How To Prepare Your Car For An MOT

There are lots of basic checks you can make of your vehicle to ensure any minor niggles are picked up before you present it for the MOT.  This should help your car to pass first time without any advisories.

What is the MOT?

MOT stands for ‘Ministry of Transport’ test and is a legal requirement in the UK for all vehicles aged three years and older.  There are authorised test centres around the UK often attached to a garage business or motor repair workshop.  The MOT is a regulated checklist of the safety, roadworthiness and emissions levels of your vehicle.  Lots of different checks are carried out but there are also parts of the engine and bodywork that examiners don’t look at so an MOT is not a substitute for a car service or regular maintenance checks.

A valid MOT certificate is a legal requirement so if your car fails, you will not be allowed to drive it until it has been repaired and actually passed the MOT test.  To do so would invalidate your motor insurance and is an offence at law.  There are lots of simple things you can do before presenting your vehicle for MOT which could save you a fail certificate:-

  1. Tyres – check these for tread and wear, a tyre replacement company can also do a walk around the vehicle and assess these for you. Visually the tyres should be uniform in appearance with no tears or bulges.  The tyres should match in pairs across the vehicle so the same size and type on both fronts and the rear should match each other.  The minimum legal requirement for tread is 1.6mm around the central three-quarters of the tyre.  If you have had a puncture and your car is still fitted with the spare ‘space saver’ wheel then you will need to replace that with a new tyre as this is an automatic MOT failure
  2. Lights – all the lights on the vehicle need to be in working order so sidelights, headlights, main beam, fog lights (whatever is present, front and/or rear must work), indicators and hazard lights.  Check with the engine running, easiest if someone can stand outside the vehicle.  You also need to check the foot brake via the brake pedal.  If you are on your own, wait until it is getting dark and park near a wall which will reflect each light as you test it.  Remember, your rear number plate also has illumination  This used to be an MOT failure if this bulb was not working but this was taken off the fail list last year, however, you can still be stopped by the police if your number plate is not visible at night
  3. Engine Management Lights – this has recently become a bit of bugbear for motorists. The regulations changed in May 2018 and a car that is permanently displaying an Engine Management light whilst the engine is running, will automatically fail the MOT.  The Engine Management light is a warning light that can be triggered for lots of reasons, many of which are connected to emissions.  This will have to be resolved before the car is presented for the MOT test
  4. General faults and noises – if you have noticed a change in the performance of your car, it is making an unusual noise, the handling or performance of the car seems different or there are any unusual smells, you may have a fault which could mean that it fails the MOT. Many people give their cars an annual service just before the MOT to make sure that any obvious faults are detected and corrected

When can you present the car for its MOT?

The MOT takes around 45 minutes but if you don’t pre-book a slot, then you could have a very long wait if the garage is busy.  It’s always best to arrange a day/time in advance and you can do this anytime up to four weeks before your car’s current expiry date which is shown on last year’s test certificate.  You can usually choose your time slot and if your car does fail for any reason, you have two or three weeks to resolve any issues before it is re-tested.

What will it cost?

There is a maximum amount that garages are allowed to charge by law – £54.85 – and many will offer competitive rates of under £50 with a free partial re-test if your car fails.  The vehicle has to be tested within ten days to qualify for the free re-test and it cannot be removed from the premises.  If there is a workshop attached to the MOT centre, then clearly they are hoping to pick up repair business with cars that don’t pass but you should always shop around for a competitive quote.  You don’t have to have the car re-tested at the same MOT station but you may have to pay a new fee if you go elsewhere.  It would be a completely fresh test as they would not have seen your car before or had control of the vehicle following the first MOT failure.  If you have the car repaired elsewhere and return to the original testing station then you are entitled to a half fee rate for the re-test.

What are the advisories on a test certificate?  What do they mean?

A vehicle can pass the MOT but may have some advisories listed on the pass certificate.  Advisories are faults or potential problems which have been found during the vehicle inspection and which the test centre is required to inform you of.  They do not constitute part of the MOT and therefore are not illegal as such but they do indicate potential problems with your vehicle and if they deteriorate may cause the car to fail its next MOT in a year’s time.

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