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MOT changes increase risk of failure

Car with open bonnetNew MOT rules mean your car is more likely to fail. Are these changes fair, asks motoring writer Maria McCarthy.

Every motorist dreads putting their car through its MOT.

The annual test is a legal requirement for vehicles over three years old and is essential to ensure they are safe and roadworthy.

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.

So it's also a worrying time financially, especially if the MOT reveals faults which can be expensive to repair.

And then the owner is left with a difficult decision: fork out to have the car fixed or scrap it and buy a new one.

MOT overhaul

And this problem is likely to intensify as the MOT test has recently had its biggest overhaul for 20 years.

It will now require 20 extra checks to various vehicle components including airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system, catalytic converter and electronic stability control (ESC).

And, for the first time ever, the speedometer will be checked. 

The new rules, which officially came into force last month, will bring the UK in line with EU regulations.

The Vehicle Operator and Services Agency (VOSA), the government body that oversees MOT testing, says the time taken for the test won't increase significantly and that the fee will stay the same.

Increased risk of failure

But extra checks mean an increased risk of failure.

James Ruppert runs Bangeromics, a website devoted to helping motorists run money-saving older cars.

He says: "Overall, I agree with the updated test but I do acknowledge that it could be expensive for motorists.

"For example, if the electric seat position system fails that could be expensive to sort out and might even mean the car is written off."

However, despite this risk, many people in the motoring trade feel these changes are long overdue.

MOT changes reflect modern car technology

Andy Smith is patrolman of the year for motor breakdown and car insurance provider the AA.

He says: "A typical modern car has 40 or more computers and a level of technical sophistication a world away from what was seen when the MOT test last had a major overhaul.

"Airbags, for example, have been widely fitted since the mid-1990s.

"It's important these systems stay safe and reliable throughout the life of the car.

"I support these changes as I believe they bring the test in line with modern technology."

MOT anomalies

Dave Richards, editor of Classic Car Weekly and himself a qualified MOT tester is also supportive of the changes and in particular of the introduction of the speedometer test. 

"No-one wants to get caught for speeding.

"It has been an anomaly since the MOT test began in 1960 that while it was illegal not to have a working speedometer, it's never been checked during the annual inspection."

And there does seem to be a lack of logic in the sense that a car with a faulty airbag will fail its MOT, but it is perfectly legal for vehicles without airbags, such as classic cars, to be on the road.

Is running an older car the key to passing MOT?

Ruppert says: "I feel that one option for avoiding expensive MOT repairs is to run an older car.

"Pre-1992 cars generally have no airbags or catalytic converters and far less that can go wrong.

"I know many people who run cars from the 1980s and earlier very happily.

"Many people wouldn't feel comfortable driving cars without advanced safety features and I respect that as their choice.

"But personally I aim to focus on driving safety and avoiding a crash.

"One of my current cars is a 1984 series 3 Landrover which never breaks down and sails through its MOT."

What do you think?

Do you accept that the price we pay for technological advances is that when they go wrong they can be expensive to fix?

Or will you retreat to older, less complex cars that have less that can go wrong?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the messageboard below.

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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