You must keep any vehicles driven on the road in a roadworthy condition. The MOT test checks that your vehicle meets road safety and environmental standards.
It isn’t the same as having your vehicle serviced and doesn’t check its general mechanical condition.
When to test
You must get an MOT test every year once your vehicle is 3 years old (or 1 year old in some cases – check the MOT fees table to see when).
You’ll then need to renew your MOT before it expires. The earliest date you can renew is 1 month before it expires – this date is printed on the pass certificate.
You must use an approved MOT test centre to get your MOT. Only centres showing the blue sign with 3 white triangles can carry out your MOT.
Approved centres must show an official ‘MOT Test: Fees and Appeals’ poster on a public notice board on their premises. This must list contact details for your local DVSA area office.
MoT tests for pre-1960 cars are now abolished.
However, owners of vehicles that are exempted from the MoT test will still be legally required to ensure that their cars are safe, roadworthy and in a proper condition to be on the road.
If your MOT has expired
You can’t drive your vehicle on the road if the MOT has expired. You could be prosecuted if caught.
The only exception is if you’ve already booked an MOT and are driving your vehicle to the test centre.
Having your car serviced just before an MOT should pick up any faults that might cause it to fail.
A well serviced engine will also help it pass the emissions test.
Nearly twenty percent of all MOT failures are due to a blown bulb. Use the checklist below to ensure you’ve checked all your bulbs.
Park up close to a wall or garage door if you don’t have anyone to help you check them.
Headlights Main beam & dipped
Sidelights Front & rear
Indicators Front, rear and side repeaters
Number plate Lights only on rear number plate
Reverse light Not part of MOT but worth checking!
Rear fog light Front fog light not checked
Hazards Check circuit separately from indicators
Some indicator and brake light bulbs have a colour coating which starts to peel as they get old. When the colour flakes off, the bulb shines white and is cause enough for a test failure. Check the colours are correct at the same time as making sure they all work. All light fittings should be secure without cracks or damage.
2. Wheels & Tyres
All the tyres should be above the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across ¾ of the tyre’s width. There should be no damage on the tyres. Check for splits in the tread, bulges or cuts to the sidewalls. Check the tyre sizes – the front tyres must be the same size and the rear tyres must be the same size. Make sure there are no missing wheels nuts or any heavy damage to the wheels themselves. A spare wheel is not a requirement for the MOT and is not checked unless it is being used as a road wheel at the time. A ‘space saver’ spare fitted as a road wheel will NOT pass the MOT.
Check the windscreen for chips and cracks. The car will fail the MOT for chips over 10mm in the driver’s line of sight (A) (use the width of the steering wheel as a guide) and over 40mm in the area swept by the wipers (B). Any scratching that limits the drivers vision will also be a reason for a failed test. Get small stone chips repaired as soon as possible to stop them spreading any further and costing you the price of a new windscreen.
The wiper blades should be secure and clear the screen effectively for their entire length. Lift them up and check the rubber is not split or perished and that they are safely attached to the wiper arm.
5. Washer jets
Top up your screen wash before taking the car for it’s MOT and test the jets to make sure they operate correctly.
Blocked nozzles can be easily cleared with a pin.
The steering system isn’t something you’ll be able to check easily apart from making sure the wheels can turn freely from lock to lock and the power steering is working correctly if you have it.
The fuel cap needs to lock securely in place and the seal inside the cap shouldn’t be split or perished. Also, make sure you have enough fuel in the car to make it through the test!
The exhaust needs to be held on securely and not have any holes (apart from the obvious one at the end!). If your car exhaust is sounding louder than normal there’s a good chance it has a hole in it. You might be able to tell by getting your ear low to the ground on the driver’s side and listening carefully as you blip the accelerator (when the car is parked). If you go over a bump and the exhaust clunks on the underside of the car, the rubber mounts may be worn and in need of replacement.
The horn needs to work and be loud enough to attract the attention of pedestrians or other motorists. Musical air horns are a guaranteed fail!
The mirrors need to be in place and secure, i.e. not held to the car with sticky tape and string. The glass shouldn’t be cracked or smashed.
The car’s bodywork must be free from heavy corrosion, not be badly damaged or have sharp edges sticking out. The front doors should work from inside and outside and the rear doors will need to work so other parts of the test can be completed such as seat belt checks. The boot and bonnet need to close securely.
Most checks on the braking system require specialist knowledge but there are some easy things you can test. Make sure the rubber on all the pedals isn’t worn away and if your car has ABS, the warning light should go out after the car is started. The hand brake should hold the car on a hill.
13. Number plates
Front and back plates need to be secured properly to the car and not cracked, faded or hidden by dirt.
The letters and numbers should be standard and evenly spaced.
14. Seat belts
All the seat belt buckles should latch and fasten securely and lock when you give them a sharp tug. The belts need to be in good condition, not cut or badly frayed. The seats must be firmly bolted down; grab the base of each seat and try rocking it.
The best way to ensure your car passes the emissions test with ease is to have the car serviced prior to its MOT. On top of this, if your car hasn’t been run in a while or is mainly used for short town journeys, take it on a longer motorway type journey where a higher engine speed is sustained for a greater length of time. This helps to clean out sooty deposits from the engine prior to the emissions test.