wheel is free of damage or obstructions.
Warning lights: A failed main beam warning light will result in a fail, as will the ABS light, engine warning light, brake fluid light and airbag warning light, as these are all essential features of a roadworthy vehicle. Be sure to get all dashboard lights checked and rectified in advance.
Suspension and brakes: Testing your brakes every day will significantly reduce the risk of your car failing due to brake issues. If you hear any questionable sounds or notice your car pulling to one side as you come up to junctions, consult a garage. Press down on the front wings of your car to check for worn shock absorbers; if the car bounces up and down more than twice, these will likely need replacing.
If your car does fail its MOT you’ll need to fix all major and dangerous faults to make your car roadworthy, and arrange a partial MOT retest before you can drive your car on the road again. If your MOT has expired, it’s illegal to drive your car on the road and your insurance will be invalid. It’s essential that you leave yourself enough time to make these checks and any required repairs before your MOT, and fix any issues found during the test as soon as possible afterwards.
At AMT Leasing, MOT’s and servicing are included in the optional maintenance package. If you’re looking for a new lease car, contact our dedicated team today on 0113 417 0155 to find your ideal match.