If your car is over three years old, then it will have to pass an MOT test each year. This test is primarily about ensuring the vehicle is safe to drive and will not pose a hazard to other road users. If it fails, then you won’t be able to tax it and it will be illegal to drive it on the road. MOT failures can be expensive to put right, particularly in cases where a car has been so poorly maintained that it no longer meets the official criteria for road worthiness.
A standard car MOT will cost you £54.85 although some testing stations will discount this. If your car fails, then you will have up to 10 days to put right the items that it failed on before returning it to the garage for a partial retest. While many garages will not charge for a retest, some will levy a reduced MOT testing fee for this service.
As well as putting your safety and that of other road users first, ensuring that your car is always roadworthy and is likely to pass an MOT at any time makes good financial sense. So, how do you make sure that your vehicle is in the best possible condition to pass?
Your plan for passing the MOT
What is an MOT?
The garage will have a checklist – issued by the Department for Transport – that it will work through when testing your car. This list includes your vehicle identification number (VIN), licence plate, external lights, steering, suspension, wipers, washers, windscreen, horn, seat belts and seats, doors, mirrors, wheels and tyres, brakes, fuel system, exhaust system and emissions. An issue with anything on this list will mean that your car will fail and you will have to get the problems rectified if you want to continue driving. The most common reasons for MOT failure include:
lightbulbs not working – 30% of all faults relate to lights and indicators
poor tyre condition and pressure – 10% of all faults relate to tyre condition
issues with mirrors, wipers and washers – 8.5% of all faults relate to road visibility
Your car’s number plate and its VIN must match those found in the car’s V5C or logbook.
Your headlights, tail lights, brake lights, fog lights, indicators and reversing lights should all be working. Blown bulbs will mean that your car will fail and the garage will most likely replace them and charge you a fee for this. Also check your headlight alignment – if it the beam is too high and liable to dazzle oncoming drivers, this could be an MOT failure.
Your tyres must be correctly inflated (check the recommended pressure in the car’s manual) and the tread must be more than 1.6mm deep. Worn tyres are an immediate MOT fail. If you have a spare tyre, this must also be correctly inflated and have treads that are above the minimum.
Brake pads and discs must not be worn down below 1.5mm and the brake fluid reservoir must be above the minimum. You can see your brakes by jacking the car up and removing the wheels. Test brake fluid by pressing the brake pedal – if it feels soft then there could be air in the hydraulics and you should bleed this before your MOT.
Washers and wipers
Worn blades and empty screenwash will be MOT fails and automatically rectified by most garages for a surcharge. You can easily replace your blades and top up screenwash.
Air filters and spark plugs
Replace a dirty air filter. Also replace or clean your spark plugs if they are covered in carbon because this will affect your car’s emissions and could lead to an MOT failure. Dirty plugs will also worsen your car’s fuel consumption.
Badly worn, torn or broken seatbelts are an automatic MOT failure. While seatbelts might appear to be complex, you can easily replace these yourself using parts ordered online or from a car dealership.
The car’s petrol cap must be replaced if it or the seal are worn.
Replace missing, broken or cracked mirrors.
Make sure the horn is working and is loud enough to be heard by other road users inside their vehicles.
Clean your car
While cleanliness will not be on the mechanic’s checklist, making sure that your car is clean and presentable inside and out is common sense. In a borderline case, a clean and well-presented car might just sway the garage to pass your car and save you a bit of money until you can afford to have any advisories fixed. After all perception is reality. Would you fly on a plane with coffee stains on the drop down tray? If they can’t be bothered to clean these what does it say for the engines?
The simplest and most cost-effective way of ensuring that your car will always pass its MOT is to ensure that it is regularly serviced by an independent garage rather than a main dealership. Any reputable garage will always warn you that a major piece of work is required if your car is to remain roadworthy.
Oliver Jones has written for Solution Loans since 2015. His passion for personal finance comes through in the 150+ blog posts he's written since that time. His talent for explaining all things money means he's covered topics as diverse as...Read more about Oliver Jones