It’s vital to keep our cars in a roadworthy condition and that’s why it’s a legal requirement to have a yearly MOT once they’re over 3 years old. Here are some simple checks you can do to make sure your car passes its MOT first time and advice on what you need to do if it doesn’t.
How do I know when my MOT is due?
Always make sure you use a trustworthy mechanic - if you’re not sure where to go, ask friends and family for recommendations.
Driving without a valid MOT is not only illegal, but could invalidate your car insurance.
Compare car insurance quotes
What does an MOT check?
When you take your car for an MOT, a mechanic will usually check these areas:
Vehicle identification number (VIN)
Steering and suspension
Wipers and washers
Seat belts and seats
Wheels and tyres
Often a car fails its MOT test because of a simple fault that's easily solved.
In fact, the most common MOT failures are:
Lights and signals
Problems affecting view of the road
How long after your MOT expires can you drive?
As soon as your MOT has expired, you’re not legally allowed to drive it. There's no grace period. The only exception is driving your car to a pre-booked MOT appointment.
This is why it’s important to be organised, and make sure you know when your current MOT is due to expire. That way you can get your car booked in for its next one in good time.
MOT checklist UK
Prepare for your car’s next health check with our pre MOT checklist:
Check all lights are working correctly. This includes:
If you've any bulbs that have blown, check your car’s manual to see if you can replace them yourself.
Check that all warning lights on your dash are working too.
2. Vehicle body and tyres
Take a look at the petrol inlet filler cap. The petrol inlet is where the fuel goes, and the filler cap is what you screw onto it. Look out for any damage to the seal around the cap.
Check if the horn works. It should be loud and clear.
Test the brakes, handbrake and steering wheel. The steering wheel shouldn’t feel loose, and the handbrake shouldn’t pull up too high.
Check all tyres are the correct pressure. Also, check if the tyre tread depth is at least 1.6mm – the legal limit.
3. Windows and mirrors
Nothing should obstruct your view of the road. Check wiper blades for damage. If they're worn, you can replace them yourself using your vehicle handbook for reference.
Remove sat nav cradles, stickers and air fresheners if they block your view.
Mirrors should be secure and intact.
4. Cleaning your car
Registration plates must be readable and in good condition. If you own a personalised number plate, make sure it still meets the DVLA’s requirements.
The car should be presentable, inside and out. If your car is dirty and full of clutter the tester can refuse to carry out the inspection.
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) should match the VIN in your car’s log book.
6. Fluid levels
Check your screen wash, brake fluid and oil.
What happens after the test?
After the test you get a list with everything the mechanic has tested along with the result. The result should either be:
Pass with advisories
Pass with minor faults
Fail with major or dangerous faults
What happens if your car fails its MOT?
If your car fails its MOT with major or dangerous faults, you have to get each problem fixed and book another MOT. This MOT, however, only tests the areas that your car failed in last time. You can book a retests within 10 days, giving you plenty of time to arrange repair work.
The MOT test can also identify other, less immediate problems. These appear as ‘minor faults’ on your certificate.
Minor faults aren’t yet serious enough to cause your car to fail its MOT. For example, if you have worn tyres, but they're not worn below the legal limit.
After an MOT your pockets might be a little lighter. But it’s a good idea to get the minor faults sorted a month or so after the initial test.
That way the faults don’t develop and put you in danger. You stand a better chance of passing it the following year too.
Can I drive my car if it fails its MOT?
If your car fails its MOT, you may still be able to drive it, so long as no serious problems are found and your former MOT is still valid. In other words, the MOT was conducted before the old one had expired. You still need to fix the repairs though, before your current MOT runs out.
However, if the new MOT came back with dangerous faults you won’t be able to drive it until repairs have been carried out. Major faults should be repaired as soon as possible.
If you’re caught driving a car that’s unroadworthy you could be stung with a fine of up to £2,500, get points on your licence or a driving ban.
What happens when I pass my MOT?
Your garage gives you an MOT test certificate and you’re legal to drive off. Hurrah!
Your test centre sends the results to a central database.
Check-ups and servicing are great for keeping your car healthy, so it's wise to keep them up. That way you stand a better chance of passing your MOT, and spread out the cost of repairs.