Everything You Need to Know About the MOT Test
The infamous MOT (Ministry of Transport) test is the annual check-up that all cars of 3 years or older have to go through in the UK to be deemed roadworthy. Without a valid MOT, your car is considered to be unsuitable to be driven on public roads within the UK. So, unless you have a private road that goes everywhere you need to get to, there’s no way you can avoid this test.
What is the MOT Test?
As we mentioned above, the MOT is an annual test to ensure that vehicles driving on public roads in the UK are safe and roadworthy. The test is designed to test three main areas: vehicle safety, roadworthiness, and exhaust emissions.
Currently there are more than 23,500 garages throughout the UK that are able to offer MOT tests to their customers. You can know if a garage is an approved and valid test location by the presence of the blue three-triangles logo. It should be clearly displayed.
The tester will inspect the following things: number plate; brakes; steering; visibility; lamps, reflectors and electrical equipment; axles, wheels, tyres and suspension; body, structure and attachments; other equipment, exhaust emissions.
The test takes between 45 and 60 minutes to complete. During the test, you are allowed to observe and usually from an isolated or separated space. You are not allowed to interact with the tester while the MOT test is happening. This means you won’t be able to “talk your way out of it” if something goes wrong.
How Do You Know When Your Car Needs an MOT?
When your car reaches three years old, it becomes eligible for the MOT test. After your first valid test is passed, the next one is due before the expiry date of your current certificate, which is 12 months.
According to MOT rules, you are allowed to arrange your next MOT test on any day during the 12th month since your last test. For example, if you pass your test on 15th of May 2020, then you can book the next one any time from 16th April 2021 to 14th of May 2021.
You can pre-arrange your test by calling your local test centre and confirming a time and date. Make sure that you inform them of when your current MOT is due to expire so that they can be sure to fit your car in before the expiry date.
How Can I Prepare My Car for the MOT?
Figures show that about 1.5 million cars every year on average fail their MOT test. The majority of these failures were actually preventable, if only the owners had taken the time to prepare their cars a little better. There are several things you can check yourself before the MOT date. Doing so and taking action where necessary will greatly increase your chances of passing.
- Check the oil dipstick and make sure the level is between the minimum and maximum as indicated on the dipstick.
- Check your lights by asking a friend or family member to walk around the car while you test them. Fix any lights that are broken before the MOT.
- Top up your windscreen washer bottle because if it’s empty when you go in for your MOT, that can be the cause of failure.
- Use a 20p coin to check your tyre tread by slotting the coin into tread ridges. If you can still see the outer rim of the coin is visible, then you might need tyres. Look for cracks and tears in the tyre side wall too.
- Check the windscreen for cracks or chips. If the “swept area” (driver’s side) has any cracks exceeding 10mm, it will fail. The same is said for the passenger area, but for cracks up to 40mm
- Look for tears in the wipers by running them and looking out for smudging or squeaking from the wipers. If they do either, change them before the MOT.
- Make sure all your seat belts fasten properly.
- Clean up your number plate and ensure it’s visible.
Check the driver’s seat for adjustability, and beep the horn to make sure it works.
Can the Police Tell if You Have No MOT?
Yes, they can. The police make use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems that can simply scan your number plate and tell the police if this vehicle has a valid MOT. In the absence of a clear indication that there is a valid MOT, they will pull you over and question you about it, potentially charging you.
Under new rules, defects flagged up by the MOT now are labelled as “dangerous,” “major” or “minor” (see below)). If you are caught driving with no valid MOT, then you will likely get a fine of £1,000. That’s the standard penalty, but there are no points added to your licence at that stage.
If, however, the police discover that you are driving a car that received a major or dangerous fault at its MOT, then the fine goes up to £2,500. Furthermore, driving with a dangerous fault category will earn you 3 points on your licence.
What Can Fail an MOT?
As you may be able to tell from our list above detailing the things you can check and prepare yourself before the MOT test, there are many ways that you can fail.
- Engine oil insufficient, at the wrong level or in need of a change
- Headlights, brake lights, indicators or reverse lights not working
- No washer fluid in windscreen washer bottle
- Insufficient tyre tread and/or damage to tyre side wall
- Windscreen chips or cracks exceeding 10mm on the driver’s side
- Windscreen chips or cracks exceeding 40mm in the passenger’s side
- Tears, holes or other damage in windscreen wiper rubber
- Seatbelts not fastening, driver seat unable to adjust, horn not working, number plate with incorrect font or spacing, or number plate obscured by dirt or other things
- Excessive emissions
- And the list goes on…
What Happens If I Fail my MOT Test?
Test faults are split into three categories: minor, major and dangerous. If you pass the MOT, you will be issued an MOT certificate and that will be recorded in the national database (the police can scan this database using their ANPR technology). There may be some minor faults that are given to you as a list that you should undertake immediately to fix, but none of the faults have rendered your test a failure.
If, however, you receive a major or dangerous fault, you will fail automatically, which is also recorded in the database. In the case of major faults, you can drive the car away to address the problems if you still have last year’s valid MOT. You can then have the car tested again. If your MOT is not valid, you will have to have the problems fixed at the testing centre before you can get your car back.
If you have a dangerous fault, then you must have it addressed immediately. The penalty is severe for driving a car that has been issued a dangerous fault (see above).
Understand the Test, Prepare for the Test, Pass the Test
Remember, failing your MOT test is no reason to panic. Listen to the advice and recommendation of the mechanic, fix outstanding problems and get through the test first. You can always try to learn from that experience and prepare better next time.
Whatever happens, don’t try driving on the roads without a valid MOT. Not only can it land you in serious trouble, but it puts you, your passengers and other road users in danger, not to mention being potentially bad for the environment.