What is checked on a car’s MOT?

The MOT. The annual date stamped in the calendar of any motorist who owns a car older than three years old. For some it’s just a simple case of dropping the car off at the garage, having a nice cup of coffee in town and then sauntering back, paying the cost of the test and thinking not much else of it.

For others, however, it can be the cause of weeks of stress and anxiety as you begin to worry “what’s wrong with it this time?”. It’s true that there is a lot that can go wrong on an MOT, but as long as you know what you’re looking for and keep your eyes peeled for any warning signs, you should be able to make it through with limited stress.

Mechanic removing a wheel from a car with a drill

What is an MOT?

An MOT, which stands for Ministry of Transport, is the standard test in the UK to assess a car’s roadworthiness. It is a legal requirement for any vehicle over the age of three years old to be put through these strict checks, and any components that fall short of the necessary condition must be put right before the car can be allowed back on the road. Failure to keep your MOT up to date and your car in a roadworthy condition can see you landed with a hefty fine.

What is checked on an MOT?

So, what gets checked on an MOT? There is a standard list of items that must be checked before the car can be sent away with another 12 month certificate in the owner’s hands. These are listed below:

  • Body, vehicle structure and general items
    • Checks will be carried out to ensure that they are free from excessive corrosion (or as it’s more commonly known – rust) or damage in specific areas and that there are no sharp edges that could cause an injury.
  • Towbars
    • If your car or van has a towbar, it will be checked for secureness, its condition and if there have been any inappropriate repairs or modifications. The tester will also check to make sure the 13-pin electrical socket is working correctly.
  • Fuel system
    • The test will inspect the fuel system to check there are no leaks, the pipes and hoses are secure and in a good condition and that the fuel filler car fastense and securely – it is worth ensuring the key is available to the tester so they can open the fuel filler cap when necessary.
  • Engine
    • While your engine will not be thoroughly checked during an MOT, the tester will check the Engine Management Light, providing your car is from 2003 or later. If it is faulty, or remains on after the engine has started, it will be an immediate MOT failure.
  • Exhaust emissions
    • The inspection surrounding exhaust emissions will change depending on the age and fuel type of the vehicle, and testers will refuse to carry out a test at all if you are driving a diesel vehicle and they believe the smoke test may damage your engine.

To give yourself a better chance of passing, and to reduce the likelihood of any damage occurring during the test, you should ensure your engine is maintained at all times, including replacing the cambelt at recommended intervals and going to the MOT with the engine fully warmed up (this will produce less smoke and is generally safer for the test).

  • Exhaust system
    • The exhaust system will be checked to ensure that it’s secure and complete, the catalyst isn’t missing if it should be there and that there are no serious leaks or too noisy.
  • Seatbelts
    • Seat Belts will pass inspection providing the mandatory belts are in place, they are suitable for the vehicle and are attached securely in a good, working, condition.

The warning lamps on the dashboard will also be checked for airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters, which remove the slack from a seatbelt in a collision and release a small amount of belt when it’s too tight respectively.

  • Seats
    • The driver’s seat will be checked to ensure it can be adjusted, while all other seats are checked to ensure that they are fitted securely and that the back seats can be fixed in the upright position.
  • Doors
    • Doors will be inspected to check that the latch is secure in the closed position, while hinges and catches must be secure and in a good condition. The front doors must open from both the inside and the outside of the vehicle while the rear doors only need to be able to open from the outside.
  • Mirrors
    • The vehicle will be inspected to check for the minimum number of mirrors, their condition and their security.
  • Load security
    • The boot or tailgate must be able to be closed properly.
  • Brakes
    • Brakes will be checked to make sure that they first and foremost are in a good condition, with no inappropriate repairs or modifications made. They will also be put through an efficiency test with wheels and trims still on the car, and where fitted the anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) will be checked. Dashboard warning lights for ABS, ESC, electronic handbrake, brake pads and brake fluid warning lights will also be tested.
  • Tyres and wheels
    • The wheels and tyres will be inspected for their condition, security, tread size and type and depth. Any vehicles used after the 1st January 2012 will also be checked to make sure their tyre pressure monitoring system is working. Spare wheels/tyres are not checked.
  • Registration plates
    • Your number plates will be checked to ensure they are securely attached and are the correct colour with the correct formation and spacing of characters.
  • Lights
    • One of the most important ones, yet easiest to get caught out on – all of your lights will be checked to ensure they are working correctly, and that the headlamps aim is correct. The main beam warning light must also be working.
  • Bonnet
    • Quite a simple one really – it must be able to securely close.
  • Windscreen wipers and washers
    • Again, these are relatively simple but must be working correctly so that your view of the road is not obscured in any way.
  • Windscreen
    • Like the wipers, the windscreen must give the driver a clear view of the road and not be damaged.
  • Horn
    • One that may surprise some people, you can fail your MOT if you have an inappropriate horn. If it’s simply a sound that is not expected, or the horn doesn’t work properly that it would just be a minor, but you will fail your test if the horn is either inoperative or can be confused with an emergency vehicle.
  • Steering and Suspension
    • Your steering and suspension systems will be checked firstly for their condition and that they are working correctly, but will also be checked for the steering oil level, that the steering lock works correctly and that no inappropriate repairs or modifications have been made, including corrosion to power steering pipes and hoses.

      Dashboard warning lights for electronic power steering and steering lock will also be checked.
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
    • Any vehicle first used on or after the 1st August 1980 will have a VIN and a check will be made to ensure that just a single VIN is displayed, unless they are a multistage build vehicle – where a vehicle has been sent to a bodybuilder to finish off, such as BMW Alpinas or van conversions
  • Electricals
    • Finally, all visible electrical wiring and the battery will be checked to ensure it is up to standard.

What should I check before an MOT?

A lot of issues that could be picked up in an MOT can also be picked up by owners even if they are not the most mechanically minded of people.

Nearly a third of all MOT faults are related to lighting or signalling. The easiest way to check this is to get a friend to walk around your vehicle while you are operating all the lights from the driver’s seat. Likewise you can give the horn a quick blast to double check it is in working order.

Other checks you can do yourself from the driver’s seat include checking your windscreen, wipers and mirrors for any damages or obstructions that can hinder your view of the road. You can also check to ensure your speedometer is clearly visible on the dashboard and give a sharp tug on your seat belt to ensure that the restraint system is working correctly.

Once on the move, keep an ear out for any rattles or any noise coming from the exhaust, and when applying the brakes if you feel the car pulling to one side then that could also be the signs of a very serious issue.

Outside of the car, be sure to top up your engine oil and fuel levels, as well as giving your tyres a quick depth test, which can be done using a 20p piece. The 20p test is nice and simple – just place the coin within the main tread channel multiple times at various points around the tyre, and if you can see any part of the outer band of the coin face, the tread is too shallow and likely to fail your MOT for you.

Finally, give your number plate a quick clean and make sure that they’re both legible and up to legal standards.

What happens if the MOT check fails?

If your MOT fails, all is not lost, as you have a grace period to rectify any issues with the car and in some cases a retest is free (Link to MOT retests blog). However, if you’re in a position where fixing your car back to a point where it’ll pass a retest, then perhaps it’s time to consider moving on to your next set of wheels. That’s where we at Scrap Car Comparison can help – contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable advisors today and let us do all the work for you. We can find you the very best offer for your car and will also be able to arrange collection at no extra cost, no matter where you are in the country. So why not get started today, and see how much your scrap car could be worth.

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