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How to pass your MOT first time

Avoid a fail with some basic car maintenance

Any vehicle that’s more than 3 years old must, by law, pass an annual MOT (Ministry of Transport) test. The test is designed to ensure that vehicles are roadworthy and that they meet environmental emissions standards.

The maximum amount an MOT test centre can charge for testing a car is £54.85. However, many places offer deals so it’s worth shopping around beforehand to get the best price. 

The DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) indicates that around two in five1 cars fail their annual MOT test first time round – with the most common fails resulting from faulty lights (30%), damaged or worn tyres (10%), and issues with wipers and washers (8.5%). Yet problems with these components tend to be fairly easy fixes, and many fails could be avoided through regular, basic car maintenance. 

This quick guide aims to help you identify any issues in advance, so you can potentially solve these before your vehicle is tested and maybe even save yourself some money in the process.

What’s checked in an MOT?

When carrying out an MOT test, mechanics will work their way through a checklist outlined by the DVSA to ensure the following components meet the required standards:

  • Wheels and tyres
  • Brakes
  • Doors
  • Mirrors
  • Seatbelts
  • Seats
  • Steering and suspension
  • Lights
  • Registration plate
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Wipers and washers
  • Horn
  • Windscreen
  • Emissions

How to avoid failing an MOT

According to the DVSA, nearly half of all faults discovered during an MOT test could have been avoided through basic car maintenance. So, to put your vehicle in the best possible position to pass first time around, make sure you carry out the following checks before you head to the test centre.

Lights

All lights must be in working order, and the right colour.

Make sure you clean your lights and check they work properly. If they flicker when tapped, they could be loose or damaged. Bulbs are quite cheap, so it’s worth changing any blown bulbs before the test.

Tyres

Your vehicle's tyres must all be the same size, and inflated to the correct pressure. Also, they shouldn’t have any cuts or other signs of damage.

Make sure that the tread depth of all tyres is above the minimum legal requirement of 1.6mm by carrying out the 20p test.

Wipers and windscreen

Drivers should always have a clear view of the road; so ensure that wipers are in working order, the washer bottle is topped up and the windscreen is in good condition.

If your windscreen wipers are damaged or don’t clean your windows well enough to give you a good view of the road, you should change these before the test. Topping up washer fluids is something that can easily be forgotten, but is, in fact, one of the main reasons vehicles fail an MOT, so try to regularly top these up.

Under the bonnet

Your vehicle will need to have enough fuel and engine oil to undergo an emissions test.

Making sure these fluids are topped up before an MOT is a must, as garages may turn you away should they not be topped-up.

Number plate

Ensure number plates are in good condition and meet legal requirements set out by the DVLA – such as using correct font and spacing.

Before the test, make sure that your number plates are clean, secured to your vehicle, and that all letters and numbers are easily legible from a distance.

Seatbelts

We all know the crucial role seatbelts play in terms of road safety, so keeping these working properly is extremely important.

Check that all your seatbelts aren’t damaged or frayed, that they work properly and that they click into place securely.

What happens if your vehicle fails an MOT?

In the event of a failed MOT, the test centre will issue you a ‘refusal of an MOT test certificate’ – otherwise known as a VT30 – and will record the fail on the MOT database. You can, however, appeal the decision by filling out a VT17 form if you feel this is wrong.

More often than not, if your vehicle fails the MOT and needs work, the test centre will carry out a partial retest for free – once the repairs are carried out – as long as it hasn’t left the test centre.

Ensuring your MOT is up to date is crucial as, not only can you be fined up to £1,000 for driving a vehicle without valid MOT, but this may also void your insurance, leaving you exposed should the worst happen.

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