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How to pass your MOT first time


September is one of the most common times for people to get their MOT done, as a high proportion of new cars are registered during this month.

Man having his car MOT tested

The bad news is that around 40% of cars and 50% of vans fail their MOT at the first attempt.

This is according to figures from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the government body that oversees MOT testing.

But nearly half of all MOT failures could be avoided with a few simple checks before taking your car to be tested.

Common MOT fails

These include checking tyre condition and pressure, ensuring light bulbs are working and maintaining mirrors, wipers and washers.

These are the most common areas for failure according to VOSA.

Most people will want to avoid paying a retest fee, especially with the cost of fuel and car insurance putting the pinch on motorists' pockets.

If your vehicle fails you should have it re-tested at the same test station after having any repairs done, as this way you can avoid paying another full test fee. Find out more about MOT retest fees here.

Save time & money

Matthew Minter of Haynes motoring manuals, says: "Around 40% of cars fail their MOTs at the first attempt.

"The amount of time and money wasted on a retest can be extremely frustrating for a driver.

"Half of those failures are due to problems that are very straightforward to resolve."

We teamed up with the car experts at Haynes to produce this step-by-step guide to passing your MOT first time.

Check the lights

Nearly a third of all fails are due to lighting faults but checking the light bulbs before going for the MOT is easy to do.

Replacement bulbs are cheap enough and you can change them yourself if you have your car handbook or the relevant Haynes manual to hand.

Check your tyres

One in 10 MOT fails is due to tyre problems.

Use a tread depth gauge to check the amount of tread remaining. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, although it is better to fit new tyres well before that depth is reached.

Check that the tyre pressures are correct and that the tyres do not have cuts, bulges or other signs of damage.

Check the driver's view of the road

This includes areas like windscreen wiper blades and mirrors.

Windscreen wiper blades should be replaced if they show signs of damage or if they have been in use for over a year.

You should also take a good look at the windscreen and mirrors.

Large chips in the windscreen in the driver’s field of view will result in failure, but small stone chips are acceptable.

Rear view mirrors must be adjustable and in good condition. You should also make sure that you top up the screen wash reservoir and check it is working properly before going for your test.

Shop around

The current maximum cost of an MOT is £54.85 for cars but some testing stations offer a lower price, some offer free retests and some offer both. 

Check your local press for other offers, such as a free or cut-price MOT thrown in with a major service.

You can also go to a council-run MOT centre. These are independent testing stations where council vehicles such as buses and ambulances get their MOTs done.

They don't do repairs so there’s no incentive for them to find faults to fix. Ring your local council to find your nearest one.

Check horn & clean car

Make sure the horn sounds loud and clear and clean your car inside and out. The tester can refuse to accept a really dirty car.

Don’t wait until the last minute

You can submit your car for testing up to a month before the old certificate runs out. The new certificate will run for 12 months from the expiry of the old one.

Read the comments

Pass or fail, there may be an "advisory notice" listing items likely to need attention in the near future. If you don’t understand what a comment means, ask.

Basic car maintenance

We're here to help! Watch our short video guide on basic car maintenance to help you keep your vehicle in tip-top condition.

Motoring manuals

Haynes has both car and motorcycle manuals online, so you can access service and repair information on the move on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

To view the range of printed and online manuals click here.


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