What’s an MOT?
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a brand new car, you will need to get an annual MOT.
MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. It is an annual test that is legally required for all cars over three years old, to check that the car is in a safe, roadworthy condition.
If you have lots of things wrong with your car, which can be common especially if you have an older vehicle, getting it through its MOT can be pretty expensive. Of course, if your car passes first time, the only cost is the MOT test fee.
Make sure you shop around to get the cheapest deal and cash in on any special offers. Check out the MoneySavingExpert guide for advice.
Before your MOT test, it can be a good idea to get your car checked over to identify any areas of concern and give you a chance to put them right.
Your car will be inspected at an approved MOT test centre to make sure that your car is safe and roadworthy. They’ll also test your car to make sure it meets the environmental standards set by the Government.
An MOT generally includes visual checks. It is not the same as a service and the tester will not dismantle your car to check the mechanics.
If your MOT expires and you are caught driving your car, you could be prosecuted. The only exception is if you’re driving to a pre-booked MOT test.
What’s tested during an MOT?
During its MOT, the tester will thoroughly inspect your car to make sure that everything is as it should be and that your car meets the legal requirements. They’ll be looking for any defects that would make your car unsafe to drive. The MOT test includes checks around the following areas:
- If you have any warning indicators lit up on your dash, your car could fail its MOT. If you have any lights showing on your dash, and you don’t know what they’re for, it’s time to check your car’s handbook!
- The speedometer must be working and clearly visible and it must light up. You need to be able to see what speed you’re driving at.
VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- Your VIN must be permanently displayed and legible.
- Your registration plate (number plate) needs to be present, securely attached to your car, legible and it must have the correct font and spacing and comply with set standards.
Steering wheel and steering column
- The MOT tester will make sure that your steering wheel is safe and that you will have sufficient control over your car’s steering while driving.
- Your horn must work and it must be the right type.
- All fitted lamps must be working and be the correct colour.
Bonnet, doors and boot
- Both the bonnet and boot catches must be secure when closed and all doors must open from inside and outside. Any hinges and catches will be checked to ensure they are in a good condition.
Vehicle structure, body condition and security
- During the MOT, the tester will inspect your car to look at the structure, body condition and security. They’ll be looking for any excessive corrosion (e.g. rust), the car battery and electrical wiring, engine mountings and so on.
Seats and restraints
- The seats must be safe and secure. The driver’s seat must adjust forwards and back as intended. This allows you to reach the pedals and maintain the correct driving position.
- They’ll also check your seat belts to make sure they would do their job, and if your car has airbags, they will also be inspected.
- The brakes in your car, including the hand brake, will be checked to make sure they are safe and efficient.
- The condition of your car’s windscreen, wipers and washers will be inspected.
- Sat navs attached to your windscreen, furry dice, air fresheners or trinkets hanging from the rear view mirror are not allowed, so if you have any of these items you need to remember to remove them before you take your car in for its MOT. Please note: we advise you never drive with objects attached to your car that could obscure your vision.
- Your mirrors must be secure, visible from the driver’s seat, and mustn’t impair the driver’s view to the rear.
- During the MOT, the tester will check for wear and tear of your car’s suspension.
Exhaust and emissions
- The MOT checks that your exhaust is complete and not leaking significantly. They’ll also make sure that your car meets exhaust emissions requirements.
- They’ll mainly be checking for leaks and that your car’s fuel cap fastens and seals securely. If a separate key is needed for your filler cap, make sure you leave it with the MOT centre.
Tyres and wheels
- The MOT tester will check their condition and security and your tyre tread depth. They’ll also be making sure that you have the correct tyres for your car. Spare tyres aren’t inspected.
What happens next?
If your car passes its MOT it’s time to celebrate! You won’t have to worry about it for another year. You’ll get an MOT certificate and the test record will be put onto a secure, central database.
It’s possible that the car will pass but with advisories. These are defects that aren’t serious enough to cause an MOT failure but need to be addressed as soon as possible.
What if my car fails its MOT?
It’s not the end of the world if your car fails its MOT. You’ll be given a notification of failure from the test centre and the opportunity for a partial retest at reduced or no cost. You’ll be told why the car failed so you can get these bits fixed before a retest, when hopefully the car will pass.
To be able to drive your car on the road you don’t just need a current MOT, you also need to have valid insurance. Your insurance company will require you to maintain your car in an efficient and roadworthy condition in between the MOT test.
Where to go for more advice
You may find the following websites helpful:
- The Gov.uk page on vehicle maintenance
- The Auto Windscreens MOT page
- The AA guide