Introduced in 1960, the MOT is an annual test for vehicles three years old and over. Your local garage or test centre will carry out a series of checks to make sure your car is safe and roadworthy.
If your car is more than three years old and you do not have a valid MOT certificate for it, you will not be able to take out road tax or renew your insurance policy. Without an MOT, you may not drive your car on the road except to a garage for pre booked repairs or a pre booked MOT. If you do, and you are involved in an accident, you will not be covered for the damage. You can also be fined up to £1,000 for driving a car without a valid MOT.
Your car will need its first MOT before it reaches three years old, and every year after that. The garage you usually use for servicing may also carry out MOTs, or be able to recommend somewhere that does. Workshops, tyre sellers, and dealers in new and used cars can all offer MOTs. Look for the official symbol to make sure the workplace is authorised.
The maximum amount a garage can charge for a car MOT is £54.85, and many charge less as part of a promotion. You may also be offered a free retest.
There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of passing first time, eliminating the expense and inconvenience of a retest.
Many garages will check your vehicle before the test and inform you of any problems that would cause it to fail. Garages that offer free retests are likely to do this, since it is in their interest to pass your car first time.
If your car is approaching a service interval, it can be worthwhile to have the service done before the MOT is due. This should highlight any issues, which can then be fixed. If there are any warning lights on the dashboard, the problem needs to be addressed before the MOT.
Simple checks and fixes you can perform yourself can make the difference between a pass and a fail. Test all the lights on your car, front and rear, clean the lenses, and replace any bulbs that have blown. This includes the number plate light, which is easy to overlook. Some auto shops offer free fitting, if you are unable to do this yourself. Special aftermarket bulbs may not be road legal, so replace any you’re not sure about with a standard type.
Other items you should replace before the MOT if they are worn or damaged include windscreen wiper blades, air filters, and seat belts.
Tyres are one of the most common reasons for a failure. Check the tread depth is at least the legal minimum, 1.6mm, that there are no cracks or punctures, and that the pressures are correct.
Your car can fail if there is no number plate, if the plate is broken, or if it’s too dirty to read. If you have been using trade plates, or number plates that are the wrong shape, size, colour, or font, swap them out for the standard style. Remember that these are legal offences, too.
Testers can refuse to carry out an MOT on a dirty car, or one that’s full of clutter, so take the opportunity to give your vehicle a clean and a tidy. This is also a good way to spot any damage or other problems. Some people even believe that a clean car is more likely to pass, since it has obviously been looked after carefully!
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Some of the checks on the MOT can seem petty. For instance, it is possible to fail because the screen wash bottle for the windscreen wipers is empty. However, these smaller points are very easy to sort out beforehand at little cost.
You can book your MOT for up to a month before the date the old certificate runs out. By booking early, you allow yourself plenty of time to get problems fixed in the event of a fail.
Since modern cars are generally reliable at three years old and more, it is easy to dismiss the MOT as a pointless and costly exercise in box ticking, designed to bring the motor trade some extra profits. However, do remember that the test was created in order to keep you, and other road users, safe.